Sun Bears, The Other Sepilok Sanctuary

So yesterday we’d bumped into two of the Brits from the boat at breakfast and they told us that the other couple, the Yorkshire folks, weren’t well at all. Apparently they had it coming out of both ends, probably some manner of food poisoning. The woman we were chatting to wasn’t feeling 100% either but the guy was fine. For some reason the locals found this hilarious. We asked someone what had happened and they cracked up and told us it was the sambal, the super-hot chilli sauce that looks homemade that you get everywhere here. They told us they’d eaten it and couldn’t handle it and that’s why they were ill, finishing off with a dismissive, “stupid people.” Now, I put that shit on everything. I fucking love it. I’d drink it from the bottle if I didn’t think it’d strip my internal organs and melt my arsehole on the way out. I thus far felt fine.

Us with Mr Aji. Out of all the beautiful places I could have chosen to take a complete group selfie I went for the side of a fucking road.

This morning we packed up our things and Mr Aji loaded us into his truck to take us somewhere not too far for one last bit of wildlife bothering before we headed back to Sepilok. It was along a main road so we mostly spent a lot of time staring into the trees and not seeing much. I could have taken or left this bit to be honest. He dropped us at a petrol station where Woffie met us and drove us the rest of the way to Sepilok where we’d booked back into Sepilok Jungle Resort for a couple of nights. Aaaand that’s when Nat started ejecting her body weight through all available orifices. She’d said in the car that she wasn’t feeling quite right but we were wondering if it was psychosomatic on account of the fact we knew others had been poorly.

Professional tree staring.

But nope. She was well and truly projectiling. She hadn’t even had the sambal, she tends to prefer tasting her food rather than smothering it with a substance hot enough to melt your frontal lobe. I emailled Mr Aji to let him know there could well be a problem with the food at the restaurant he used, we took all of our meals there as food was included in the package, and he never got back to me but hey. Fortunately the afternoon and the following day was set aside for the sole purpose of chilling the fuck out. Whilst Nat wallowed in sweat and self pity, me, Tarrant and Laura hit the pool for that classic not at all foolish holiday pastime of consuming alcohol around a body of water, then were confined to the restaurant for the evening by an epic storm, brutally forced to drink copious amounts of wine. Considering it’s the dry season it certainly rains a lot in the… uh… rainforest. Go figure.

Something else you should definitely put in your eyeholes whilst you’re in Sepilok are the sun bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. These guys are so bloody cute and you wouldn’t expect anything less from the world’s smallest bear, but this of course, like the baby orangutans, makes them a prime target for the illegal pet trade. Seriously, guys, just get a fucking dog or something. Obviously habitat loss contributes to making them the second rarest bear after the panda, and they’re hunted for their gall bladders which is used in Chinese medicine. That yellow collar thing across their chests, that’s where they get their name from and no two are the same, they’re completely individual to each bear. Proportionally, they’ve got the biggest claw of all the bears and they’re really fucking good at climbing trees.

Okay so this is the saddest story in the world. See that mark on his back? They’re obviously not totally sure why he does it but he self harms and they think it’s because he’s realised that if he’s hurt he gets human attention. He was an illegal pet. Humans absolutely fucking suck.

We know these things because we actually met Wong Siew Te, the founder of the conservation centre, he was on hand to answer any questions and the staff were all really helpful and knowledgeable too. There are telescopes dotted around the place so you can have a good gawp and someone showed us how to use the telescope to get a decent photo of a bear in the distance with your smartphone. I mean, you’re not going to get on the front cover of Nat Geo with your shots but it won’t hurt to tell Instagram all about it. Nat was feeling well enough to join us today which was good, she’d have been gutted if she’d missed this. She wasn’t feeling amazing but at least her internal organs weren’t squirting out of her arse any more.

Where there’s a feeding time there’ll be a macaque trying to eat literally everything. They’re basically my spirit animals.

So I really like Sepilok and I’m glad we chose it for our rest day, even if my sister didn’t get much out of it apart from a complete internal cleansing. There’s fuck all here apart from the two conservation centres to be fair but staying at Sepilok Jungle Resort with its cafe and pool more than made up for it, it’s the perfect place to smash through that novel you were reading or catch up on a podcast or sample the local booze of dubious origin or whatever it is you like to do with your free time. I often forget to plan rest days into trips, I’m glad the others insisted on this one, even if my poor, wine soaked liver isn’t.


Sepilok, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Sepilok Jungle Resort

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