Leaving Sepilok, leaving the orangutans, looking back at the best time of my life!

It’s been just over a week since I left Borneo and I know it’s going to sound terribly cliché but there are honestly not enough words to describe what an amazing time I had whilst I was there. When I booked the trip I had 19 months to wait and I can’t believe that it’s over!

Borneo is an amazing place, the local people are the friendliest and so kind and generous. They made us feel welcome from the minute we were picked up from the airport, to the minute we left. All the staff that we met at the centre are such wonderful people, so kind, happy and so funny! We would have a laugh with them all everyday and it was honestly a pleasure to get to know them and work with them. You can see the passion in every person that works at the centre, they do everything for the well-being of the orangutans that they care for and the bond between the staff and the orangutans at the centre is so touching to see. They have bought these animals up since they were babies and you can see the love they have for them. There is such a fun, positive, happy atmosphere when you’re working at the centre, everyday there is laughing, joking and singing, it’s really a great place to work!

Next are the group of people who I was lucky enough to share this wonderful experience with…
I honestly couldn’t have been put with a better bunch of people! We all seemed to just click straight away, there was never any awkwardness amongst us and it honestly felt like we were old friends! Living and working together had the potential to be a bit ‘much’ but it just felt like a little family. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who were genuinely happy for one another, there was no competition or separate groups, everyone was just so happy to be there and to make the most of every opportunity that we were given. It was lovely finishing work for the day, coming home and the first thing you’d be asked was “how was your day?” and knowing that the person asking you genuinely wanted to hear how you’d got on!
We had some of the best times together and I didn’t feel homesick once while I was there and I think it’s because we all got on so well and it felt like a family dynamic (a big family!) We all had dinner together in the evenings, watched films together, would do each others hair, looked out for each other when we were ill, laughed our heads off and just shared in the excitement of being there and getting stuck in at every opportunity! I’m so happy that I met such an amazing group of people and I know we’ll all keep in touch, we’ve already talked about reunions and I can’t wait to see them all again and to pick up where we left off!

Lastly, I will miss the orangutans, more than I could have ever imagined. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a HUGE animal lover and love every animal I meet but being around the orangutans really has made a huge impact on me. I have never been around such an incredible animal before and I feel privileged to have had such close contact with them and to have shared some very special moments with them.
These beautiful, loving, sweet, friendly animals have been amazing to get to know. Learning all about their different stories, how they came to the centre, their different personalities etc has been wonderful. Orangutans share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and it’s incredible how similar they are to us, having that close contact and being able to watch them on a day to day basis was remarkable and I loved every day I spent with them.
These beautiful animals live solitary lives in the wild so it was so special to watch them interacting with one another, on my last day there I saw Poogle, one of the biggest males at the centre, playing with Koko who is one of the smallest babies at the centre. It was such a special moment to watch, watching how gentle he was playing with her was so beautiful to see. Orangutans are about 6 times stronger than a man and they have a grip strength that is 4 times that of a human so it’s amazing to be around these animals and realise how gentle they are being with you! I will never forget when I first held one of the babies hands, how big and heavy it was, it was incredible!
It breaks my heart that these beautiful animals are now on the endangered list and are on the verge of becoming extinct. Their homes have been destroyed for palm oil plantations, mothers are being killed and in some cases the babies being kept as pets. This really upsets me, I hate the fact that these wonderful animals are suffering because of man’s greed – it was also heartbreaking to see how the jungle thrives, it has it’s own eco system where everything runs smoothly and then one day we go through and bulldoze it all…for money. Palm oil is a huge industry in Malaysia and brings alot of money into the country, it also brings alot of destruction. Palm oil is in 40-50% of our household products and around 90% of the orangutans habitat has been destroyed through deforestation in the last 20 years causing them to now be on the endangered list. Saying that, I know that the future for the orangutans at Sepilok looks bright. They have the love and care of the staff and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the little babies that I helped to look after.
The two months that I spent at Sepilok truly have been the best two months of my life, words cannot describe how much I loved this place and the people who I met along the way. Our last few days there were filled with laughter and tears, no one wanted to leave and I think this was a testament to how special everyone had found their time there.
The orangutans, the Sepilok centre and Borneo has well and truly stolen a piece of my heart and I’ve already promised myself that one day I will go back. Visiting such an amazing country, spending time with wonderful people, living in the jungle and learning about such amazing creatures has been the best thing I’ve ever done. It really has taught me that it’s good to be scared of the unknown, to put yourself in new situations, to shake things up a bit because you never know, it could end up being the best thing you ever did!

