Discover everything you need to know when planning your trip to Sepilok, Borneo, with this jam-packed Sepilok travel guide.
Known for being the best place in the world to see orangutans in the wild, Sepilok is a must-visit destination in Borneo and a haven for wildlife lovers. We recently returned from a trip to the leafy region and we’re already craving our next visit.
In fact, we spent two days in Sepilok before heading off to the Kinabatangan River for more wildlife exploration and, during our time there, we managed to visit the three main sanctuaries (spoiler alert: All of which, we LOVED).
Dreaming of visiting? You really should be. But don’t panic if you’re not quite sure where to stay, what to eat, and which sanctuaries are worth your time. We’ve compiled a complete guide that covers everything you need to know.
Keep reading to find out more about planning a trip with our Sepilok travel guide…
Sepilok Travel Guide: Unmissable Things to do in Sepilok
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
The Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok is why most people visit the region. Us included. The chance to see orangutans in their original habitat seemed too good to be true.
This was our favourite experience – the forest in which the sanctuary is located is protected and approximately 75 orangutans live there. As well as some very cheeky macaque monkeys (no surprises there). The keepers use the feeding platforms throughout the day to drop food for those orangutans who aren’t savvy enough to forage for their own meals.
What we will say is get to the centre early and head towards the viewing rooms at the back of the park – here’s where you’ll be able to spot the orangutans chowing down on their grub.
Sun Bear Sanctuary
Opposite the orangutan rehabilitation centre is the Sepilok Sun Bear Sanctuary. Bornean sun bears are the smallest in the world and very endangered.
They also just so happen to be adorable.
We’ll warn you: They’re a lot more shy than the orangutans so you likely won’t see as many, but we still managed to spot a few bears below – mainly sniffing around the trees and eating.
Entrance to the sanctuary is RM 31.80.
Rainforest Discovery Center
We’ll be totally honest with you, we weren’t very impressed with the Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center. We didn’t manage to see many animals, however it was a really pleasant walk.
Entrance to Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre is RM20. There’s a highlighted route that you can take around the center, as well as a small museum building where you can learn more about the region and the animals.
If you’re into birdwatching, you’ll be delighted to visit here. But if, like us, you turned up with no binoculars and VERY limited bird knowledge, you probably won’t be too bothered. In other words, don’t worry too much if you have to skip it.
That said, the center offers a nightwalk which we would recommend instead of heading there in the day. We didn’t do this ourselves but we spoke to people who did and loved it.
Note: There’s no wifi at any of these sanctuaries (which is to be totally expected), so make sure you plan your journey to and from the sanctuaries in advance. Trust us – we spent an hour stranded at the discovery centre, desperately trying to call a taxi.
Where to Stay in Sepilok
Options for where to stay in Sepilok are – unsurprisingly – rather limited. That said, you have got a few options. These are the best resorts and Sepilok hotels…
Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
After weighing up our options, we ultimately decided to stay at the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort.
We had zero complaints. Rooms were as comfy as it gets when immersing yourself in the jungle – the bed was huge and the bathroom was spacious. And the extra outdoor shower was a nice touch, even if we didn’t get the chance to use it.
In terms of facilities, the staff were extremely friendly and couldn’t do enough for you (including ordering taxis to and from the sanctuaries). The Nest, Sepilok Forest Edge Resort’s on-site restaurant, was equally impressive. But more on that in a minute.
If you’re looking for hotels near the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary, we highly recommend this spot.
Borneo Sepilok Rainforest Resort
If it’s slightly more luxury you’re after, staying at the Borneo Sepilok Rainforest Resort is an excellent idea. Deluxe rooms have balconies with impressive jungle views as well as plenty of space and comfy beds.
You might not have wifi in your room, but you’ll have everything you need for a dreamy stay – including free toiletries, a mosquito net, and a fan.
But, the real draw to this dazzling hotel near Sepilok is the surroundings. The twinkling light-filled bar and restaurant is an ideal place to gather in the evening – head here to watch gorgeous sunsets with a beer or two.
