Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
Unfortunately, because of time pressure, I only had 2 nights at the Sepilok Jungle Resort – a handy base for exploring the Sandakan area of east Sabah. I start talking to a woman at dinner and find she was one of the original owners! She and her husband started the lodge some 18 years ago and as well as increasing the number of rooms, they planted all the magnificent plants and trees. ( it’s still a family business)
Their rooms range from dormitory to air-conditioned deluxe with balcony rooms and over the years the trees have grown and the Resort is set in this magnificent landscape – it’s also the first place I saw the bird om my bucket list – the fascinating hornbills.
I also saw many birds, fruit bats and butterflies feeding on fruits and flowers as well as fish feeding in their lakes: it’s the perfect place to relax in tropical jungle surroundings.
This is a great base to visit other places including just a five minutes’ walk to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary which is on everyone’s to-do list.
Sepilok staff, the orang-utan minders, remind us to keep noise to a minimum, to keep our belongings safe from the naughty, inquisitive macaques and, after wiping our feet on a disinfectant-drenched mat – to help reduce contamination of their space with our human bugs – we walk to the platform area.
This is where the orang-utans, often orphans, who have graduated from the nursery (learning essential skills they would usually learn from their mother) to this ‘outdoor nursery’ where these young ‘wild men of Borneo’ are now learning jungle skills and where they’re fed with supplements of fruit and milk. The aim of the centre is to help them become independent and integrated into the wild population.
I overhear a group talking. ‘I’d pay much more to come here’ which is fine for our western bank account but not for many locals. I believe it is great locals are coming as it’s these very families who will save the forests the animals need. They cannot be saved only by the western or tourist dollar – even though that is essential. If tourists such as I heard talking are ‘happy to pay more’ I suggest they make a donation or ‘adopt’ one of the orphans not that the Sepilok increase the price. Open twice daily, this is one of the few places that admission prices are the same for Malays and non-Malay.
can you do this?
I know i know .. my hair will grow one day soon
hanging on tight
visitors from all over the world
this sign is about me!
waiting for orangutans to appear
milk for babies
I stayed only a few minutes away from Sepilok at the wonderful Sepilok Jungle Resort where I received some of the best, most efficient service of any accommodation places in the region. They were hosting me, but I also noticed how solicitous they were with a girl who arrived with infected insect bites, arranging for a car to take her and a parent to the Dr.
A family run business, which started in 1991, they have planted all the trees in the beautiful landscaped gardens and it’s a peaceful place to stay – I also saw my first hornbills there. With raised walkways connecting accommodation, pool, jacuzzi, reception, and café, it’s good for bird spotting. Even better, it’s only five minutes from the popular Sepilok rehabilitation centre and I walk there to see the current inhabitants. More about the Jungle Reserve in another blog.