My second rotation in the outdoor nursery and saying goodbye to the gang!

Saturday the 15th October was the beginning of my second week in the outdoor nursery with Bidu, Beryl, Kolapis, Gellison and Chiquita. These babies are all aged between 4-6 and would still be with their mothers in the wild. Orangutans learn a huge amount from their mothers as they live solitary lives and only have their mother to teach them things. By the time orangutan babies are the same as Beryl and Bidu they would be venturing further away from their Mother to explore on their own but they would always be keeping a close eye on Mum incase of danger.

The outdoor nursery is a big space with a jungle gym for the orangutans to play on, it has ropes and tyres that they can swing and play with. There are also three platforms that we use for feeding. There are also lots of ropes that go from the outdoor nursery into the jungle and we want them to start venturing off in the jungle and socialising with the semi wild orangtans that are also at the centre.

During my second week in the outdoor nursery I made sure I took time every day to be aware of how amazing my surroundings were, it’s so easy just to focus on the task in hand like – making sure Chiquita doesn’t go on the roof, stopping Bidu playing in the puddles, making sure they’re not on the floor eating mud etc, that it’s easy to take the surroundings for granted. The outdoor nursery is a beautiful space that’s surrounded by huge trees and it’s great watching the semi wild orangutans come into the nursery from the jungle to have a play with the babies and eat.

img_6826img_6827img_6830It’s great to spend time with the babies in the outdoor nursery, they are at such a great age and find fun in everything! Their mood changes just like ours, some days they are extremely cheeky and give you the run around, other days they are a little quieter and are quite happy to sit and quietly wrestle with one another, other days its a mixture of both!
We have to make sure that the babies don’t go onto the ground and instead choose to spend their time in the trees or on the ropes – this is because wild orangutans never spend anytime on the forest floor, they are in danger of being hurt by predators such as dogs or snakes, I would never have thought that dogs would attack an orangutan but it’s something that does happen so we need to teach them that the floor is a dangerous place to be!
In our second week we started using a plastic snake on a stick when the babies were on the floor, we used it sparingly as we didn’t want them to get used to it but it was very effective as they were very cautious of it and would go up onto the platforms when we got closer with it, this is a great way to teach them that they need to stay up high if they see something that are scared of!
img_6841img_6842img_6857Working with the babies was such a special and amazing experience, when I walked with Beryl for the first time and she was walking and holding my hand I was shocked at how heavy her hand was! When you see the babies swinging and climbing you see just how strong they are so when they hold your hand so gently it’s amazing because you realise how gentle they are being with you. Another thing that shocked me is how heavy they are! Bidu, who is 4 and likes to be dragged around rather than walking weighs 23kg! It’s alot of weight to be dragging around with one arm and lifting up onto the feeding platforms that are eye level, I swear I have built up muscles in my arms quicker than when I had a gym membership!
These little bundles of fun really are a pleasure to work with, it’s weird to even call it work because I loved every second I spent with them and I had so many special moments with them. They have the biggest personalities and would make me laugh on a daily basis, I would love watching them learn from one another and progress over the weeks. When I first worked with them, on the first day I was a bit intimidated by them, just by their sheer strength alone but you soon feel comfortable being so close to them and start to learn about each individual and their behavior.
I will cherish the little moments I shared with them like cleaning their hands and feet, this was my favourite part of the day! You would say ‘Bagis’ which means ‘Give’ and they would give you their hand and you would place it under the sink and wipe any mud off it (they can pick up nasty parasites from the mud and it can make them very sick), when you’d done both hands it was time for their feet to have a wash too, when you are washing their feet they place their hands on your shoulders and I swear the first time it happened I nearly died, it was the cutest thing ever!
img_6856img_6854img_6855The way that these guys look up as you as you walk along together is just breath taking. At the end of the day when we give them their milk they would look into your eyes with such intensity, it was amazing and I cherished those moments everyday.
It was heart breaking to say goodbye to these guys but I know they are in the best place with a team of people who care so deeply about every single one of them. The rangers have looked after these babies from such a young age, Chiquita for instance was bought to the centre at 3 weeks old! The orangutans at the centre are never released into the jungle, instead they are free to come and go as they please and when the time is right they will choose to spend the majority of their time in the jungle rather than at the centre. You can see the strong bond between the rangers and the orangutans at the centre and the love they all share. I know these guys will go on to have great lives, I’m so happy I was able to meet them and I can’t wait to see what their futures hold!

