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Sepilok Nature Resort Review: A Beautiful Oasis in Sabah, Borneo

Sepilok Nature Resort Review: A Beautiful Oasis in Sabah, Borneo

Sepilok Nature Resort is the perfect place to stay close to the orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sabah. It is a tranquil hideaway in a forest clearing tastefully styled with bungalows dotted around dense foliage, boardwalks and lakes. It’s a magical kind of place you never want to leave.

Read on to learn what to expect if you book a stay at Sepilok Nature Resort, including accommodation details, the resort amenities, food and beverage on offer and activities you can experience that are close to Sepilok Nature Resort.

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Wooden cabins in the jungle with a lily pad lake in front of them and boardwalks.

First Impressions

Our first impressions of Sepilok Nature Resort in Borneo were more of sound than sight as we arrived at night after spending two days in Kuala Lumpur. We received a warm welcome from the reception staff, and after signing the necessary paperwork, we were taken to our accommodation.

I am glad we hadn’t insisted on carrying our luggage to our bungalow (as is the norm for us), as we would never have found it in the dark by ourselves. Down boardwalks, across a wooden bridge, past a lake, through the vines – this was an adventure in itself, and I, for one, loved it.

There was an almost deafening noise in the air as we walked along, which I hoped was orangutans calling to one another. Our host smiled and said no, it was the toads and frogs singing – this really gave us the rainforest vibe we were after. These night concerts lulled us off to sleep during our stay, and the dawn chorus became a natural alarm call for us.

The following morning, we woke up and headed to breakfast. Our surroundings were even more perfect than we had hoped for.

It had rained throughout the night, and the shiny, wet boardwalks and glistening foliage were the evidence. It was still spitting slightly, so packing my rain mac hadn’t been completely pointless. With the rain comes insects, so be sure to cover yourself with a good insect repellant.

According to my research and the resort staff, July is typically the dry season. That said, we only had one overnight deluge and then a couple of hours of rain one afternoon, so it wasn’t too bad.

Walkway in Sepilok Nature Resort covered with vines.

The Reception Area

The reception area is the main focal point of Sepilok Nature Resort. Meals are served here; it is the meeting place for trips, and there are cosy sofas and chairs to relax in and plan what to do during your stay.

open reception area at Sepilok Nature Resort with silk material forming the ceiling.
a wooden bench under a seating area in Sepilok Nature Resort.

Bungalow Accommodation

Nestled in a natural setting of lush rainforest foliage, lily-pad lakes and boardwalks, the individual resort bungalows are beautiful. Accommodation can be configured as double or twin beds, all come with air conditioning (a luxury you will be truly be grateful for during your stay), and are a generous 400 feet².

Bungalow Interior

While the booking platform calls the accommodation a mere ‘room’, what you actually get is a bungalow.

When we walked in, we were blown away by the size of it with its shiny red hardwood floors and walls. And was that an egg-shaped free-standing bath by the window? Yes, it was, with uninterrupted views of the lily-pad lake and beyond. Just be careful as if you can see out, a passing neighbour can see in. I wasn’t caught out, but you might be!

The open plan bathroom has, as you would expect a toilet, sink and shower. Yes, you get a bath and a shower!

Other things you will find in your room are a TV (though reception is sketchy, so bring an iPad instead), a ceiling fan (put that on with the air-con, and you will be in heaven after a sticky day outside), a fridge and a kettle. There’s not anything I needed that wasn’t in the bungalow.

It’s quite dark in the room, although there are bedside lamps and wall lights, but it all adds to the aesthetics of the place. Just be careful if you walk around with socks on, as it can be slippery underfoot on the polished wood.

Bungalow Exterior

There’s a good-sized wooden deck with views of the natural surroundings, a bench and a hammock. Be warned that if it’s a hot day (and when isn’t it in Borneo), the bench gets really, really hot, so put a towel on it before sitting down – I’m speaking from experience!

If you are as lucky as us, you might have a couple of teeny-tiny bats living above your front door. Look out for evidence of guano on the patio and look up under the eaves. They are cute and furry, so don’t expect big black bats staring back at you.

Angie lying in a hammock outside her cabin in Sepilok Nature Resort.
lake covered with lily pads at Sepilok Nature Resort.

