Follow:
Topics:
Asia Travel

Visiting Endangered Primates in Borneo

A Must Do in Malaysia

Location: Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Seeing orangutans, gorilla and chimpanzees in the wild has been a long time goal of mine. Last year I checked off my bucket list seeing sloths and toucans in the wild. This year I’m totally focused on primates – including visiting endangered primates in Borneo.

And that is what has brought us to the far northeast region of Borneo and the Sepilok Forest – home to the beautiful but endangered orangutans as well as the bizarre and endangered proboscis monkeys.

Sepilok Borneo Firefly Tour
On our river tour, Sepilok Borneo

We spent three days in Sepilok. Flying into the Sandakan airport we traveled by Grab (Uber) thirty minutes to our destination of the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort. I can not recommend this place highly enough. We loved our beautiful little chalet with veranda and outdoor shower (an indoor one as well). The breakfast was outstanding as were the two fantastic dinners we enjoyed in the restaurant. Just $80 per night for two with the breakfast included.

Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Dinner at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

We arrived around 3:00pm and unpacked and took a short rest – very short because we had pre-arranged an evening boat tour through the mangroves. The tour was promoted as a Firefly Tour but it was way more than that.

River Tour Borneo, Malaysia
Fresh Coconut at sunset

First we drove about 20 minutes to a teeny village in the mangrove marsh where we were served yummy Cassava fritters and tea before boarding a small wooden boat. Our guides took us through the watery world of mangroves and it reminded me of our time in Bangladesh and even looked a bit like the Amazon and even the Everglades. We stopped to admire some long-tailed macaque monkeys grooming each other high in the trees.

Sepilok Borneo Firefly Tour
Sunset in the mangroves

We stopped on a tiny island where we were served fresh coconut and watched the sunset. Once it was dark we headed back into the mangroves in our boat and the fireflies lit up the night. The trees along the channels looked like lighted Christmas trees and the little bugs made me think of Tinkerbell. Returning to shore we were served a simple and delicious Malaysian meal of curry chicken, sweet and sour tuna, soup, rice and vegetable fritters. All of this cost $55 per person.

But the fireflies are also endangered, like so much else in this beautiful region. Learn more about the fireflies here.

Back to Sepilok Forest Edge Resort and a good night’s sleep.

Next morning we were up early and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in the open air restaurant before making the 15 minute trek to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. Entrance fee was $7.50 each.

Did you know the words orang utan means forest human in Malay? When you watch these animals up close it is remarkable how humanlike their behavior is.

Sepilok Orangutan Reabilitation Center
Mama and baby at feeding time

This is an amazing place working to keep the orangutans from becoming extinct. Over the past two decades the orangutan population in Borneo has dwindled from 200,000 to only 11,000! The main reason this is happening is deforestation. Native forests are being eliminated and in their place mile after mile after mile of palm oil trees are being planted…pushing the orangutans to the brink of existence. Palm oil is used in thousands of products commercially produced. Everything from ice cream to soap. It’s likely you have products in your home right now with palm oil as an ingredient that has come from Borneo.

Palm Oil deforestation in Borneo
This is a palm oil nut from a palm oil tree
Sepilok Orangutan Reabilitation Center
Young male orangutan getting exercise

At the Sepilok Orangutan Reabilitation Center two things occur;

  1. Wild orangutans learn to come here to help supplement their diet during two “feeding” times a day. The wild animals, especially nursing mothers, that are unable to find adequate nutrition due to the dwindling native forests come to the reserve and receive fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Injured or orphaned orangutans are brought from outside the region to receive medical attention or to learn necessary skills to survive in the wild. All with the goal of releasing these animals back into the wild when they are ready.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Mom and Baby looking healthy and well fed

We saw dozens of orangutans while we visited the reserve…some just wandering around or swinging through the trees, others during their feeding. The reserve is not a zoo – there are no fences keeping these wild animals in. They come and go as they need.

