Sepilok, the famous Orangutan Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre, located less than 1 hour from Sandakan city, was founded 1964 with the aim of returning orphaned, injured or displaced orangutans into the wild. When orangutans are admitted to the centre they are given a full health inspection and then are quarantined to prevent any diseases from spreading. In the wild the mother teaches the young orangutans how to find food, build nests, and even climb properly. However, the orphaned orangutans do not have this opportunity. They spend time in the 'nursery' with staff members learning these necessary skills. Once the orangutans have learned these skills they are moved to the 'outdoor nursery' where their dependence on the centre for food and emotional support is slowly decreased and their freedom is increased.
In the jungle near the centre there are five feeding platforms at various distances, with Platform "A" being the closest to the centre. The orangutans are introduced to the jungle near the centre where they are able to forage for food but are still able to return to a feeding platform if necessary. As well, as they gain independence and confidence the orangutans can venture further into the jungle to the deeper feeding platforms, thus relying less on the centre. Eventually, they will integrate fully into the wild orangutan population.
Visitors to the centre can see the feeding process at the platform, where their natural diet is supplemented twice a day with milk, fruit, and sugarcane. Remember that the number of orangutans you can see will vary depending on the day, weather, how many have been released recently, etc.
Getting to Sepilok Sanctuary is fairly easy. There are daily flights from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan and from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan with both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. From Sandakan Airport it is a ½ hour drive to the Sepilok centre.