Borneo has long held the mysteries of ancient primeval jungles and exotic animals seen nowhere else on earth. The jungles of Borneo draw explorers and naturalists from far away. One of the most mangiest creatures to dwell in these forests is the Orangutan. There are very few left in the wild as they have been captured relentlessly and their habitat has shrunk due to logging and other unfriendly activities of their cousins, us. We all decided that we had to take a look at the jungles and animals while we were here and our stop at Sandakan provided the best access. The crew took an all day trip up the river where they saw Orangutans in the wild along with other rare critters, they did not see the illusive pigmy elephant but few do. I took the shorter more results driven venture, and headed to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center a short cab ride away.
The Sepilok center was established in 1961 and now is the leading rehabilitation center in Borneo. They boost a 4,294 hector forest for the primates to room. They emphasis returning the orphaned and injured Orangutans into the wild as soon as possible. The natural foods are supplemented by a twice daily feeding. Apparently the number that show up varies quite a bit so we were very lucky to see seven magnificent animals at once.
I joined a couple of fellow cruisers who were anchored next to us and entered the well run facility. We were led into the forest on wooden walk ways to a viewing platform. The Orangutans must keep a clock around as they show up right on time for the 3 pm feeding. First one then a few more start to swing from the long lines suspended above the forest floor. Soon seven made an appearance, one toting a small baby. The platform, now hosting about 70 people, is ideal for viewing. The critters do not seem to pay any attention to the goofy looking spectators; they must see us as very strange. The feeding is not that much so it is evident that the animals get most of their diet from the forest as it should be. I think the fruit and milk provided is just an afternoon treat and a good chance to socialize.
When you see these amazing critters it is easy to see why they are called “The men of the forest”. Their obvious intelligence and social order is easily seen. We were told they were eight times stronger than a human being.
We took the cab back to Sandakan and I perused the local market. I do love open air markets, the smells, the energy and the primitive food displays all sing to me.
There is a Yacht Club in Sandakan and I first went there with the dinghy. I have been to sixteen countries and countless yacht clubs all of which welcome world travelers with open arms, not so here. We were summarily ordered to leave the property or pay a 100rm (30 dollar) fee to tie up the dinghy. I was a bit shocked at this treatment. We took the dinghy to the public market ramp where many small local boats tie up. I was a bit nervous about security of the dinghy but found the locals very friendly and helpful. It was a bit complicated getting the dink secured and getting to shore, involving some tricky rock climbing. When I returned the access, a ladder, had been removed so I have noway down to the boat. No worries, the locals had anticipated my problem and offered to ferry me to my dink.
We left Sandakan early the next morning headed to the famed diving area of Sipidan Island. Then we will go to Tawau to get our Indonesian visas and set south for the wonders of Indonesia. On to the next adventure!