Sandakan to sepilok

How to go from Sandakan to Sepilok

If you’ve come to Sandakan the chances are high that you’ve come to see some of the amazing wildlife that you can see here in Malaysian Borneo.  And once you’ve arrived in Sandakan, you’ll need to go a little further to see the wildlife.  Two of the best sites for seeing how Malaysia is dealing with Orangutans and Sun Bears are close to Sandakan, in the small village of Sepilok.  And so, here’s our guide on how to go from Sandakan to Sepilok.  I’ve covered how to go to Sepilok using public transport, where to catch the buses, how long the trip takes, and what tours you can take from Sandakan to Sepilok to maximize your time.


Where is Sepilok

Sepilok is about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) west of Sandakan, in the state of Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo.  This small village is on the edge of the Kabili forest reserve.



Easiest Way to Go from Sandakan to Sepilok

This 2 day one trip to Sepilok from Sandakan gets you to the Sun Bear Conservation Center AND the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. You’ll have transport both ways, a guide and a stay at the Sepilok Jungle Resort.

How to Go from Sandakan to Sepilok – Transport Options

From the four local buses that make the journey from Sandakan to Sepilok each day, to multi-day trips to visit not just the rescue and rehab centers in Sepilok, but also the stunning Kinabatangan River and the Proboscis monkey sanctuary to a simple taxi there are a variety of ways to go to Sepilok from Sandakan.

The easiest way to go to Sepilok from Sandakan is to take a day trip from Sandakan.  Small group tours travel in a minivan and give you the maximum time in Sepilok with minimum hassle. If you want to make even better use of your time, then multi-day trips are a great way to see this part of the country.

The best option for seeing as much as possible is a multi-day trip from Sandakan to Sepilok, when you’ll also get to go further and have even more wildlife viewing opportunities.

Going from Sandakan to Sepilok on a Tour

You can travel independently to Sepilok from Sandakan using the bus, taking a taxi, or using Grab.  You can also, however, take a small group tour, that will pick you up from your accommodation in Sandakan and return you there when finished.

There are a variety of different options when it comes to visiting Sepilok on a tour.  It simply depends on what you want to see and where you want to go.  The shortest tour is a half-day tour to Sepilok, which will take you to the Orangutan Rescue Center.

This is the best half-day tour to Sepilok from Sandakan.

If you want to see more and spend more time in this part of Sabah, then you’re best to take an overnight tourThis 2 day, 1-night tour provides accommodation at the Sepilok Jungle Resort (which is truly amazing) and you’ll get to explore the Orangutan Rehab Center as well as the Sun Bear Conservation Center (more on that here)

For a truly spectacular Borneo experience, combine visiting Sepilok’s rehab centers with a visit to the Kinabatangan River in this 4-day, 3 night experience, staying at both the Sepilok Jungle Resort and the Bilit Adventure Lodge.

I’ve written about what to visit in the Sepilok and Sandakan Area

My Kinabatangan River Guide

How to see the Sun Bears in Sepilok

Visiting the Orangutan Rehab Center in Sepilok

Bus from Sandakan to Sepilok

It is about 40-45 minutes by bus from Sandakan to Sepilok and this is a well-maintained road.  Once you arrive in Sepilok you can’t get lost, it’s a small village, and the signposts for the Orangutan Rescue Center and the Sun Bear Conservation Center are very clear.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Center

The number 14 bus leaves from the minivan station near the Nak Hotel in Sandakan four times a day.  The minivan station is on Taman Samudera and you won’t be able to miss it.

Sepilok Public Bus

Note that if you’re planning on taking the bus and returning on it you should get there in plenty of time.  You cannot pre-book this bus, or prepay it.  And you’ll need to pay for your tickets with cash.

Sandakan to Sepilok Bus Timetable





Sepilok to Sandakan Bus Timetable





These buses will drop you right by the entrance to the Orangutan Rehab Center in Sepilok and when you want to return that’s where they pick up from.

Sandakan to Sepilok Bus Fare

The bus from Sandakan to Sepilok is 4 RM per person.

Taxi from Sandakan to Sepilok

A taxi to Sepilok will cost around 50 RM and it will take about 20 minutes for this trip.  Order a taxi via your hotel, but you’ll save money by using the Grab app. When you have finished in Sepilok and want to return to Sandakan, then your best option is always Grab (if you don’t want to catch the bus), taxi prices back from Sepilok to Sandakan are likely to be more than 50 RM.

Grab from Sandakan to Sepilok

If you’re looking for private transport, then Grab tends to be cheaper than using a regular taxi.  Grab prices are usually about 50% cheaper than a regular taxi cost.  Download Grab here.  A Grab fare from the Sandakan downtown area to Sepilok usually costs around 25 RM.

Popular Routes in Malaysia

Traveling around Malaysia? Here’s some of the most popular routes and the best ways to go between these places.

The easiest way to go to Sepilok from Sandakan

If you want to see the most of this area in the shortest amount of time (and save on traveling backward and forwards, then a combined trip to see Orangutans, Sun Bears, and the Kinabatangan River is the best way to go.   Many people visit Sepilok on a tour from Sandakan, so I’ve written about the best Sandakan tours to take here.

The cheapest way to go from Sandakan to Sepilok

The cheapest way to travel to Sepilok from Sandakan is to take the local bus for 4 RM each way.

Malaysia Travel Tips

Final Words on Going from Sandakan to Sepilok

It’s a short distance to travel from Sandakan to Sepilok and you have a variety of options for this route, from the super cheap local bus, but they are time-limited, to taxis, Grabs, and also small group tours.  If you’re basing yourself in Sandakan, then the local bus is a good option, but you should also look into a multiday trip to combine several locations together and save on travel time.

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