Borneo is an absolutely exqisite country. Just outside of Sandakan, Sabah, lies the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Nestled in amongst the jungle, you will find the centre with its amazing staff and curious tourists.
While volunteering at Sepilok, myself along with 11 other worldly travellers lived just outside the gates of the main centre. Falling asleep every night to the sounds of the jungle, was a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of city life back in Australia. Divided into 4 groups of 3 volunteers, we worked out way through 4 rotations, each lasting 9 days, with a few days in between to enjoy the local scenery and well as the local party scene!
Each rotation gave us a different experience with the orangutans. Witin the clinic, we were responsible for feeding and bathing sick orangutans, helping nurse them back to health, as well as supervising enrichment time with the smallest orangutans at the centre (those up to around 2 years old - so cute!). Trekking tested our fitness, walking through the hot and steamy jungle for up to three hours a day (one group was gone for almost 10 hours!), looking for orangutan nests in the trees, and learning about the local flora and fauna from the extremely knowledgeable rangers. Working out the outdoor centre gave us the experience of supervising the older orangutans during their climbing practice, making sure they had the skills to be released into the protected forest surrounding us. This was where the orangutan's individual personalities really shone! And finally, we all did a stint at the luxurious Rasa Ria Resort, feeding, bathing and supervisiing enrichment of the four orangutans there, who played in the jungle while tourists watched. The Rasa Ria also cared for baby orangutan "Ten Ten", who at the time was a tiny 8 months old.
In between my working days, I visited the pristine Turtle island, climbed a giant mountain of bat poo and proceeeded to have hundreds of thousands of bats fly overhead, Caught a ferry to Brunei and spent 3 days exploring one of the richest countries in the world, visited the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (45 minutes away from Sepilok), learnt how to eat with my hands - traditional Malay style, and overall just soaked in my amazing surroundings. I have never seen anything like Borneo in my life.
Not only did I have the most life changing experience, I learnt so much about a people, animal and lifestyle that I knew nothing about. I cannot explain in words the thanks I have for being able to participate in this project, it changed the way I look at life, and since returning home, my thinking and my life path have both been altered. I cannot wait to visit again!