Rest and Relaxation on the Main Deck

After a morning or afternoon of visiting the animal sanctuaries, relaxing on the lakeside decking with a book and a cool drink is perfect. There’s no pool here – instead, watch the dragonflies zip around the lake and listen to the sounds of the animals echoing through the trees. There are plenty of loungers with umbrellas to shade you from the intense sunshine and more shaded seating areas inside the reception area.

Cocktail madam? Well – it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Food and Drink at Sepilok Nature Resort

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Sepilok Nature Resort is fabulous. I had read a few online reviews complaining about the selection of foods available, but having now experienced the menu myself, I really don’t know what people are talking about.

The menu is varied, as are the drinks, and the service is spot on. Everything is beautifully presented and tastes delicious. As well as the main menu, there is a pizza menu – try the redang pizza, it is the best ever. There is also an extensive cocktail list, which, if you are like me, you will enjoy sampling, especially when you realise how little the cocktails cost compared to prices in other countries.

Wooden fence with the words Sepilok Nature Resort The Lake Bistro and Bar.

Sepilok Special, Sepilok Sling and Tropical Tempest went down particularly well!

Breakfast is included in the price of your accommodation, but all other meals are at your own expense. But don’t worry because a three-course dinner here will only set you back the price of a starter in a European country.

Sepilok Nature Resort Grounds

Set in part of the Kabili Sepilok Forest, the resort is everything you could imagine it to be – and photos don’t even do it justice. It’s a peaceful oasis, a tranquil hideaway, an untouched paradise. The bungalows have been built to give guests privacy while still giving the feel of being in a tropical resort.

Wooden cabins in the jungle with a lily pad lake in front of them and boardwalks.

Stroll along the boardwalks and see butterflies and birds fluttering through the hanging vines, enormous plants and ferns. It’s like you are on the Avatar film set.

What To Do At Sepilok Nature Resort

Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

The resort is in a prime position to visit the Sepilok orangutans as the rehabilitation centre is next door. Come out of the resort, turn right, and you will see the famous welcome arch in front of you.

Visiting times are twice a day at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

For more information, you can read my post: Sepilok Orangutans: Ultimate Bucketlist Orangutan Experience in Borneo.

Sepilok sign with Angie standing below

Visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Directly opposite the orangutan centre is the Sun Bear Conservation Centre, home to the world’s smallest bears. During a visit, you can learn why they are in Sandakan, watch them at feeding time and hear talks from the keepers. There is a walk around the centre and if you are lucky you might spot one of the bears climbing a tree.

Rainforest Night Walk at the RDC

Rainforest Discovery Centre Night Walk 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Adult RM30 / Children RM15

The night walk at the Rainforest Discovery Centre is an absolute must. I didn’t even realise what I was booking up for with the Sepilok Nature Resort reception as it is simply advertised as a night walk. I assumed it meant one of the staff members would walk us around the resort and tell us snippets about the flora and fauna. How wrong was I!

A jeep was waiting for us at the time arranged, and something registered that this was not what I expected. We hopped in, and we were whisked away. I asked where we were going, and the driver just said ‘rainforest’! Luckily I had long walking socks over leggings, but hubby had shorts on – wow those insects were going to have a field day even if he was covered in deet!

And guess what? We didn’t have torches – a pre-requisite on a night walk!

Listen to your rainforest guide and follow the instructions

Luckily, when we arrived, we were soon grouped with a few other visitors, and one of them, who we later found out fancied himself as a Crocodile Dundee, lent us one of the several torches he had brought with him. Thank heavens for small mercies!

Instructions were given by our guide to not touch the animals and not to touch any of the plants as lots of them are poisonous. His words rang clear in my ears further into the walk when I slipped down a mud bank and grabbed a tree to stop myself. It’s amazing that my brain then started to convince itself I didn’t feel great and my hand was swelling up. It wasn’t, and I live to tell another tale.

We were also told to stay in one line so no one would get lost and no one would step on something that the guide hadn’t seen. Of course, later in the walk, one couple decided they wanted to move away from the group line and do their own thing.

As they stumbled over something in the dark, who knows whether it was a tree branch or a boa constrictor, they screamed out loud. In no uncertain terms, our guide reiterated why he had told us all to stay in line – yep, there’s always someone who knows better than the expert!

The canopy walkway

After meeting the other 7 or 8 people in our group, we headed along the jungle trail across the canopy bridge and into the rainforest. With a brief stop on the bridge, we fell silent and listened to the sounds of the forest. It was one of those pinch-me moments, and even though I have been in a rainforest before, this was right up there with experiences you need to have in life.

