Orangutans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo

A trip to see the orangutans in Sepilok, Borneo with kids (2024)

If you’re planning a family trip to Borneo, then the chances are that seeing orangutans will be pretty high on the list of things to do. Borneo with kids is a real adventure and the opportunity to see animals like orangutans up close and personal is not to be missed!

One of the best ways to guarantee an orangutan sighting is by visiting the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, Sabah. But Sepilok has more to offer than just orangutans!

In this post we’ve included all the info you need on where to stay and what to do to make the most of your time in Sepilok.

How to get to Sepilok

Sepilok is located in Eastern Sabah. Most visitors fly in to Borneo and land at Kota Kinabalu airport on the western coast. From here you can either fly to Sandakan or self-drive.

We opted to fly – flights are cheap with AirAsia and we had heard mixed reviews about the self-drive option. Whilst there are interesting stops on the route between Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, the road can also be tough with a lot of loose gravel and potholes. As we were travelling Borneo with kids we decided to take the easy option and fly!

From Sandakan it’s only a short 30min drive over to Sepilok (which is easy in a Grab taxi).

Where to stay in Sepilok

There are not in reality that many accommodation options within Sepilok itself. Sepolok is essentially a small village so there’s not a huge amount of choice!

We stayed at Sepilok B&B for two nights in one of their family rooms. This is a great budget option. It’s just a short walk to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and just about walkable to the Orangutan and Sun Bear centres. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor here.

Two boys sit on a double bed in Sepilok B&B. There is also a bunk bed to the right of the shot. A great place to stay in Sepilok, Borneo with kids!

There are a handful of private/family rooms; dorm rooms are also available. It really does feel quite remote at night as there is very little light pollution and the sounds of the jungle are all around!

Our family room was huge with an en-suite bathroom and aircon. This is not a place to scrimp on the aircon – it’s stiflingly hot and you’ll be outside for more of the activities during the day. We found that having a cool base to come home to was a real help. In fact, this applies to pretty much anywhere in Borneo with kids!

There is a small communal building with a restaurant serving buffet breakfasts (included in the room rate) and dinner. They also have free drinking water and soft drinks/ice creams available to purchase.

We ate in the restaurant one of the evenings and the food was fine. There are other eating spots within walking distance if you want to explore a bit further.

What to do in Sepilok, Borneo with kids

For a small village, Sepilok definitely packs a punch when it comes to things to do. Most people visit for the chance to see semi-wild orangutans. And while this is a BIG draw, there are a couple of other fabulous things to do in Sepilok.

Image of the entry sign across the road at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre on a family trip to Borneo with kids
Visiting the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

This is one of the top visitor attractions in all of Borneo. And for good reason! Seeing orangutans in this kind of semi-wild environment is a real bucket-list experience.

Despite the popularity of the centre, it can comfortably accommodate a pretty high number of people without feeling overwhelming.

It’s an easy visit with kids – there are flat wooden walkways throughout and it’s at most a 20-minute walk through the trees to the platforms.

There is an indoor nursery that it off-limits to visitors – orangutans start their rehabilition journey here, and are gradually moved outside then towards further feeding platforms deeper in the forest as they become more independent.

There are two main areas where you can view the orangutans.

There’s an outdoor nursery where you can view orangutans in the earlier stages of rehabilitation. There are two auditoriums with banked seating here behind one-way glass, so you can observe the orangutans without disturbing them. Tip – the room on the left has aircon so is much more comfortable!

We saw a number of orangutans of all ages in this space, including a huge flanged adult male (the ones with the enormous cheeks!).

Then there are the feeding platforms which are the main attraction! This is where the orangutans that are rehabilitated to the point of being able to live in the forest come in for daily feeding.

There are two feeding times – 10am and 3pm. There is plenty of standing room on the platforms to get a good view. The morning feeding tends to bring in the tour groups, so if you want a quieter experience then aim for 3pm. Or even better – get there in time for the 10am feeding, duck out of the centre over lunchtime (you can grab lunch and head to the sun bears over the road), then come back for the afternoon feeding. Your day ticket allows you to go in and out of the centre.

Whilst there is no guarantee that any orangutans will come to the feeding platforms, we were lucky enough to see several at both times. In the afternoon we even saw a mother and baby which was very special.

