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The Great Orangutan Project
4 weeks GBP 1865 | AUD 2798 | USD 2891
8 weeks GBP 2995 | AUD 4492 | USD 4642
Volunteer on the award winning Orangutan rehabilitation centre in BorneoTweet
Join this multi-award winning volunteer experience in animal conservation in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.
As a volunteer you will be transferred to the Matang Wildlife Centre which hosts the conservation programme on the second day of your trip and this is where you will volunteer and stay from thereon. Your accommodation will be in twin sharing 2 or 3 bedroom stilted wooden chalets, complete with living room, kitchen, shared bathroom and balcony. Your back yard will be the rainforest of Kubah National Park where you will be working as part of a team alongside the local facilitators to aid the centre through improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment for the orang-utans and assisting with the construction of infrastructure. This allows the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (who manage the centre which is owned by the Sarawak government) to concentrate on rehabilitation and wider conservation efforts.
Your volunteering project helps to provide extra financial and physical assistance to the SFC’s rehabilitation and conservation goals and is ideal for those on a career break, gap year, sabbatical or looking for a career change. Here is a chance to experience for yourself the efforts of this impressive wildlife centre and its fantastic team towards improving the lives of the orangutans and other animals resident to the centre.
Day 1: Kuching: Arrive at Kuching Airport in Sarawak Malaysian Borneo. Meet and greet and get taken to Basaga Guest House in Kuching. There is a welcome dinner and orientation in the evening with the project facilitator and your fellow volunteers. (1 night).
Day 2 to 13:The Wildlife Centre: Breakfast and then check out. You will take a private transfer to the Matang Wildlife Centre - Orangutan Sanctuary. You will then have time to settle into your new home, meet the project staff and commence the volunteer programme. A weekly allowance is given for food at the supermarket. There are additional activities available such as visiting a long house, meeting the Iban tribes, visiting nearby markets and social and interactive activities with locals and researchers at the centre.
You will take part in husbandry for orangutan, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals. The feeding and enrichment techniques implemented in this work have been created with a mind to promote natural behaviours, enhance the potential for rehabilitation to release, and quite basically to improve captive animal welfare to keep the animals healthy in body and mind. Further enrichment is always required, especially for the sophisticated great apes, and you will be involved in creating this, then getting to watch as your handy work amuses the animal you made it for.
Maintenance and construction are always on-going tasks at the centre, so prepare to get sweaty as you help out with these. Past volunteers have been involved with the building of aviaries, gibbon cages, feeding platforms in the forest, boardwalks around the park and ranger stations in the national park, among other things. Maintenance is a never-ending mission of painting, cleaning, varnishing and gardening in an attempt to keep the jungle from reclaiming the infrastructure!
Day 14:Kuching: The programme ends for the 2 week volunteer project. You will take a private transfer to Kuching and check in to The Basaga Guesthouse. (1 night) Or continues at the centre for another 2 weeks making up the 4 week programme (28 days).
Day 15/27: After breakfast. Check out and farewell. Take a private transfer to Kuching Airport and depart.
*Please note that itineraries are subject to change
Your duties as a volunteer include husbandry, enrichment, maintenance and construction work. You will basically be treated as pseudo-staff for the wildlife centre for the duration of your project, so whatever work and projects are being undertaken at the centre, you will be asked to help out as best you can! You do not need any building, maintenance or animal husbandry skills prior to joining, the team on the ground show you what to do and how to do it when you are there.
Please be aware there is no physical contact allowed between volunteers and the apes. Excessive habituation to humans is nothing but detrimental to rehabilitation and conservation goals.
Matang is also a functioning rescue centre, so it is not possible to predict what animals may be arriving on a daily basis. Be willing to be flexible and patient – you never know what the centre may be dealing with each day, and what species of animal you will end up meeting!
What Makes this Project Great
The Great Orangutan Projects' conservation goal is to work with Sarawak Forestry Corporation towards genetically sustainable orangutan populations in large, well-protected habitats within Sarawak in order to secure the long term future of the species in this area. Volunteers and tours are used to fund the work and this project is twice winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism awards (Highly Commended for 2009 and 2010) for demonstrating how volunteering and tourism are tools to conservation of animals abroad. You will break from your everyday life to volunteer at the Wildlife Centre in Sarawak Malaysia Borneo, focusing your time on improving the lives of the resident animals. You will get the opportunity to witness the problems the conservation team face on a daily basis and help to overcome these challenges by providing much needed help to the group.
The team is made up of Members of the local community who are employed to work at the centre both with the animals and the volunteers. There are also two full time members of Western staff whose endeavours are entirely voluntary and they work simply to do whatever they can to help the animals, both those already resident at the centre and those still inhabiting the wild. Volunteers focus on aiding the centre through improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment and assisting with the construction of infrastructure, allowing SFC to concentrate on rehabilitation and wider conservation efforts.
