It’s easy to fall in love with the wildlife of Borneo. This is orangutan island – one of only two places in the world where these endangered animals are found in the wild.
As we headed off to Sabah, one of two Malaysian territories on the island of Borneo, it was the orangutans that topped my list of must-sees.
Sure, I’d seen one before – likely at some zoo or other, but nothing compares to seeing animals in the wild, in their natural habitat. And what I hadn’t expected of Sabah was the sheer variety of wildlife that lives on this island.
Sabah is becoming known as something of a honeymoon hotspot, not least because of its romantic landscapes and some of the world’s best sunsets. But its wildlife is also a big draw, and I found it difficult not to fall in love with many of the animals of Borneo.
You’ll find some of the great creatures we came across in photos, and don’t miss the video to see these swingers (and other animals) in action…
See more video of our time in Sabah.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sandakan
Sadly, like animals in many parts of our world, orangutans have been coming off second best to man in recent years.
So it’s wonderful to visit places like Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, in Sandakan – a safe jungly haven for the animals. This is no sanitised experience where orangutans are hemmed in in pens. Sepilok is set in a 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve and is home to around 80 of the apes.
They’re in no way forced to come and pose for photos – although some seemed to pull off cheeky modelesque moves at times – we viewed them from a platform overlooking the jungle, where they stopped for lunch.
Other animals on the orangutan island of Borneo
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Just next door, another wonderful conservation project introduced us to one of Borneo’s other great endangered species. I often view bears with the kind of caution you should afford to any “tear-you-apart-with-my-bare-hands” animals.
But I’ve fallen head over heels for the Bornean Sun Bear. It’s perhaps one of the cutest I’ve seen – and though they have been known to kill humans – mostly out of their own fear, they eat bugs and grubs.
You can easily see both the orangutans and sun bears in a day, and perhaps even fly back to Sabah’s capital and home to many of its beach resorts, Kota Kinabalu. But if you do want to spend more time in and around Sepilok, and enjoy the jungle setting there’s the rustic Sepilok Nature Resort.
Kinabatangan River safari
The Kinabatangan River is Malaysia’s second longest, and as we journeyed by boat from Sandakan to Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the river, it certainly felt that way too. After nearly three hours by speed boat we found ourselves in the very heart of Sabah’s rainforest.
The lodge has great day and night river safaris, where you can spot proboscis monkeys – check out those noses, pygmy elephants (sadly they’d moved upstream by the time we got there), and a host of kingfishers. Just don’t consider swimming in the river unless you’ve had a good look round…
Experience it for yourself. Book now with this exclusive special offer from Skytrak Travel: 10 nights in Sabah, Borneo, from £1,108 per person, incl. flights with Royal Brunei Airlines. Available for booking until February 28, 2015.
Shangri-La Rasa Ria Hotel’s Nature Park
Tourism is all too often accused of in some way damaging the environment. It’s refreshing therefore to visit a five-star hotel that’s not only aware of the wildlife around them, but actively works to preserve it.
That’s just what we found at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Hotel, in a secluded spot on the coast outside of Kota Kinabalu. It has a 64 acre area of rainforest to the far end of its three-kilometres of private beach, which is home to its nature reserve.
The hotel started with a Orangutan Care project that aimed to rehabilitate the animals. But it has broadened its efforts to provide a great environment for many more of Borneo’s wildlife – from birds to reptiles, and small mammals like monkeys and deer.
But on the orangutan island of Borneo, the man of the forest as the name translates, is still king of the jungle. And long may they reign.
One thousand years ago orangutans were found across Asia, from as far north as China and as far south as Java, Indonesia. Now they are only present on Borneo and Sumatra, numbering just 22,000 and 5,000, respectively, so projects like the Shangri-La’s which looks after baby orangutans to adulthood – when they move to Sepilok – are vital.
They certainly manage to bring in a crowd of fascinated onlookers wherever they are spotted.
Experience it for yourself. Book now with this exclusive special offer from Premier Holidays: 12 nights at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria from £1,199 per person, incl. flights with Royal Brunei Airlines. Available for booking until February 28, 2015.
I fell in love with the animals of Borneo while on a project with iambassador, in partnership with Royal Brunei Airlines and Sabah Tourism. As always all opinions and wide-eyed wildlife-loving wonder are my own.
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Love seeing these guys! Have longed to see the kings of the swingers for years!
Sarah Lee says
Absolutely, and the fact that there are only two places in the world where you can see them makes an encounter with orangutans all the more thrilling.
You have no idea how much loved this post! Having read about orangutans for years, and been saddened in recent years by the stories of the loss of their habitat it is so lovely to see these pics!
Sarah Lee says
Oh I so know where you’re coming from Linda! It was so wonderful to see them being cared for – they’re fab animals and a joy to see at close quarters.
I want to visit these place so badly! The orangutan are simply adorable! :)
Sarah Lee says
You must visit Franca! Seeing these animals up close is a fantastic experience.
Paul Olley says
Was lovely to read this and revisit my time spent at the same place not so long ago! Some super images captured!
Sarah Lee says
Thanks Paul, glad you enjoyed the photos and it all brought back some good memories!
natasha mcintosh says
I love the show i watch it everyday.cant get enough i love what she does for the chimps there are still good people in the world keep up the good work.