Spot the flying lemur

Have you ever seen a Colugo (flying lemur) before? I bet not, but here in Borneo, it’s just one of the incredible animals you can see.

I was so excited to see one as we crossed the canopy bridge. We had heard a rustling in the trees, and our guide told us to keep looking up at where he shone his torch, and hey presto, this is what we saw – it was such a magical moment.

But what is a Colugo? Well, they are not bats or squirrels; in fact, they are more closely related to a monkey.

Of course, they don’t fly as they don’t have wings, but they have a fur-covered membrane extending from the animal’s face to the tips of its claws and tail and between the legs. This membrane is called patagium and is found in all gliding animals, bats, and some birds.

They are nocturnal, can glide extreme distances, and spend their lives in the rainforest canopy, eating leaves, flowers, sap and berries. All I can say is you don’t normally see this in everyday life, making travelling to new destinations so rewarding.

Creatures Of The Night

As we made our way further into the rainforest, it became more humid and darker and darker. Our guide had a laser pen that he used regularly to point out the nocturnal creatures that watched us from the safety of their camouflaged lairs.

Nothing was too small for our guide to spot. We got to see insects (including butterflies, spiders, and stick insects), reptiles (including a 6ft snake), amphibians (see my little friend below), birds (including the most beautiful jewelled kingfisher), and a slow loris (which had to be my all-time favourite).

The walk was slippery in places and fast-paced. There was no time to dawdle taking photographs as the group was continually on the move. That said, I managed to get a few, but it was only when I was near the front, and the guide had his torch shining on the subject matter.

Can you spot the small green insect on the left-hand side of the tree trunk? It’s called a lantern bug.

Surviving the night walk

The night walk lasted about two hours in total, and I have to say it was one of the most remarkable things I have done with regard to seeing wildlife. We saw creatures we couldn’t see anywhere else and had survived the jungle. Even hubby only came away with a few bites on his exposed legs, and they cleared up quickly. So don’t think twice about booking this rainforest walk, just wear long trousers and socks, and bring a torch and a camera with good night exposure!

Resort Treats

After being deposited back at the reception in a hot, sweaty mess – evident in the photograph below, we treated ourselves to cocktails. We agreed that even though the humidity was slightly unbearable at times, we wouldn’t have missed the night walk for anything. Just make sure to wear light cotton clothes – one person on the walk wore jeans, so I can’t begin to imagine what state she was in when she finished!

After cocktails, another fabulous evening meal was served, and then, with a full day of adventures under our belts, we retired to our bungalow to fall asleep listening to the calls of the wildlife all around us.

Seeing Orangutans in the Wild

My main reason for travelling to Borneo was to see orangutans in the wild.

Borneo is one of the last places on earth where this can happen, so visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was a real privilege. Even so, I knew that the animals I would see in the centre were there because the rangers were feeding them. They were free to come and go as they pleased but were on display to the public during certain times of the day while being rehabilitated for a life unaided in the rainforest.

Imagine then my complete and utter excitement as I walked to breakfast on the last day of my stay, only to see the trees above me shaking. I looked up, and there was what I had been longing to see – two orangutans in the canopy, eating leaves and swinging from branch to branch. As tears welled up in my eyes, I felt like a lifetime dream had been fulfilled.

I wondered whether this happened regularly. Did wild orangutans typically swing into the resort at breakfast time? Imagine my joy when the staff members ran out and started filming the event on their phones and face-timing their families to show them the orangutans.

So, the answer to whether this happened regularly was an astounding no. The staff were just as excited to see the wild orangutans as we were. Bucketlist experience completed – you bet!

An orangutan hanging from one arm in a tree at Sepilok Nature Resort.
five men smiling with brightly coloured t-shirts at Sepilok Nature Resort.
The staff came to see the orangutans.

Saying goodbye to Sepilok Nature Reserve

After a quick change and a goodbye to this jungle paradise, we returned to the airport for the next part of our Borneo itinerary – a flight to Kota Kinabalu and a stay on the island resort of Bunga Raya.

Sepilok Nature Reserve had ticked all our boxes, and we were sad to leave. If you want to book a stay, do it well before your visit. I booked up six months in advance and got the last bungalow available!

Availability and pricing for Sepilok Nature Resort.

Angie sitting on the step of her bungalow in Sepilok Nature Resort.

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