Other Sepilok Hotels
Still not sure where to stay in Sepilok? Here are some other brilliant places to bed down.
If you’re spending more time in Sepilok, the Jungle Resort might be your best option. Rooms are decently sized with local touches and handmade furniture, while the swimming pool offers the perfect place to relax and unwind in the heart of the jungle.
Sepilok B&B might be the most, ahem, rustic place to stay in Sepilok, but rooms are clean, comfy, and equipped with all the basic amenities. Plus, you’ve got the option to save some serious cash by staying in shared dorms, or splurge on your own private chalet.
For a no-frills experience, Nature Lodge Sepilok is ideal. Dorms are simple but clean and ridiculously inexpensive at this brilliant Sepilok nature resort.
If it’s pretty views and a magical experience is what you’re after, you’ll want to book a room at the Sepilok Nature Resort. The only downside? This resort is pricier than other Sepilok hotels, but you really get what you pay for.
Where to Eat in Sepilok
The Lake Bistro And Bar
We discovered this place once we left Borneo and we seriously kicked ourselves. The Lake Bistro and Bar is a dreamy little Sepilok restaurant serving up a mix of traditional Malay and international cuisine.
With gorgeous views of the nearby lake, pizza and wine seems to be the go-to here.
Another brilliant place to eat in Sepilok is the Banana Cafe. Situated inside the Sepilok Jungle Resort, the food at this place is simple but delicious – though the menu is a little bit more limited than some of the other places we’re mentioning in this guide.
But what Banana Cafe lacks in variety, it makes up for in lush jungle views. Not to mention that the staff are ridiculously friendly.
Okay, so we might be biased as this was the restaurant at our resort, but The Nest was an adorable place to spend an evening. Not to mention that the gorgeous pond-side location was beautiful when lit up at night.
The food was ridiculously delicious – we spent two nights there and, between us, tried a burger, wrap, parmesan fries (YUM) and a Malay pineapple curry – while the cocktails were equally impressive.
Word of warning: The Nest did always seem to have a couple of items missing off the menu, but the food was genuinely tasty so we didn’t mind too much. Just make sure you pick a back up option.
Sepilok Travel Guide: How to Get to Sepilok
We flew from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan Airport with AirAsia and then used Uber to make the 45 minute journey to Sepilok (the taxi cost us less than £10). The flight was less than an hour and this is, by far, the easiest way to travel to Sepilok. Though, it’s a little bit more costly – it cost us around £50.
If you’re serious about saving some cash, you can opt to take a bus from Kinabalu North Bus Terminal to Sandakan, which is a 7 hour journey followed by the 45 minute taxi ride.
We usually book our transport through Rome2Rio; it’s the easiest way to compare journey times and prices.
Best Guided Tours in Sepilok
Kinabatangan River Tour
We’ve written about our experience on a Kinabatangan River tour in detail here, but this is an unmissable add on to an adventure in Sepilok. And this Sepilok travel guide would not be complete without it.
This part of Borneo has the island’s largest concentration of wildlife, so heading here for an epic jungle trek or river cruise is a must. We got to spot orangutans, plenty of Proboscis monkeys, and even a Clouded leopard in the wild.
Tours cover transport to and from Sepilok, lodging and food for however long you choose to spend there, and all activities along the Kinabatangan River.
Orangutan Rehabilitation Center Tour
While the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is just around the corner from the Sepilok accommodation we’ve mentioned (and easy to navigate alone), it can be nice to join a guided tour. Let the experts transport you around, giving you the lowdown on the incredible creatures in front of you.
If having everything organised for you sounds good, we recommend this tour by Amazing Borneo. You can even throw in the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sandakan City Tour and/or the Rainforest Discovery Centre for one killer tour.
When is the Best Time to Visit Sepilok
Trying to plan the perfect trip? The best time to visit Sepilok is between March and October, as this is the dry season. Which, FYI, makes spotting animals easier.
We actually visited towards the end of October and highly recommend booking a trip for this time of year. It was hot (but not unbearably so) and it didn’t rain once while we were there.