We arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Malaysian Borneo, without really knowing what to expect. It was a spontaneous, throw a dart at a map type of travel plan for us and, even though it’s not your typical backpacker destination, we were not met with regret. Nor would we ever forget our time there.
It’s not that Borneo isn’t frequented by tourists, it’s just that it hadn’t really been on our radar before. Many are drawn to it due to the promise of natural beauty and wildlife that’s exotic to us in The West. The one thing that we did know about Borneo was that it is home to orangutans - orange haired, playful primates that share 97% of the same DNA as us humans! Excitement quickly built as we started to see more and more orangutans in pictures plastered around the airport and stuffed toys being sold at souvenir shops around the city.
After a couple of days exploring Kota Kinabalu, it was time to head to Sandakan, another city located in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Here, we jumped at the chance to book ourselves onto an organised tour offered to us by our hotel. We couldn’t wait to see an orangutan in wild! Only 80,000 wild orangutans now exist in the world! It was once in a lifetime!
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center!
The tour started with a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation center - a safe haven for orangutans in the form of 43 sq kms of protected jungle, their natural habitat. As well the risk posed to them by the illegal pet trade, orangutans’ lives are threatened massively by the destruction of their homes due to the development of palm oil plantations. The rehabilitation centre takes in orphaned and injured orangutans and is vital to the survival of orangutans in Borneo.
The Kinabatangan River!