We arrived in Sandakan after a bit of trouble finding space on a bus. We ended up hitching a ride from a local to the next town and stopped at a road side stand for her favorite local snack, bosou, a fermented or cured combination of raw sardines, herbs, and salt. Yum? We later found out it was a drunk snack for local people and we have yet to meet someone who actually eats it on a regular basis. In the next town over, a bus finally stopped for us and had us sit on the stairs because there were no seats left. After a long ride on the hard floor, we made it to the coastal city excited to stand. There wasn't much to do so we had an early night, excited for the following day to begin.
We woke up in the morning and caught a bus to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Center. This organization rescues injured and orphaned orangutans and helps ween them into independent, jungle life. The center is located on the edge of a healthy rainforest that is perfect for introduction to solitary life. The rehab center quarantines new orangs to ensure they are healthy. Then, they are intruduced to play structures that help teach necessary climbing skills. The creatures often help one another with other life skills such as which leaves to eat and how to build nests (one for an afternoon nap and one for sleeping at night). There are a series of feeding structures that the trainers load up with food twice a day. Each structure leads deeper into the forest, which helps the creatures become more comfortable in the habitat they were born to live in. Bolder orangs often push the more timid to venture farther out of their comfort zones. Once they are ready, the orangs are able to venture out of the scope of the rehab center and live on their own.
We made it just in time for the 10 AM feeding session that occurs every morning. We watched them eat while a couple of the orangs enjoyed a bit of forplay on the vines above us. It was hilarious to watch the crowd filming and taking pictures of this behavior. What a bunch of voyeurs.
After, we went on a low-key jungle walk to look for birds and other wildlife. We had a very friendly butterfly following us around for a good amount of time in the beginning. We also spotted a flying lizard. When Grant reached up to take a picture, it jumped off of the tree it was on and spiraled to the next tree over.
We went back to the orangutan area for the afternoon feeding session. During our walk back a naughty female orang decided to jump on the boardwalk and follow the crowd around. She kept approaching people with toys: hats, sunglasses, cameras pointed her way. We were waiting for a tourist to get robbed of an item but one of the employees grabbed her hand and walked her away from the crowd before that could happen.
After we had to leave we took a bus home and relaxed the rest of the night. The next day we were headed to Kinabatangan River for a series of jungle cruises. Like my mom said, it would be like the Disneyland ride, but in real life!
Thanks for reading.
Danielle and Grant