From Mt. Kinabalu we needed to get to the eastern town of Sandakan; this would involve a 6 hour bus journey. The only way to get the bus is to wait in a small lay-by next to the Kinabalu Park entrance and wait for the KK to Sandakan bus to pass through and then wave it down.
They come through every hour in the mornings although sometimes they are full. We had various contingency plans of what to do if there were two or three seats available, and of course I selflessly volunteered to wait for the next bus if there were only four free seats. As it turned out we all got a seat on the 9.30am bus and settled in for the long journey.
On arrival in Sandakan bus station we took a taxi to our hostel (Harbourside Backpackers) which turned out to be great. We always worry that the children’s noise will disturb other guests, and so we were concerned when the cleaner knocked on the door saying she had heard the children and wanted to see them.
As it turned out she meant this in an entirely positive way; she propped the door open and stood watching them saying how beautiful and fun they were! The staff was brilliant from start to finish- always taking the time to chat to us all, and much to the children’s delight, taking every opportunity to turn the communal television on to the Disney Channel.
We managed to find a laundry service who could turn around 6kg of filthy clothes in a few hours, but other than that Sandakan was rather lacking in appeal. The next morning, wearing freshly laundered clothes, we tore the children away from Disney and set off to fulfill a life-long ambition in visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. We stopped off first at our new lodgings, the Panganakan Lodge.
The view from our room was amazing- straight out over the rainforest. The shower was actually outside in the rainforest, along with the loo. This led to a new challenge at night whereby I kept my eyes shut when taking Josie for a wee in an attempt not to see what was flying/scuttling/crawling around on the floor.
Finally the time had come to head to the Orang-utan Sanctuary. The place has been in operation since the sixties. They rescue orphaned, abandoned, mistreated, or even pet orang-utans and work to rehabilitate them to a point whereby they are no longer dependent on human intervention.
As part of the centre there is a dedicated nursery where the babies are taught all the skills that their mothers would usually teach them. Once they have learned the basics they are moved to a different nursery. This is the first stage they can be viewed by the public, and only then from behind soundproof glass as to not disturb them.
Adult orang-utans are free to roam in the entire protected area. At present they have around 60 orangutans in the sanctuary but only 20 or so are still returning to feed at the feeding platforms. They put food out twice a day and the public are allowed in during the two feeding times only. We visited for the afternoon feed.
Travelling with children is the same as being at home with children. At times they are difficult, argumentative, and generally uncooperative. It was just unfortunate that they all decided to choose the afternoon I had most been looking forward to, to go in to complete meltdown.
We lasted about ten minutes inside the sanctuary, catching a glimpse of an adult orang-utan at the feeding platform, and briefly viewing unfeasibly cute orang-utan babies in the nursery before we had to drag out three tantrumming children while receiving the usual mix of pitying and disgusted looks. We know when we are beaten though, so we wrote it off as a bad day and took them back to the lodge for a very early night.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 5traveltheworld: Borneo - Part 2.