Known for having some of the richest biodiversity in the world, Borneo did not disappoint when it came to seeing animals. If you are an animal person, you must try and make it to Borneo at some point. I have to admit I’ve never been crazy about wildlife and “nature,” but I loved seeing everything Borneo has to offer. Probably two of the most spectacular creatures we saw were the Bornean Orangutan and Proboscis Monkey. We were able to see the monkeys both in the wild while camping in the jungle, and at their respective sanctuaries. I will write about our time at Uncle Tan’s (the camp in the jungle) in another entry, so I’ll just share some pictures and stories from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary for now.
Borneo is filled with miles and miles of rainforest home to thousands of different species of animals, plants and trees. Unfortunately, the rainforest has become subject to deforestation and as a result, many animals have been left injured and without homes. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary was founded in 1964 to help orphaned and injured Orangutans return to life in the forest. They go through a training program where they slowly learn how to become independent in the wild. Visitors are invited to sit in on feeding sessions that last for about 45 minutes to an hour. Mostly mom and baby Orangutans come to a central platform where the food is distributed.
It was great to see the Orangutans up close, but the large number of tourists and constant flashing of cameras kind of took away from the authenticity of the experience. The Orangutans are definitely in a more natural habitat than at a zoo, but you still got the feeling you were in a man made exhibit. Regardless, the Orangutans were adorable and we got to see them up close!
After climbing the mountain and spending 3 days at Uncle Tan’s, Blue, Paul, Richard and I decided to just hang out for a couple days and do something relaxing. We read about a resort located five minutes from the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary and decided to spend a night there. The resort and Sanctuary are about an hour drive from Sandakan, the closest major town. There isn’t much to do in the area, but we were quite happy to check out the monkeys, sit in hammocks and play cards for a day.
Since Labuk Bay is kind of far from any major town there were substantially less tourists at the Sanctuary. The grounds were also much bigger than at the Orangutan Sanctuary and it felt much more like the monkeys were actually living in the wild. When we arrived for the feeding there were only a handful of other tourists and way more monkeys than we had seen in Sepilok. When the food was brought to the feeding station all of the monkeys came swinging in at the same time to get their share of the food.The Proboscis Monkeys are unlike any animal you have ever seen before. Their most distinctive feature is their long and flat nose and the males have red penises that are always erect. Their mannerisms are also very similar to human mannerisms. Watching them eat was kind of like watching a really weird looking human eat. Proboscis Monkeys only live on the island of Borneo, so if you want to see one plan a trip to Borneo!