Entry to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre costs RM30 for adults and RM15 for children. You can leave and re-enter on the same day which allows you to see both feeding times.

It pretty much goes without saying that a visit to the orangutans is a must do for anyone travelling to Borneo with kids (or without kids for that matter!).

Visiting the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Right across the road from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre. As the boys love animals they really wanted to include a visit here!

The centre is home to 43 sun bears that have been rescued – many of which were kept as pets previously. There was detailed information on each of the bears, and they all had nicknames based on their personalities. The boys loved this!

We were able to speak to the director of the centre who was chatting to visitors. This was really interesting and really made the visit worthwhile! He gave us loads of information on the sun bears and the threats to them in the wild, which was so educational for the boys.

It also has a very good gift shop, which is always a hit with the boys (not that they are ever allowed to buy much!).

Entrance to the sun bear centre was RM50 for adults and RM25 for children. This is quite pricey for Borneo – and for what was quite a short visit. We only spent around 1 hour at the centre. However, it has definitely sparked the boys’ interest in sun bears and a LOT of reading after about threats to their environment, so as an educational visit it was worth it.

The centre is open from 9.30am to 3.30pm every day.

Visiting the Rainforest Discovery Centre

The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a short walk from Sepilok B&B and makes for a great visit during the day. But the night tours are not to be missed! You can check out the reviews on TripAdvisor here.

The centre has a number of elevated walkways through the rainforest that allow you to see the canopy at different levels. Whilst we didn’t see many animals during the daytime it was a really interesting walk through the rainforest.

The centre also has a good indoor visitor area with displays about all the flora and fauna that can be found in Borneo. This is great for a visit to Borneo with kids as it provides a guide to what you might spot!

I would in all honestly give the cafe a miss though – it’s good for a cold drink after a hot, sweaty walk around the walkways. But the food isn’t great!

Taking a night tour at the Rainforest Discovery Centre

When the Rainforest Discovery Centre really comes in to it’s own though is for the night tours. We booked one of these for the same day of our visit during the day. Like with all night tours in Borneo, this is a great opportunity to see some of the wildlife that only comes out at night once it’s cooler.

We were taken on a walk through the rainforest with a ranger in a group of around 10 people. We saw kingfishers, tarantulas, a snake and a scorpion. But the absolute stars of the show were the flying squirrels!

The rangers take visitors to a walkway at dusk where they know there are flying squirrels that live in the purpose built boxes. We waited patiently (and quietly!) for twenty minutes or so. And then we were lucky enough to see two squirrels launch themselves between the trees! It really was magical – the night tour is worth it for this experience alone.

Entry to the Rainforest Discovery Centre is RM30 for adults and RM15 for children. The night tour costs the same in the evening.

Make sure you book ahead (at least earlier in the day) for the night tour as spaces can fill up. Both day entry and night tour payments are in cash only.

How long do you need to stay in Sepilok?

We spent two nights (and two full days) in total in Sepilok and this was enough to see all the sights. It is a very useful jumping off point for other experiences in Borneo with kids though – we headed to the River Kinabatangan from here for more wildlife adventures.

Top tips:

  • Cash is king in Sepilok. The Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre only accept cash payments so make sure you have enough before you leave for Sepilok!
  • Book for the Night Tour at the RDC in advance as it can sell out
  • Head to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in time for the 10am feeding, then return for the much quieter 3pm session
  • Book accommodation that is walkable to all the main attractions, but don’t be afraid to get a cheap Grab if the heat gets too much!

Planning a trip to Borneo with kids?

If you’re thinking of visiting Borneo – or wider South Asia – with kids then check out our other posts below for more adventure travel tips!

Swim with wild dolphins in Bali (2024)

If Bali is on your list as a possible destination for a family holiday, you should seriously…

A family trip to the River Kinabatangan, Borneo (2024)

If it’s wildlife you’re after, then Borneo is definitely the place to be! If…

Planning a family trip to Komodo (2024)

Of all the things we’ve done around the world, our family trip to Komodo National Park has to…

A family beach break in Sanur, Bali (2024)

One of the things the boys liked best about attending school in Bali was ALL the holidays – in…

A budget family stay on beautiful Langkawi, Malaysia (2024)

Langkawi had been recommended to us by so many people before we left the UK; we definitely wanted to…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *