Pri­mates on pa­rade

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - 1225 1220 -

There were sev­eral an­i­mals on my ‘‘ tick-off list’’ and three sites close to San­dakan sat­is­fied my needs as an arm­chair nat­u­ral­ist. Sepi­lok Orang Utan Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre, Labuk Bay and the Rain­for­est Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre be­came the fo­cus for my two-day visit.

San­dakan’s most fa­mous nat­u­ral as­set is Sepi­lok, just 30 min­utes’ drive from the down­town har­bour fore­shore. Sepi­lok’s main func­tion is wildlife re­search and to ed­u­cate or­phaned young orang-utans on the skills they need to sur­vive when they are re­leased into the wilds of Bor­neo.

While it’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, Sepi­lok is not a zoo, but there are set times for twice-daily feed­ings (10am and 3pm), where the rangers im­part sur­vival skills to the an­i­mals. This is done in front of a well-es­tab­lished ob­ser­va­tion area so it’s pos­si­ble even for chil­dren to get close to these semi-wild but play­ful pri­mates.

Birds in the bush

Close by, the Rain­for­est Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre is an­other des­ti­na­tion that’s at­tract­ing vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially with the re­cent open­ing of a rain­for­est canopy walk­way. While ea­gle-eyed vis­i­tors may spot the oc­ca­sional mon­key, shrew or squir­rel, it’s the birdlife that’s the high­light. Binoc­u­lars, pa­tience and luck make the ex­pe­ri­ence more re­ward­ing when an­i­mals are sighted.

Birdwatchers, or twitch­ers, fo­cus their binoc­u­lars on Bor­neo, as it’s home to more than 620 bird species, of which 54 are only found on the is­land. Bird­ers get all twitchy at the mere men­tion of species such as the Bornean bristle­head, bare-headed laugh­ingth­rush and dulit frog­mouth among oth­ers. The third Bor­neo Bird Fes­ti­val will be held in San­dakan this Oc­to­ber (www.bor­neo­bird­fes­ti­val.com/ main.php).

Big-nosed beasts

While palm-oil plan­ta­tions have made their im­pact on pri­mary rain­for­est in many parts of Bor­neo, one

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