You can actually adopt some of the orangutans that are at the centre, including Bidu, Beryl, Chiquita and Gellison that I looked after in the outdoor nursery, it’s really worthwhile as your money from the adoption helps the centre and you get a lovely gift and updates about your chosen orangutan. It’s a great idea for a gift! Please click here or visit www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/adopt and please share with anyone that you think would be interested!

Baggy trousers and Karaoke! : Thursday 13th October.

OK, OK….I know that the 13th of October was ages ago but the internet in the jungle can be a bit slow so now I’m catching up with blog posts!

On the 13th October we all got a taxi into Sandakan as we wanted to check out the markets and buy some baggy trousers!….nothing says ‘I’m travelling in Malaysia’ better than a pair of nice brightly coloured baggy trousers!
We got into Sandakan early and made our way to the markets, after stopping at McDonalds first. The market was huge with lots of clothes, food and cosmetics being sold.
14610977_10154747129036654_8694716605681478762_nWe went inside and got lost in a cloud of baggy trousers, the woman on the stalls would start shouting at you “What price?!”…”How much?”….in the end we all grabbed a few pairs each…(someone bought 7!) and left the market to have a little walk around Sandakan.
The weather was glorious that day, so hot and it was lovely to walk around and see some new sights, it felt like we were all on holiday as it’s so different to where we have been staying.


happy with our new purchases!

Also on Thursday we went out for the night, we headed into Mile 4 for some Karaoke! It was our first proper night out together and we were all really excited and a little apprehensive as none of us had really done karaoke before!…When we first got there we were a little overwhelmed as everyone that was already there was really going for it, karaoke is a big thing in Malaysia and they love a ballad!….We decided we needed to have a drink…we went up to the bar to order and soon realised that the drinking system was quite unusual, if you wanted spirits, you had to buy the whole bottle, so we bought a litre of vodka to start the night off!
We had such a FUN night, everyone had a good laugh and really enjoyed themselves. We all sung a few songs, all the usual classics including a lovely rendition of Angels by Robbie Williams which you can watch below (apologies in advance) It was really nice to let our hair down and all enjoy a fun night together doing something different!

Being treated to a local Malaysian breakfast and a trip to the zoo : Tuesday 11th October. 

On Tuesday we went to work as usual, only to be told we were being treated to breakfast and a trip to the zoo!
We piled into the back of the pickup truck with our ranger Jermious and our other ranger Ibrey. We were driven to the local Forest Research Centre and were treated to breakfast by our rangers. We were told that a traditional Malaysian breakfast consists of rice, noodles and something called ‘Roger’ which looks like spaghetti bolognese with pieces of meat or egg in it, it’s basically a mixture on any leftovers that you have! We also had a mixture of different cakes. They were all lovely, a mixture of sponges filled with coconut and one that tasted exactly the same as a cinnamon swirl (which was lovely!)
img_6685img_6684After breakfast we all got back into the truck and drove 2 miles down the road to the zoo. It was really busy because a school trip had just turned up. Ibrey, our ranger, explained that in Malaysia parents like to go on school trips with their children so it was very busy with mums and school children!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJermious bought our tickets and we entered the zoo, it was small and similar to a city zoo. They had macaques, lots of reptiles, crocodiles, a minor bird that spoke to us, lots of turkeys (which reminded me of home and made me miss my four!) chickens and ducks. It was nice to walk around, there was a huge pond with water lilies in and huge fish, catfish and turtles that you could feed.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the zoo we all got back into the truck to head home. Jermious and Ibrey jumped in the back of the pickup with us. “can you do this in your country?” she asked. “NO! We have to wear seatbelts too!”…Ibrey just laughed at us!
We drove the two miles home in the back of the truck, Ibrey was terrified because the driver, who was one of the young guys from our house, was driving really fast! Ibrey was screaming and shouting at him! We were in hysterics laughing at her! When we pulled up at the guesthouse Ibrey got out of the truck holding her head “Thank God, I’m still alive!”


