Nature Escapes

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

"Asia's Great Ape Experience"


The rainforest habitat of Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is a stunning reminder of the once expansive lowland forest in Sabah. As prime orangutan habitat, a visit to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve is really a peek into the past when tall tropical trees dominated the landscape.

Today oil palm plantations span the horizon to blanket the land in a sea of green monotony. Good for economics maybe, but not for the ecology.

Established since 1964, Sepilok, an area of 43 square kilometers, set out to rehabilitate adult and young orangutans rescued from captivity as pets or displaced by forest clearance.

As the only Great Ape species in Asia, do not miss the opportunity to interact and observe these docile and elegant primates up-close during feeding times and while walking on raised boardwalks meandering through the forest.

Besides viewing Bornean orangutans, take time to hike the trails leading to sandstone ridges and mangrove forests and the Rainforest Discovery Centre nearby.

For more information about Southeast Asia's endangered ape species, check out orangutan facts.

Natural Things To Do

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary: Nature Attractions

Orangutan Observation

The star species of Borneo, orangutans, only found elsewhere in Sumatra, belong to the Great Apes group that includes gorillas, chimpanzees and us. As an endangered species, these large primates are under threat from habitat loss, poor food supplies and low reproduction rates. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
flickr/Arron 400d

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary serves as a training ground for orphaned orangutans that usually stay with their mothers for up to six years. A 'buddy system' ensures that more mature animals teach the younger ones the skills needed to live in the forest.

Over 100 orangutans have been released into the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve or other reserves in Sabah.

Visitors are allowed to view animals feeding on a platform from a safe distance and take photographs from a boardwalk giving access to the protected forest. Orangutans are fed bananas and milk twice at day (10:00 am and 3:00 pm) that makes it easy to plan your day and spend time on the jungle trails.

Successful reintroduction of animals raised as pets back into the wild is very difficult, so not all orangutans complete the rehabilitation process. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

Long-tailed macaques also roam the grounds and boardwalk and try to pickpocket your bags for food, so be aware of these aggressive monkeys. Orangutans tend to grab cameras and hats too, and it is unwise to tussle with them.

Orangutan Rehabilitation Process:

Quarantine - After admission, animals are confined to a quarantine period of 3-6 months to eliminate diseases after thorough medical check-ups. As assessment determines if the animal should complete the whole programme.

Nursery - Mothers usually teach survival skills (finding food, building nests, climbing techniques) to their young during their first years. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Wildlife rangers assume the role and try to teach them basic climbing skills used to travel in the jungle.

Platform A - Learning to be more independent, food and support is gradually reduced to give orangutans more freedom to fend for themselves. A natural forest diet is supplemented with milk and fruits twice a day.

Platform B - Independent animals integrate into the wild population at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary when they adjust to severe cutbacks of food provided at a platform far away from the centre and deal with natural conditions.

Jungle Trekking

Many visitors to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary tend to forget the forest trails. The Mangrove Trail cuts through flat land and floodprone forests and showcases the rare Borneo Ironwood tree, a prized timber species sought for its durable wood. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

The trail starts to climb up to a sandstone ridge with large dipterocarp canopy trees dominating the tough hilly terrain. Descending down to the mangrove swamp, the lofty forest gives way to smaller trees able to grow in the muck with anchor roots.

Proboscis monkeys feed on the mangrove foilage as the habitat changes from inland forest to coastal vegetation.

Even a stroll on part of the trail offers a fresh perspective to the original lowland rainforest habitats that once covered the terrain from Sandakan to Sungai Kinabatangan.

It provides an ecological contrast and insights into the encroachment of agriculture plantations into natural forests.

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Serving as an excellent, and fun, environmental education venue, the Rainforest Discovery Centre is near to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

With a goal to create public awareness on the sustainable use of forest resources, the RDC includes a 147 meter long and 28 meter high canopy walkway for an inside view of rainforest giants and forest life.

Birdwatchers can enjoy searching for some of the 250 species in the area, inclusive of pittas, broadbills, kingfishers and hornbills.

For a scenic view of dipterocarp forest, the Rainforest Discovery Trail is an 800 meter outdoor classroom with interpretive panels highlighting rainforest ecology. Try to arrange for night walks along the trail to observe civets, mouse deer, forest geckos and maybe a tarsier.

An exhibition hall offers indoor comfort and plenty of information describing the plants and animals of Sabah. The RDC also runs customized Environmental Education programs for local and foreign schools from pre-school to undergraduates.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary: Getting There

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

Most travelers get to Sepilok via a tour group, by taxi or public bus, or with a hire car from Sandakan. Check with the Labuk Road Bus Company for vehicles departing from the Sandakan Town Council (Majlis Perbandaran Sandakan or MPS) that stop at the road junction to the Centre, with a 1.5 km hike to the entrance.

Taxi fares are negotiable for the 23 km one-way or round trip ride.

Opening Hours

Security Gate: 8 am to 5 pm
Reception & Ticketing: 9 am to 11 am and 2 pm to 3:30 pm
Exhibition Hall: 9 am to 4:30 pm (except Fridays)
Centre: 9 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 4 pm
Fridays 9 am to 11 am, 2 pm to 4 pm

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Photo: Rainforest Discovery Centre

Sepilok Admission Rates:

Malaysian Adult: 5 MYR
Malaysian Child: 2 MYR
Non-Malaysian Adult: 30 MYR
Non-Malaysian Child: 15 MYR
Camera, Video Fee: 10 MYR

RDC Entrance fees

Malaysian Adult: 5 MYR
Malaysian Child: 2 MYR
Non-Malaysian Adult: 10 MYR
Non-Malaysian Child: 10 MYR (above 6 yrs.)


Batu 14, Jalan Labuk Sandakan Sabah
WDT200, 9009 Sandakan Sabah

Tel : 6 089 531180
Fax : 6 089 531189
Email :


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