Besides the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, you 'probably' should have come to this Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation, both of which are the tourists spot in Sandakan city. Read on as you listen to my grumble.
Orang Utans are also known as Pongo Pygmaeus (scientific name) of which have been found to have 96.4% similarity to our human genes. The orang utans found here are also known as the 'Wild Man of Borneo'.
After paying the entrance ticket of RM 5.00 per person (Malaysian) or RM 10.00 per person (non-Malaysian), we have to walk through a jungle trail heading to the observation deck.
Alright, here we reached at the observation deck. Do remember that the feeding time are 10 am and 2.30 pm. You can only see the orang utans during the feeding time.
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is the world's largest orang utan sanctuary. Sounds great right? This sanctuary was started in 1964 for rehabilitation of orphaned baby orang utans from logging sites, plantation and illegal hunting.
All the staff need to do is just shake the rope that connected to the erected feeding site at great height to their shelter of the orang utans. Then, upon receiving the signal, the orang utans will slowly swing out from their shelter.
Accordingly, more than 4,500 hectares of virgin jungle were designated as forest reserve and sanctuary for these orang utans. However, only 2 orang utans that actually came out during the feeding time at time of our visit. I was told that usually minimum of 1-2 orang utans will be out there and probably maximum will be 4. This actually surprised me as I was being informed this is the largest sanctuary in the world for the orang utans but the numbers that come out doesn't reflect the size of this place.
As the observation deck where the people are standing are located far away from the feeding site, it somehow quite difficult to see clearly the orang utans.
One thing which I found quite annoying is their staff keep walking around among the visitors and holding an plaque bearing the message 'Please keep silence' and manually speak out 'Please do not open your flash' at all times. The staff are like flies that keep buzzing you and at times, you feel like slap them to silence instead.
One can see the gestures and some characteristics of the orang utans during the feeding time. However, if you been to the zoo eg Zoo Negara at Ulu Kelang, you will be not fascinated at all about this place. The orang utans found at this zoo can even interact with humans and entertain the audience with their ability to act like humans eg peeling the coconut, playing mini bassket ball etc.
Instead of the orang utans, we seen this type of monkey more than the orang utans. One thing that we observed was that the orang utans are scared of this type of monkey. After the feeding time was about the finish, the orang utans will go back to their shelter whereas this type of monkey will start colonising the feeding site after realising the staff was not around to keep an eye of the orang utan.
Seriously, I think this place really not worth to visit. It's far out of expectation than as being publicly claimed. I see no information board about the orang utans and related information. It's just a reserve forest which is being used for orang utan sanctuary. I am wondering how many orang utans are residing at this sanctuary.
Regarding about the staff, one word 'annoying'. If at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary where the distance from the visitors to the feeding site was much nearer than the one at here, I find no reason for imposing no flash for camera. Oh, come on, the feeding site at here was way too far and erected at great height. It was difficult to take shots without flash as the feeding site was covered by the canopy of the trees. Even at Zoo Negara, there were no such rule! If worry the visitors are disturbing their nature, then don't open this place for public.
Reminders before coming here.
- A camera (but without flash!)
- Correct visiting time.
- Be silence at all times (what a rule!)
Other than seeing the orang utan during the short feeding time, there is nothing to offer at this world's largest orang utan sanctuary.
90009 Sandakan, Sabah.