Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia

For many, the Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre is the highlight of their visit to Malaysia. Situated on the edge of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the centre was established in 1964 in order to rescue orphaned and abandoned young orangutans and to teach them how to look after themselves, with the aim of one day releasing them back into the wild.

Visitors are given the rare opportunity to explore the world of the orangutan and see them in a semi-natural environment. Follow trails through the jungle and creep along boarded canopy bridges to spot some of the other animals that live in the forest reserve such as long-tailed macaques.

There are only four orangutan sanctuaries in the entire world and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is probably the best known, with up to 700 visitors each day. So far the centre has rescued more than a hundred orangutans, 20 of which have successfully returned to the wild.

The best time to visit the rehabilitation centre is during feeding times, which take place at 10am and 3pm. The orangutans are vegetarian and are especially fond of bananas and sugar cane, sharing their meal with the long-tailed macaques.

It often rains in the forest reserve, so it is a good idea to wear a poncho. Pack plenty of insect repellant to ward off the unwelcome attention of mosquitoes and other insects and take a bottle or two of water as it can be rather hot and humid.

The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a good place to find out more about the lovable orangutans. Souvenirs such as postcards, soft toys and hats are available in the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. It is possible to spend the night at the centre and accommodation ranges from cheap and cheerful dorm rooms to large suites with spectacular views.

The easiest way to see Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre is to book a tour. Tours often include a visit to the Proboscis Monkey Reserve and nearby Taman Hiburan Jalil ALip, which is a recreation park where visitors can see crocodiles and deer.  

Khammouane, Laos

Khammouane, Laos
Khammouane, Laos
Khammouane, Laos

This very pretty Lao province is surrounded by amazing limestone formations, caves, rivers and dense jungle. The population of the province is around 260,000, with people coming from several different tribes such as Phuan, Tahoy, Kri and Katang. Most of the settlements in Khammouane province are small villages with collections of houses built from wood in the traditional Lao style. Everywhere you turn in Khammouane you are surrounded by intense natural beauty. Rich dark soil is covered with colourful plantations of rice, cabbage, sugar cane and bananas, while the Annamite mountain range is to the east and sparkling rivers, forests and caves are just waiting to be explored.

Khammouane province is easy to reach by bus from Vientiane in just five or six hours. There are plenty for visitors to do here such as kayaking, rafting, and caving. There are a large number of caves to explore and some of the highlights include the Buddha cave and Tham Nang Aen cave, while the Tham Xieng Lap caves are so pretty that they are worthy of a day trip by themselves.

Another great day trip destination is That Skihotabang, which is a large and interesting stupa commissioned by King Nanthasen in the 10th century.  The stupa was carefully restored in the 1950s and is an impressive sight.

The province’s capital is Tha Kek and this is a good place to stay for a night or two while you explore this lush and leafy area of Laos. While in Tha Khek take the time to explore the striking French colonial architecture in the city and sample the delicious range of Lao dishes, which is slightly different to those found in the rest of the country.

Nature lovers will want to explore the Nakai-Nam Theun Biodiversity Conservation Area, where you can spot a wonderful range of animals such as elephant, tigers, lemur and turtles. For excellent views over the jungle climb the Khammouane Limestone, which is a maze of limestone karst peaks.

Lopburi Monkey Festival

Lopburi Monkey Festival
Lopburi Monkey Festival
Lopburi Monkey Festival

Located in the Lopburi province in Central Thailand, the city of Lopburi is best known for its population of 600+ urban-adapted monkeys. During the last weekend of November, Thais and tourists alike flock to the shrine of San Pra Kan, cameras in hand, to witness the events of the annual Monkey Festival, where the local macaques feast on a buffet of fruits, boiled eggs, soft drinks, cucumbers and (yes, the cartoons were right) gluttonous amounts of bananas.

Last year’s festival supplied an offering of 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) of fruit for the monkeys’ feastings, traditionally presented on a single table. It is believed in local culture that providing food for the monkeys brings about good luck, while causing harm to them will bring misfortune.

If you can’t make it to Lopburi during festival season, the city is well worth the 3-hour train ride from Bangkok (through Ayutthaya). Prang Sam Yot, a Khmer temple located just north of the train station, is the centre of activity. It also operates as monkey headquarters, though the temple’s windows and doors are gated to ensure a monkey-free exploration of one of the oldest ruins in Lopburi. Still, the monkeys congregate on the temple’s lawns, climbing Buddha statues or fighting playfully, unfazed by the humans around them.

A 30 baht entrance fee includes the loan of a long bamboo stick for self-defense against aggresively curious primates. This allows tourists to play Indiana Jones for an afternoon, exploring the solemn stone temple and it’s crumbling Buddhas. All the while, the fearless creatures won’t hesitate to climb onto their unsuspecting spectators.

These monkeys are said to have been a gift to the town centuries ago, when Hanuman the Monkey King was granted rule of the area by the mythic Hindu figure Rama. Centuries later, their presence in the town still works as a gift of sorts. While drivers and cyclists need to stay alert at all times for the roaming primates swinging about the city centre, these monkeys also draw tourists year-round, putting Lopburi on the map with this truly unique attraction. 

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.