Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sepilok Jungle Trek and Unexpected Orangutan Photo Shoot

We had opted to stay for both of the day's feedings at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (good tip - the entry ticket is for the day, rather than one feeding, so why not?). In between the feedings we took a trek through the surrounding jungle. Unfortunately there was only one short route accessible, but it was a pretty pleasant and easy walk and we were able to take our time and keep an eye out for wildlife. As is often the case in the jungle, we could hear plenty of wildlife but couldn't see a great deal. We heard plenty of woodpeckers in close proximity, but even after spending a while in a bird-spotting tower, and with the assistance of Mr Lego Explorer were only able to spot a couple of them.

We did come across a pretty cool looking bug...

...as well as a couple of beautiful snakes...

...and a slightly podgy lizard.

After our jungle walk we returned to the visitor centre expecting to rest for a while before the second orangutan feeding. What we weren't expecting was a private orangutan photoshoot. It turned out that while we had been exploring the jungle a gorgeous juvenile orangutan had been exploring the visitor centre. There were just a few other tourists present to take advantage of the opportunity to see a wild orangutan in such close proximity. She wasn't the most co-operative of models because she was too preoccupied with playing and didn't stay still for very long, but I managed to get a handful of good photos.


 The experience was slightly dampened by the fact that one of the Sanctuary staff eventually led the orangutan away by the hand. I would like to think that it had been a completely natural turn of events that we had been luckily enough to stumble across, however I suspect that the orangutan was also led to the visitor centre. Even so, it was still a fantastic, and unexpected, experience that we're unlikely to ever have again.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre Part 1

From Kuching at the West end of Borneo we made the long journey to the very East end of the island. We flew from Kuching to Kota Kinbalu, then headed straight out of town to the main bus station, and were lucky enough to get seats on a bus for the 9 hour journey to Sandakan. It made for a very long day, but we covered lots of ground in a short space of time, and consequently gave ourselves more time to see the exciting things that Sabah had to offer.

Sandakan didn't have much going on, except for an area of riverside restaurants. We opted for the only place that offered vegetarian fare for Monique, and which completed the dining experience with loud hip hop complete with highly explicit and uncensored lyrics. A romantic riverside dinner it was not.

We stayed in Sandakan due to its close proximity to Turtle Island – an island that is home to a turtle sanctuary where you can watch a turtle laying eggs on the beach and see baby turtles being released into the sea. Unfortunately the island only has one hotel, and that hotel insists that all visitors stay overnight on the island. We knew that the hotel was expensive, but had decided that it would be worth the splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, after liaising with the hotel it turned out that the cost was double what we had expected, we would only be on the island for about 20 hours, and would not be able to see baby turtles being released into the sea. In light of that information we just couldn't justify the expense of visiting the island. In any event, we had already spent plenty of time swimming with turtles in Indonesia, and the chances of the Turtle Island experience being better than that seemed slim. Consequently, after a night in Sandakan we headed back on ourselves by a couple of hours to Sepilok.

We were really pleased with our accommodation in Sepilok; our room was pretty basic as per usual, but it was part of a nice resort with much more expensive rooms, a restaurant, and a swimming pool. It felt much more like we were “proper” people instead of travellers for a change. More importantly, the resort was only a short walk away from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

The following day we made the short walk to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and made our way along the jungle walkway to the viewing platform. It was certainly a more slick set-up than we had seen at Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary, but the downside to this is that it is a much more popular tourist destination, and consequently a large group of tourists built up after we arrived.

After a long wait two adult orangutans swung their way towards the feeding area. Only when they got closer did we realise that one of the orangutans had brought a baby with her. He/she was adorable! We had plenty of time to watch them as the park staff handed fruit to them. It was clear that they were still extremely comfortable with human interaction from their time at the sanctuary; the downside was that it didn't feel as much like we were seeing wild animals. That said, it was still a great experience and we got to see the orangutans interacting with each other pretty close up.

After the food had run out the orangutans casually made their way back into the trees. One took a snack for the road...

...and the mother orangutan took the opportunity to show her baby off to the visitors.

Due to the number of photos I've opted to split this part of the blog into three sections, so don't worry mom - there's plenty more to come.