Everyone involved with the centre is dedicated to managing and promoting truly responsible tourism and volunteering experiences that work in the best interests of the animals and environment, something The Great Projects is also passionate about. If you have dreamed of assisting the conservation efforts vital to the survival of the orangutans, then this is the project for you.
What skills do you need on this placement in Borneo?
Volunteers should love animals and be willing to work hard. You should also be sociable and happy to be around people as you will be both working and sharing a house with fellow volunteers. The work is physical and the temperature in Borneo high so volunteers should have a decent fitness level. All participants should be able to speak good English and be able to work as part of a team. Previous experience with animals or veterinary knowledge is especially welcomed (though please note that any vets who volunteer will not be able to take part in any hands-on veterinary procedures for the animals due to legislation surrounding protected wildlife). Building and maintenance takes up around 40% of your time so DIY skills will come in handy!
Where does my donation go?
Donations are spent on:
1. Enrichment – both small, disposable items and more permanent, in situ structures like ropes, hammocks and platforms
2. Construction - on materials and tools for getting orangutan out of cages and maintaining existing outdoor enclosures (everything from spades, to cement, to wheelbarrows, to nuts and bolts)
3. Reforestation – particularly the cultivation of a food forest for provision of captive diets to resident animals at the centre
4. Employment of local staff
What are the conditions and the accommodation like?
The setting is idyllic. You will be living in a remote rainforest area in the heart of Sarawak Borneo with a small river running through it, complete with jungle animals and sounds. There will also be short bursts of rain most days so be prepared for that too - it is a rainforest after all! And the ground can be slippery under foot so bring good walking shoes that do not absorb too much water and weigh you down – Wellington or gum boots are ideal. Telephone communications are very good and it is recommended to buy a local SIM card to ensure the cheapest calls and texts.
The accommodation is based in a jungle chalet amongst the staff quarters which ensures maximum safety. The house has everything you need, a bedroom with fan, a sitting room, dining area, simple kitchen and bathroom but this is jungle living at its best and you should not expect luxury. The shower runs cold water only but in the tropics this is a blessing - sort of! There is always the alternative of bathing in the jungle stream. You will have to bring your own mosquito net (with tape to secure it to the ceiling as there are no nails) but the geckos tend to help keep the insect population down for you.
For more FAQs please see our FAQ section here
"My favourite moment was with Aman, he wouldn’t leave his indoor cage to go outside. Alvin kept hiding behind the bin trying to trick him but he is so so clever. After a while, the boys had to give up and accept Aman wasn’t going anywhere for that day. I sat crossed legged against the wall and chatted to Aman and studied him, he is the most beautiful creature i have ever seen up close. I admired his strength and respected him as we threw leaves back and forth across the walkway. It was a nice moment because i wasn’t sharing it with anyone, it was just my few minutes with the big fella!!!"
Casey Murtagh, January 2012
“It was wonderful to work so closely with the Orangutans and get to know their characters and individuals. My month at Matang is honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had and would recommend it to anyone who loves wildlife and wants to do something to help orangutans.”
Jennie Hood, June 2012
"I already have!! I would recommend to watch your head and don’t take your passport into the torrential rain. Also to make the most of the experience, enjoy every second because the memories I have and the friends I made make me smile whenever I think about Matang."
Peta Marceau, January 2012
“I can’t actually think of one favourite moment as I enjoyed the whole experience. Being able to work so closely with the orangutans was a truly amazing experience, they are such special intelligent animals and I loved every minute of my time there.”
Jennifer Ravat, June 2012
What an amazing trip. Exhausting and hard work, but has given us something to think and talk about.
Thank you so much for all of the care that you put into this trip for us. It was something special."
Lisa Dostine, November 2012
How do I go about booking my flights?
Please try to book your flights as far as possible in advance of your departure as flights become more expensive with time. We will provide you with some additional information in the 'Know Before You Go' pack that we send when we have received your deposit. If you have any difficulties feel free to contact our support team.
Volunteers are recommended to book international and internal flights direct to Kuching Airport. Please ensure arrival times are within 7am and 5pm to ensure meet and greet. Recommended airlines that depart from Europe, Australia and US include Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, and Singapore Airlines. Ask your volunteer coordinator for more advice on flight arrangements or email email@example.com
Will I get to touch the orangutans?
No. We do not allow direct contact because humanization is counter-productive to rehabilitation. Released orangutans that are used to humans may approach human habitations, risking injury or death, and are more likely to attack humans as they search for food and water. There is also the risk that due to the huge amount of shared genetic material between humans and orangutans diseases are transferred easily.
When can I travel?
To avoid disappointment please contact us as soon as possible to reserve a place.
Please read our responsible volunteer policy and orangutan protection policy on responsible volunteering abroad with primates.
Donation: Donations are built into the programme
• Airport transfers.
• Overland transportation
• Twin Share accommodation
• Food allowance
• Activities on project site
• Conservation donation.
What's Not Included:
• All flights
• Travel insurance
• Alcoholic beverages.