It’s hard to keep your eyes open when your hurtling down the motorway!

Oh don’t mind me, I’m just off to release a Python : Monday 10th October

After the Rosa incident on Monday, which you can read about here, we went back to work in the afternoon to do our usual routine of cleaning and ice lolly making. After we’d finished we were asking the staff if there was anything we could do before we finished for the day “you can go and hold the snake?”. By ‘the snake’, Ibrey meant a huge Reticulated Python that had been taken to Sepilok a week or so before. The snake was a healthy weight again and could now be released back into the wild.

We made our way around to the snakes cage and watched as the rangers got it out (it was quite angry so this was a bit nerve racking to watch!) once Jermious, the ranger, had hold of the snakes head it was time for us all to hold the body! It was so beautiful, the markings on it were gorgeous, lots of different browns with mustard yellow running through it.  It was huge too and so strong, you could feel the strength of its muscles pulsing through its body. After we had a photo it was time to release it!
img_6783I didn’t actually realise that we were going to be helping with that but Jermious said we’d all walk it down to the jungle!
We walked the short walk down to the boardwalk, stepped off the platform and placed it onto the ground. It slithered off and it’s beautiful markings instantly blended into the jungle and it was instantly camouflaged. We watched as it slighted along and made its way to the base of a tree. The next thing we knew it began ‘climbing’ up the tree, it’s body became straight as it began scaling the tree. Half of the snakes body was straight up the tree then it started to corkscrew it’s body around to help push it up further, it was such an amazing thing to watch, I had no idea snakes did that! After a short while it was up the tree and making its way across to a larger tree, Jermious explained that they live in holes in the larger trees.

It was incredible to be part of the snakes release and it was amazing to see it go back into the jungle. It’s so incredible to be given the opportunity to get involved with things like this while staying at the centre. What a great Monday!!

Naughty Rosa, the latte drinking orangutan

Monday the 10th October was a Monday like no other! My group started the day by cleaning the quarantine room at the clinic, it’s been  months since it’s been touched because Ceria and Kala (two naughty male orangutans at the centre) broke in and ripped all the lighting and fans out of the ceiling! We scrubbed all the cages, scrubbed the walls and bleached the floor. After a lick of paint and new lights the place looked as good as new! Ibrey, the lady who we work with in the clinic, was so happy that she could use the room again and was so thankful for our help, it really was so rewarding to be able to fix the room for her and the orangutans.

As we were leaving after our shift we were walking to the gate to leave the centre and we saw an orangutan standing with one of the cleaners, we didn’t recognise them and asked the cleaner who it was and if it was OK for us to walk passed them. “It’s Rosa, she’s OK”.
It’s always nice to see a new orangutan at the centre, there are so many semi wild ones that hang around on a daily basis that it’s nice to see a new face. We walked past Rosa and went back to our guesthouse to grab our cameras as we were going to pop to the sunbear sanctuary (which is a stones throw away from our house) in our lunchbreak.

As we walked into the entrance of the sunbear sanctuary we walked up the steps and infront was a tourist photographing an orangutan on the steps! It’s always a worry to see an orangutan outside the centre as there are tourists around that don’t respect the fact these are wild animals and will do anything for a good photo! (feeding them, cuddling them, calling them over – frustratingly those all happen! They’re not so happy when they get too close and get their phone/camera stolen by the orangutan!)
We soon realised it must be Rosa on the steps as she’d been hanging around the gate when we left work. We didn’t really know what to do when we saw her , we didn’t know what she was like with strangers as we’d never spent any time with her since being at the centre.
We called her name and she looked over at us and started walking towards us along the railings. We decided that if we could get her to follow us we would try and lead her back to the centre. The plan was working so far, we were calling her name and she was following along the railings (….this seems too easy, I thought to myself!)

