If you want to see orangutans in Borneo then the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a great way to start.
I’ve always been a great fan of orangutans. I had even adopted two some years ago through a Danish organisation in Borneo – both of them have now been set free in the wild again which warms my heart tremendously. I think they’re incredibly fascinating and I hope they’ll stay around forever.
Meeting the orangutans in Borneo
My main reason for catching the flight to Sandakan was to go and visit the orangutans. I decided I wanted to be close to the rehabilitation centre 24 km away from the town, so I booked myself into a jungle resort just down the road from there. A lovely place where you’re surrounded by nature.
The next morning I was up and ready to go. The centre opens at 9 AM and I wanted to be one of the first people there. Well, sadly, many others had had the same idea and in came 11 (!!!) tourist busses full of people. I was devastated.
But I decided to stay positive and get the best out of it. But it was one big disappointment. There were so many people that the orangutans didn’t want to come out of the forest. I don’t blame them. There were so many signs everywhere saying “SILENCE” and yet it was only a few of us who actually kept silent.
I tried to tell a couple of families to maybe get their children to be quiet, but I was only awarded with dirty looks – I hate selfish parents and little spoilt brats.
So yeah, the thing that I came all the way to Borneo for was a complete let down. However, on my way out I met a couple who told me to go in the afternoon instead of early in the morning. So I decided to do that the following week.
Once again I felt defeated when I saw that there were already a group of people standing and waiting to get in. But this time I had a plan.
When you walk down the boardwalk you’re technically meant to go to the outdoor nursery first. Sure, it’s great and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see orangutans. However, they’re very far away and you’re watching them through glass.
Instead of going that way I asked a member of staff if I was allowed to walk the other way.
“Sure”, he said and when everyone was out of earshot, he told me to follow him. He told me he knew where I could see the orangutans up close. So I followed him and after walking for a while I saw them.
First there were three of them playing around on the boardwalk. One of them ran off after a few seconds, but two of them stayed. And it was absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe the feeling I had when I saw them. I was 2-3 meter away from them most of the time. They were right there in front of me.
It was just me and two other people who had gotten the same idea as me. And the orangutans didn’t care that we were there. We were quiet and respectful towards them.
I watched them interact with each other, play and fight – and eventually making up and holding hands. When they decided to leave, one of them walked right past me. He was probably 30 centimetres away from me. I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I know you’re not meant to do that, so I didn’t.
After that I was on a complete high. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life seeing the orangutans in Borneo.
And when I left I couldn’t help myself. So I ended up adopting a 4-year old orangutan called Peanut.
Have you ever seen the orangutans in Borneo? How was your experience? Let me know by leaving a comment.