Sepilok Orangutan Reabilitation Center
This young orangutan was strolling along the path at the same time we were

It was a joyful experience and a dream come true for me!

We knew almost nothing about the funny looking proboscis (meaning nose) monkeys, but found that they too are suffering from deforestation. So on our final day we headed 30 minutes away to the Labak Bay Proboscis Monkey Reserve. Entry fee $15 each.

Labok Bay Proboscis Monkey Reserve
A dominate male proboscis monkey

The facilities here were not as nice as the orangutan reserve (and twice as expensive) but we still really enjoyed seeing these strange animals with the Jimmy Durante nose. I was astonished at the size of the males and their strength as well as how they can jump like kangaroos. Unlike orangutans who live a pretty solitary life, the proboscis monkeys live a harem kind of hierarchy with one dominant male overseeing multiple females and offspring.

Labak Bay Proboscis Monkey Reserve
Looking pensive

I learned a lot about all of these animals in our three day visit and we also saw macaque monkeys, one wild boar, and giant monitor lizards to round our our wildlife adventure!

Palm Oil Plantation Monitor Lizards
Monitor Lizard about five feet long

An interesting note – monitor lizards are the only native animal thriving in the palm oil plantations. In fact, they are growing incredibly large and due to population explosion of monitor lizards they are more aggressive. A clear sign of an eco-system out of balance.

Labak Bay Proboscis Monkey Reserve
The animals come in large family groups from the forest to the center to feed.

Although there were many tourists, we met no other Americans. It’s a long ways to come from the USA, but if you can it’s worth a visit. I truly enjoyed visiting endangered primates in Borneo.

Labak Bay Proboscis Monkey Reserve
Young male – he seems to be contemplating his future

We look forward to more primate encounters in the months ahead, but we will never forget our amazing time visiting endangered primates in Borneo. Fabulous.

Want to learn more about what’s going on in Borneo with the wildlife and deforestation? Read here.

Please share our blog. Thank you.

Visiting Endangered Primates in Borneo
Previous Post Next Post

You may also like

17 Comments

  • Reply Debra Sidor Tanner

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and story. Seeing them in the wild is really a once in a lifetime experience…..one that most of us will not know.

    October 11, 2019 at 7:59 am
  • Reply Michelle Mather

    I loved this blog 🙂 It amazes me that you can walk around and they don’t seem scared of you. I can’t imagine how you must have felt in their presence. 🙂 What an experience and thank you for sharing!

    October 11, 2019 at 8:38 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks Michelle and for your loyal following.

      October 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    This is high on our bucket list. Thank you for sharing. I’ve got this saved for planning our trip.

    October 11, 2019 at 6:35 pm
  • Reply Rhonda Albom

    Wow, that must have been fantastic. I’ve never seen wild orangutans before. And only $80 a night for your chalet? Super cheap. The meal looks amazing as well.

    October 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      It was amazing!

      October 11, 2019 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Mary Beth Hines

    How awesome! I could watch primates all day.

    October 11, 2019 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Karen

    What an epic trip. Would love to go there. Thanks for sharing how to make it happen.

    October 11, 2019 at 11:57 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      It was epic. Thanks Karen.

      October 14, 2019 at 2:13 am
  • Reply Sinjana Ghosh

    Wow! This was a great adventure indeed. We see a hell lot of monkeys in India everywhere we go, but these are some rare species we never found. You got some great shots here.

    October 12, 2019 at 12:20 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you Sinjana!

      October 14, 2019 at 2:13 am
  • Reply Gabby

    Gosh those monitor lizards are huge! Interesting to read that they’re the only animals thriving in the palm oil forests.

    October 13, 2019 at 8:42 pm
  • Reply Ann

    Great post on an important cause!

    And I really loved the image of you drinking from a Coconut at sunset 😀

    October 13, 2019 at 9:52 pm
  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    shares