Rosa continued along the railings until she stopped, looked over the edge and jumped down into the bushes below (I thought it had been too good to be true!) We watched her as she went off into the bush below us and pulled out a cup of coffee, half empty but complete with a straw! She took it in her hand and pulled herself back onto the railings where we were standing and decided to finish off the rest of the coffee! Although she shouldn’t have been drinking it (well done to the idiot that decided to throw their litter into the jungle – arghhh!) it was great to watch her do it!

The way she figured out how to get the coffee out, how she took out the straw, took off the lid and drank every last drop was so fascinating to watch, so human like!
One of the girls in my group decided to run back to the centre to see if they were happy with us bringing her back “erm…Rosa is up at the bear sanctuary drinking a latte!”
After she finished her coffee she was happy to follow us again. We had to get her past the tourists at the entrance to the bear sanctuary but this was fairly easy once I’d told them that she might try to steal their cameras, wallets, sunglasses or phones! She followed us all the way back to the centre, past the tourists and through the gates!
It was such a surreal moment having a wild orangutan following you along. I don’t know why she did so, we didn’t have anything with us that she might have wanted but I think it might have been because we knew her name and we had our work t-shirts on or many because we were new faces to her she was intrigued by us! It was so great just walking alongside her, with her glancing up at me everytime I called her name. Finally we reached the centre and we had done it – we got her back to the centre with us, her and the tourists all in one piece! We walked in through the gates, she looked at us then decided to go off and do her own thing and off she went! Mission accomplished!

Nocturnal Trekking – 7th & 8th October

After our normal working day on Friday we were told that we’d be going on a nocturnal trek, this had been planned since we got here and every group gets a turn with their ranger. Our ranger is called Jermious, he has worked at Sepilok for 30 years and knows the jungle inside out so he’s a great ranger to have when you’re trekking!

When we started out it was strange as we were walking around the centre at night and it felt like we’d broken into school after hours! In the day the centre is alive with people and naughty orangutans running all over the place so it was so strange to see it so quite and deserted. We made it to the outdoor nursery which is where we work with the juveniles and it was so still, then out of the corner of my eye I saw something glide past, it looked like a frisbee – it was a flying squirrel! It was so bizarre to see it just flying by, we also saw a flying Lemur, which are quite rare.


photo courtesy of Flick River

After the flying squirrels we set off into the jungle to find more critters! Thankfully we stuck to the boardwalk and didn’t venture off deep into the jungle. It was a bit creepy being in the jungle with just a torch to shine the way! We were told not to touch the handles of the walkway because it would be alive with termites and scorpions!

img_6663img_6664As we walked along the noise was deafening and seemed different from in the daytime. We walked along the boardwalk and Jermious was pointing out lots of insects for us to see. He pointed into the bushes saying ‘bird, bird’ – a tiny little bird was nesting underneath the leaves, it was so cute! This little bird doesn’t build a nest but instead uses the leaves as cover.
We saw various geckos, frogs and caterpillars and also a Green Viper snake, our ranger Jermious stepped off the boardwalk and into the jungle to take a further look, he got us to follow him and we all had a close look at the viper that was in the tree infront of us. When we stepped back onto the boardwalk we asked him if it was poisonous ” oh yes, very very poisonous!” he replied! “How long do you have to get to a hospital if you’re bitten by one?” was our next question….”oh erm… 20 minutes!” he said…..We left that spot pretty quickly!


A Hammerhead worm

On the second night we started off on the walk and saw a Civet Cat, it was so cute! They are the cats that produce the most expensive coffee (google it…it’s pretty bizarre!) It looked like a tabby cat but with a possums head. It didn’t really seemed bothered by us shining our torches in its face!


photo courtesy of Pinterest

We also saw a Lantern Bug on a tree, it was the prettiest little thing, all multi coloured with a little blue horn on its head! It sits at the bottom of the tree and drinks the urine of the geckos that sit above it. It was so beautiful and colourful!


photo courtesy of The Sun (…I know, I thought that seemed weird too)

We also saw lots of different bugs, worms, crabs (yes, like the type you’d find on the beach!) scorpions and general creepy crawlies! It was amazing to see them all and learn all about their different habitats and jobs in the jungle.

