One of the most important-and certainly the most accessible-of Sabah’s conservation areas in the magnificent Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. Here, roughly 25 kilometres from the town of Sandakan you can come face-to-face with an orang-utan and the world’s smallest bear; discover the myriad uses of forest pants; hear the haunting call of gibbons just after dawn, and at dusk, gaze at flying squirrels gliding between giant trees; wonder at the delicate beauty of orchids and examine bizarre carnivorous pitcher plants.
You can see fireflies and trees with roots that “breathe” in the mangrove forest of Sepilok; feel like a hobbit in a magical forest where massive buttress roots hold up trees so tall they disappear into the sky, and watch transfixed as an endemic pitta for insects on the forest floor.
Established in 1931 as a site for research into forest ecology and management, the function of the Sepilok Forest Reserve, managed by the Sabah Forestry Department, has expanded considerably. Now consisting of two adjacent reserves covering roughly 6,000 hectares (60 sq km), it is home to a wide range of forest ecology and wildlife research, environmental education, recreation and nature tourism projects as well as conservation, all aimed at preserving Sabah’s remarkable plant and wildlife.
For most visitors, the name Sepilok is synonymous with the orang-utan, Borneo’s iconic red ape, for the world’s first rehabilitation centre for these endangered creatures was set up in Sepilok in 1964. More recently, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre was established here in order to help promote the conservation of this endangered bear.