The start of a journey down the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo. This is the perfect place to see several species of monkeys, including the proboscis monkey and the rare Bornean pygmy elephant.
It goes without saying that I love to travel, but I have discovered that the planning of our trips gives me almost as much pleasure and going on them. In fact, I am often planning a long way out – working on the next several trips each time we leave on a journey.
I tend to spend my time planning and not becoming too anal as to what we’ll do when we get somewhere. I obviously have a basic idea of the outline of time in a place but I like to discover things after I arrive at a destination and just love surprises. I am convinced if I planned in too much detail I might not get those wonderful surprises and that would negatively impact my travel experiences.
Having said that knowledge is good. A good example of this is when we were lucky enough to visit the Rain Forest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sepilok. The RDC is only a short distance from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre but I am sure many tourists come to Sepilok and leave having just seen the orangutans. That is a shame because the RDC is a primer to the fauna and flora of Sabah and greater Borneo.
The first place we recommend visiting at RDC is a relatively small exhibition hall. This place is a mine of knowledge, explaining the Bornean ecosystem in some details and gives an excellent insight into the mind-boggling biodiversity of this amazing island. Beyond the mammals and birds, the array of insects is incredible from large, stunning butterflies to stick insects to huge beetles. There were drawers and drawers filled with samples of insects; fascinating but somewhat scary when you think about coming across these out in the jungle.
Beyond the exhibition hall, there are extensive grounds to walk around. This is a primary rain forest with a mind-boggling range of plants and tree species. To get a real experience of the rain forest there is a raised walkway that takes you high up into the canopy. The height of the tropical trees themselves is amazing, and here in Sabah, you will find the tallest tropical trees in the world. The tallest tree discovered to date, in the genus Shorea, is in the Sabah’s relatively untouched Danum Valley – it is a towering 94.1 metres (nearly 309-foot).
We were lucky enough to have on our visit a guide, Kenneth, who was an expert on the birds of Borneo and he had bought a spotting scope with him. He was able to point out different species, from small songbirds to larger raptors (eagles and hawks). Some of these birds, such as the bee-eaters were stunning. Probably the most spectacular of the birds is the rhinoceros hornbill, which is easy to identify in flight (it helps they are huge) as they look prehistoric and by their call. We were also lucky to see these flying around the Sepilok Nature Resort.
If you do visit Sepilok please take the time to visit the RDC and spend a good couple of hours exploring!
Planning your trip
Most people going to Sepilok will fly into Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan. Many of these flights will come from Malaysia. From Kota Kinabalu you can fly to Sandakan or catch a bus. There are buses from Sandakan to Sepilok or you can catch a taxi.
Best time to visit Sabah, Borneo
The best time to visit Borneo is between March and October, when the island is hot, humid, and at its driest. This makes it one of Southeast Asia’s few summer destinations. It is also the best time to see orangutans in the wild, while turtles can be seen on Lankayan Island between June and September.
Where to stay?
1. SEPILOK B&B
Set in Sepilok, 15 mi from Sandakan, Sepilok B&B offers a restaurant and free WiFi. Close to the Orangutan Sanctuary and the Rainforest Discovery Centre. The nearest airport is Sandakan Airport, which is 8.1 miles away.
2. NATURE LODGE SEPILOK
Nature Lodge Sepilok is located, just before the junction to Rainforest Discovery Center, the Lodge is located 1.5KM from the roundabout at the main road, 800m to Rainforest Discovery Center and 1.2KM to Sepilok Orang Utan centre. Nature Lodge Sepilok offers 2 room options – dormitory and chalet type to suit your budget.
3. SEPILOK JUNGLE RESORT
During our visit to Sepilok, we stayed at the Sepilok Jungle Resort, enclosed inside a tropical virgin rainforest, adjacent to the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. In fact, wild orangutans were visiting the Resort during our stay – we even saw one early in the morning walking around the boardwalks and apparently taking things from people’s balconies.
The rooms were basic but comfortable. The breakfasts were fine and they accommodated us being vegan. We also had an evening meal there which was traditional Malaysian fare – very tasty. The whole place is surrounded by rainforest, which is spectacular. In the evenings they run a night safari that goes out into the rainforest, which is a very noisy place at night with all the nocturnal creatures coming to life. We got to see some interesting bugs and birds on our adventure, including leeches … yuk!