On the way back to the guesthouse an hour later we were lucky enough to see a little Slow Loris up the tree near our house, it was so cute! It was small, with big eyes and moved very slowly! It was eating the bugs in the trees and slowly made it way off up the tree.



photo courtesy of Wikipedia

We also saw a HUGE green racer snake in the tree near our house, it was just curled up in the tree. We were told that it could possible stay there for up to a week waiting for food, it was a bit eerie to think that it was so close to home!

img_6674Our nocturnal treks were amazing! At first it was a little scary to be out in the jungle with only a torch, never knowing whats around the corner but it was so fascinating. It was great to see how the jungle is at night and how it comes alive with all the different insects, birds and sounds. It was a really great experience!

Giving back to the jungle: river cruise and ‘carbon offset project’

On the 5th of October we had our second day off in a row, we were all super excited because we were being taken on a ‘carbon offset project’. The idea of the project is to try and offset some of our carbon footprint and to ‘give back’ to the forest. We were going to be taken into a part of the jungle that had previously been used for a palm oil plantation and each of us were to plant two trees, each helping to rebuild a part of the forest that had been lost to deforestation.

We were picked up from our guesthouse at 12.30 by a local guide. We were then driven for about an hour to a nearby house along the river. The drive itself was really good, you drive past huge stretches of palm oil plantations – it really is a sight to see. Miles and miles of palm trees line both sides of the motor way for as far as you can see, the plantations are so thick with palm trees, it’s incredible.
The houses that we passed are also amazing, they line the motor way, they are made of wood, usually high up on stilts (which sometimes looks like they could snap at any minute!) they are also painted really bright colours, bright pink with yellow window and door frames, they are amazing to see! Some of the houses look very run down, the wood is old and the porches out the front are rotten but nearly every house we passed had a satellite dish on the side of it!

After an hour or so of driving our car turned off the motor way and up a little dirt track (if anyone from Pret is reading this, it was just like the track to work but with more stray dogs!) we pulled up under a tree next to the river and there was a little boat ready and waiting for us! A little motor boat complete with 12 bright orange life jackets.
We got on board and off we went, it was so exciting and like nothing I’d ever done before! The view was incredible and I thought I was going to give myself whiplash from trying to look at everything! The river was really high because we’d had alot of rain the night before, we drove through the jungle, it was so peaceful but exciting at the same time.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2600.DCIM101GOPROGOPR2601.img_6619img_6620DCIM101GOPROGOPR2596.Below is one of my videos that shows us going down the river.

The wildlife along the river was amazing, we were so lucky to see some Rhino Hornbills which we were told are quite rare to see! We also saw a Probiscus monkeys leaping through the trees, it was so breath taking to see and after visiting the ones at the sanctuary in the first week it was amazing to see them in the wild!
img_6629DCIM101GOPROGOPR2596.img_6569DCIM101GOPROGOPR2606.img_6624After being on the boat for about 20 minutes we could see a little hut in the distance, we pulled up along side it in the boat and were met by the family that run the Carbon Offset Project.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2602.We were welcomed into the hut and treated to lunch (banana fritters and tea!) before we went off to plant our trees. Our guide Jeffrey told us about the history of the jungle, the project and a bit about the river. The view from the hut was truly breathtaking, I’d never seen anything like it. The river was so still and was so relaxing and calming to watch, there wasn’t anything for as far as you could see other than the river and the trees that lined it. You can actually stay at the hut as part of their project, they put sleeping bags on the floor of the hut and you sleep there, outside with an amazing view of the river!

img_6572img_6571img_6575img_6576After lunch and after our talk it was time to plant our trees, we would have usually trekked for a while until we reached the right spot but as the weather was so high from the rain the night before we didn’t have to trek (which we were pretty relieved about as it was so hot!) We all got to plant two trees each and we were so excited to see that our trees even had our name, the date and our nationality on a little plaque in front of the tree!

