A dream come true for one man, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been finally opened to the public in early 2014 when Wong Siew Te, the man behind this project and also the founder – finally got around to making this a reality. I personally met Wong back in 2010, when I was involved in a filming project on behalf of Tourism Malaysia where we came here to film these cute and cuddly sun bears, the worlds smallest bears too – which is a highly protected species here in Sabah and around Borneo.
At that time, the sun bear conservation was just a small structure that housed the bears and another one for the office where the center initially started in 2008. I remember Wong had already fenced up an entire area for these bears to be rehabilitated and after discussion, we agreed to build a viewing platform for us to film tourist observing the sun bears.
Then one fine day in October 2014, I stroll in again to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre unannounced and to receive a shock of my life as Wong had finally made this dream come true – A proper conservation project that allows visitors to observe the sun bars in their natural habitat and the best part, a fantastic viewing and observation deck!
Was I impressed? Yes, overly as the place was done to international standards. And a bonus, Wong was there conducting an interview with someone. When he finished, I approached Wong and reminded him of our project back then when he showed me the actual original platform that we built – it was still there! and he mentioned that they have been maintaining that platform for their own personal research and use. Hearing that put a huge smile on my face.
The story on why Wong set up this place and why he was so passionate about it is stated in this statement he once mentioned “In 2004, I received a grant to do a survey of captive sun bears in the country and I found most to be kept in a deplorable manner, with no proper monitoring and care. After seeing bears in such a bad state, I cannot turn a blind eye to them. I simply cannot. I saw a need to do for sun bears what the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan was doing – housing rescued orang utans in a proper manner and rehabilitating them for future release back to the wild.”
Anyway, let me just share with you what this place is all about in this article. For starters, Sun Bears from Borneo are brought and put here for rehabilitation purposes due to injury, poaching, kept as pets or those cubs losing the mothers. This is also the only conservation in Sabah which is specialized in these bears.
When you reach the main entrance, you will need to walk in about 600 meters to the main centre where tickets are sold at the main conservation building. From there, you need to walk in and head up a long flight of stairs to the main sun bear viewing deck. Note there is a lot of walking involved here so please don’t come in your high heels or platforms.
For nature and wildlife lovers, this is hands down the best place to watch and observe the sun bears in their almost-natural habitat. Photography is allowed in here too. Just keep that volume down, that is required by the operators here. And don’t call the sun bears with all kinds of whistles and sounds as you will be told not to do it.
Here are some additional photos of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre which I took in October 2014 during my brief visit here.
For more information, you can visit the official website of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Otherwise, when you book your Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre visit, you can enquire about visiting this place too. Overall, you can spend a minimum of one hour here for those on a schedule.
The best time to visit this place is when the sun bears are most active, which is around 9.30am till 3.00pm. In total, you will be spending at least 3-4 hours here at both center’s if you are visiting them.
*9:00 am to 3:30 pm.
*Open every day of the year, including holidays.
*FREE admission for children below 12 years old and senior citizens Malaysian above 55 years old.
*Tickets are valid for 1 day only.
How to go to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Taking a Taxi
Take a taxi from town to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is just next to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
Taking a Bus
In Sandakan town, look for the bus marked ‘Sepilok Batu 14’ from the local bus stand next to the Milimewa Supermarket which cost RM2.50 and a journey of 45 minutes. There are also local minivans also make the trip every hour, check with the bus stand.
Regular buses, also marked ‘Batu 14’ or higher, can drop you at the turn-off to Jln Sepilok, 2.5km from the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. You need to walk in from there.
From Town to Sepilok:
09.00 am & 11.30 am
02.00 pm & 05.00 pm
From Sepilok to Town:
06.30 am & 10.30 am
12.30 pm & 04.00 pm
Bus Contact Number: 012-8067067 / 017-8632684
Currently, there are 35 sun Bears at the center and the number is growing over the months. There are plans to build a new bear enclosure which is currently in the works too. Again, this article highlights the conservation efforts of the local people here which is not easy, even in this day of time. Donations are accepted as part of the money donated goes directly to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre too.