Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Sabah On a Shoestring 3: Sepilok-Sandakan-Sepilok Part 1

The melodic song sung by an unknown bird woke me up at 6:30am at Paganakan Dii longhouse. This birdie flew in very close to the balcony and it was doing the same for a few times. Because I was curious to know what sort of bird that was singing, I forced myself out of the comfortable bunk bed, climbed down the bunk ladder gently, took out my binoculars and tip-toed out to the balcony. 

A flow of cool fresh air gushed through my nostrils and straight into my lungs as soon as I opened the door of the balcony. I tip-toed to the end of the balcony, I waited and I listened. I spotted some fast movements in the foliage of the ferns below and then it stopped. I sung that tune to call. I waited again. No sign of that birdie. Maybe my morning out-of-tune drove the birdie away.

While Aida was still asleep, I tip-toed out of the longhouse to catch some birds before our breakfast and our van pick up at 9am. With only a 10-minute drive from Paganakan Dii, will be the place where the Man of the Forest gathers. 
The morning look at the dining area of Paganakan Dii

A complimentary English breakfast prepared us for the day of another exploration. I managed to spot a few birds before departing Paganakan Dii: Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis), Yellow Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Red-Eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus), Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), Rufous-Tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus), Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus).

I felt a bit nauseous as soon as I saw buses and buses loaded with tourists got off at the entrance to greet the Man of the Forest. Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center, read more here. Oh well... I was one of them - the tourists too. After paying the entrance fee and a charge for my camera, we entered the gate on a beautifully maintained boardwalk which cut into the dense of the jungle.

"Crack..." .. all of us turned towards the direction of the crackling and rattling sound. The big movements of branches and trees swaying, our eyes opened in awe and like other tourists, I put my camera up, all ready to click. Here they came, the young ones and the huge ones. We welcomed them like the King of the Forest instead of what they were called as the Man of the Forest.

I love that move... a Perfect Split! Any Yogis-to-be would love to be able to do that
And they were all heading to one spot. Breakfast hall.
Orangutan canteen
It was queer to have more than a hundred of homosapiens watching a handful of these creatures feasting in the center of platform. While the homosapiens' drooled with the sight of orangutans, these creatures' mouths drooled with the sight of delicious tropical fruits. Even though I disagree with the practice of feeding the wild animals, for this case, it is exceptional. These orangutans were once dependent on the center for healthcare, food and training before becoming independent. These were the ones that came back to the center just to feed. There were others that had found their place and did not return to the center.
I observed this young fella feeding on the bananas and I thought it was greedy to have some  bananas in its feet too.

This young fella climbed up the cable and sat on a branch away from the group. It sat on its own feasting on the bananas. 
The right feet was grasping on a branch while the other was grasping the bananas. Not long after, I understood the reason why this young fella acted a bit greedy.
A group of these cheeky Pig-tailed macaques "attacked" the canteen... scavengers!

We spend only less than one hour on the entire boardwalk before they closed the gate. We felt a bit disappointed that they had to close the gate and we were not able to do any birdwatching. And so, we spend some time at the community hall to watch the video on the rehab center. Please be aware that this rehab center is only open during the feeding time.

Because Paganakan Dii only accepts cash for any payment and both of us were running out of cash, we needed to head to Sandakan for the ATM. It was convenient for us as there was a bus stop for a public bus which comes right into the orangutan rehab center to Sandakan. However, it it best to check the time of the public bus. We waited for almost half an hour for the bus to arrive and we managed to catch a male Brown-Throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) frolicking around.

A slow one hour bus ride took us on a 25 kilometers journey to Sandakan where we walked around the town to run our errands. The town itself was a bit disappointing, crowded and I didn't feel safe with its surrounding. 

Another slow ride back to Sepilok and we arrived at the roundabout turnoff to the rehab center at 3:15pm. There is a center next to the orangutan rehab and it was one of our itinerary for the day. At 3:15pm, it seemed a bit of a rush to explore. And because this day would be our last night, we decided to go ahead. A white Kancil car was waiting by the road and the driver was looking at us, as if he was inviting. We walked over to his car and after a short negotiation, we paid him to take us there to save us the walking time. Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), here we come.

On my next Sabah post... a gliding wonder that almost smacked on our heads!


  1. What an awesome trip! You live in a beautiful country!

  2. Would love to be there with the orang utans. I hear it is a well managed centre.

  3. Hi Ria;
    It is time to get yourself a passport and explore outside of Singapore. Get over here to Langkawi Island for a start :)

  4. Hi Keats The Sunshine Girl;
    Wow! Glad to hear to you again.
    Yes... it would be one of the best. You should go! At least it is not a gimmick one like the Bukit Merah Orangutan sanctuary!

  5. I was at Sepilok in November too. I liked the Rainforest Discovery Centre better but did not have enough time to fully enjoy it. You could spend a whoile day at the RDC.

  6. Hi WChinner,

    Good writing there, mate! Sepilok's a great place to witness this great ape!

    I was there last year and found it interesting (though, I agree that it's bittersweet as well since it's probably the only place and only way to see them in their "habitat" settings these days.)

    You're right about the very brief time available for visitors to discover other rainforest flora and fauna. I was literally shoved back to the main office/centre the moment the Orang Utans disappeared.

    It's hard to comprehend but I think the centre management wants to limit people's contact with the Orang-utans and the rainforest.

    Well, perhaps we can only do some exploring outside the centre, along the forest finge?

  7. Hi Monyet King,
    I love the RDC too! Will be back there again!

    Hi JK,
    Thank you JK. And many thanks for reading.

    I guess it is for the better that the rehab center does this way. I am glad that they are strict about certain things and regulation enforced. I am not sure if there is any information to warn the public about having to leave the boardwalk after the feeding time.

    At least, there is RDC for us to go to after the Orangutan Rehab center! Did you go there?

  8. Yes, and it's quite interesting, actually! Far exceeding my expectations in terms of information and exhibit! (I'm used to bland old exhibits of Muzium Negara, you see....)

    And actually they do have signs telling people not to enter some of the forest trails without permission and a guide. I almost miss it while exploring around, though!


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