It was so hot and we got eaten alive by mosquitos (this was the day I found out that they can bite through leggings!..argh) it was such an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. Knowing that I have two trees that I planted in the Borneo jungle, that when they are big enough will provide fruit for the local animals is a great feeling. We hear so many horrible stories about deforestation and the palm oil plantations that it was nice to know that slowly things are changing and people are giving back to the forest, I feel very lucky to have been able to give something back too and to know that my tree will stand in the Borneo jungle for hundreds of years!
img_6617 img_6595img_6599

My first week in the Indoor Nursery: cuteness overload!

After trekking and the outdoor nursery it was time for my third rotation which was in the indoor nursery with the smallest babies that they have here at Sepilok (squeeeelll!!!)

The indoor nursery is currently home to Alagu, Koko, Ospie, Musa, Unico, Peanut, Goman, Sepilok and Archie – 9 babies which are all between 2 and 4 years old. They have usually been found by palm oil plantation owners, a few of them have been kept illegally as pets. I was lucky enough to be spending 6 days looking after these guys and I couldn’t wait!

On our very first day we had to weigh all the babies, all the orangutans at Sepilok have regular check ups including weigh ins and temperature checks. Orangutans share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and can fall ill just as easily as we can. We had to carry the babies out and put them in a little basket on the scales – here is a video from the center that shows how we weigh the babies! (not my video!)

Once the babies have had their breakfast and milk we take them outside while we clean their room, when we’ve finished cleaning it’s time for them to have their climbing practice! There are ropes outside the nursery that go into the trees and the babies are encouraged to climb and interact with each other in the trees. In the wild babies of their age would be close to the mother, they would be taught to stay away from the ground as to avoid predators, so we have to teach them the same! Below is video of Peanut that was filmed at the centre about a year ago, Peanut it now one of the best climbers and should soon be moving up to the outdoor nursery with the older orangutans!

It’s so cute to watch them climbing through the trees, they are so small but yet can climb so high! They play with one another and interact with the older semi wild orangutans too. It’s so lovely to see all ages coming together to play and to see how gentle they are with one another.

I absolutely loved my time with the babies, it was great to work up close with them and care for them. Watching them climb up high in the trees is amazing to see. When you’re feeding them their milk it melts your heart! They look at you so intently and it’s incredible! It’s amazing seeing the babies thrive and hearing the stories from the rangers about how the babies came here and how in most cases they’ve had to be nursed back to health with around the clock care. The bond between the orangutans and the rangers is so special to see and I feel so lucky to be able to help these little guys on their journey back to the wild.

Three days off: pool day, chilling and the Rainforest Discovery Center

Sunday 25th was the beginning of our three day break. A few of the group decided go away for the weekend, others spent a few nights at nearby hotels for a bit of luxury and the rest of us stayed at our guesthouse. We wanted to have a relaxing weekend so we decided to just do things that were free (bonus!) and close to home!

On Sunday we all enjoyed a little lie in, well as much as you can with the sounds of the jungle outside your window! We made our way down to the outdoor nursery to watch the juveniles being fed and mucking about. It’s good to be on the other side of the fence watching them in the viewing platform with the tourists, it’s good to hear everyone laughing and pointing out all the funny little things they are doing. After that we chilled out, caught up on washing our clothes (…hand washing clothes is SO BORING) and watched a few films.

On Monday we went to the outdoor nursery again in the morning to see our adopted orangutan children causing havoc once again! Then we decided on a pool day, it was so hot! And was great to sunbathe and have cool off in the pool.


On Tuesday I went to the Rainforest Discovery Center with Chloe and Hatti, my two roommates from the guesthouse. It’s just down the road from where we’re staying. I’d been there briefly on one of my treks but it was good to go and have a proper look round.


After crossing the bridge we made our way to the canopy walk. It’s a grated walk way that’s approx 27 metres above the ground. It’s great to be up high in the canopy, at the same height as the wildlife.


A great three days off!!