Jazz in the Rainforest: The 2nd Sepilok Jazz Festival 2023


    By Fidelis Francis Andam


    Tucked away in Sandakan, Malaysia, lies a hidden treasure that promises an enchanting fusion of music and nature. The 2nd Sepilok Jazz Festival was held at the Mango Garden Restaurant in Sepilok. It transported us to a realm where local jazz talents like Appy Tots, WanG, Sonny B & The No. 1s, and other homegrown artists took center stage. At the same time, the nearby natural wonders offered a soul-refreshing retreat.


    Arriving in Sepilok

    The journey to Sandakan itself is an adventure waiting to unfold. This city, nestled in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, offers two distinct pathways: by air or land. You can hop on a domestic flight to Sandakan Airport or an exhilarating road trip from Kota Kinabalu, the state capital. In our case, our team embarked on the overland route from Kota Kinabalu.


    The Sepilok Jazz Festival

    Upon entering the Mango Cafe, the vibrant ambiance was palpable. The venue exuded a sense of anticipation and relaxation as more than 200 music enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the local jazz scene. The stage was set, and the evening’s stars, our local jazz maestros, were poised to captivate us with their melodies.


    Appy Tots, a gifted singer and guitarist, kicked off the evening with soulful tunes that set the tone for the night. WanG, the saxophonist, serenaded us with his melodic saxophone notes, and Sonny B & The No. 1s, a dynamic ensemble, had the audience grooving to their rhythms.


    What made this festival even more special was the presence of YB Firdaus Ali Akhbar Khan, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, who shared our passion for music and nature. The support from government officials underscores the festival’s potential to blossom in the years ahead.


    Exploring Nature’s Wonders

    While the jazz festival was the focal point of our trip, Sepilok had more to offer. We managed to visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, and the Borneo Sunbear Conservation Center. Each of these destinations offered a unique peek into the region’s rich biodiversity and the commendable conservation efforts in place.


    The Rainforest Discovery Centre immersed us in the emerald splendor of Borneo’s rainforests, while the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre allowed us to witness the incredible journey of these majestic creatures from rehabilitation to their return to the wild. The Borneo Sunbear Conservation Center introduced us to the world’s smallest bear species and the dedicated conservation work being done.


    A Glimpse into the Future

    As I reflect on my time at the 2nd Sepilok Jazz Festival, I can’t help but feel excitement about its future. The festival has the potential to evolve into a significant music event in Sandakan, drawing music enthusiasts from far and wide. The captivating performances and the natural beauty of Sepilok create an irresistible combination.


    A Memorable Journey with Friends

    My experience at the Sepilok Jazz Festival was made even more memorable by the company of three colleagues — Chris, Izz, and Felix. Together, we shared laughter, music, and the wonder of Sepilok’s natural treasures. It was a journey that brought us closer and left us with cherished memories.


    The 2nd Sepilok Jazz Festival was an unforgettable blend of music, nature, and camaraderie. If you haven’t experienced this enchanting event yet, I highly recommend marking your calendar for next year’s festival. Sandakan and Sepilok have so much to offer, and this festival is the perfect gateway to explore it all.


    I eagerly anticipate my return to Sepilok and look forward to witnessing the continued growth and success of the Sepilok Jazz Festival in the years to come. It is truly a harmonious escape worth experiencing.


    This charity event was organised by FRIEND OF SEA TURTLE EDUCATION & RESEARCH (FOSTER). Additionally, it was supported by Sabah Tourism Board, and Maswings. Serving as the official travel agent and the official venue was Borneo Excursions and Mango Garden Restaurant, Sepilok, respectively.