On this project you will have the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of activities. Your main focus, however, will consist of providing enrichment and husbandry for the orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals.
A major part of this project is creating enrichment. This is the process of providing the animals with stimulating environments, where they are provided with items and surroundings that encourage and promote natural behaviour. This will enhance the potential for rehabilitation to release as well as improve the lives of the animals at the centre.
Another big part of the work on this project is husbandry for the orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals. This includes feeding the animals as well as cleaning the wildlife cages and enclosures.
Maintenance and Construction
Maintenance and construction are on-going tasks at the centre, and always require orangutan volunteers to help out. In the 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. Maintenance is a never-ending mission of painting, cleaning, varnishing and gardening, and there is always work to be done.
Over the past few years volunteers have helped create an organic farm to grow food for the animals at the centre to enable it to become a more sustainable institution.
The orangutan sanctuary is determined for the farm to remain organic and though many people keep recommending a whole host of chemicals for keeping the weeds at bay, they continue to rely on the brute force of the volunteers to keep it under control.
The project staff feel it is definitely a realisable dream to have this and other orangutan centres organically grow all the food they need to keep their animals alive and healthy. Tending to the farm has, therefore, become a regular job for the volunteers.
There are additional activities available to you whilst staying at the Matang Wildlife Centre, such as visiting a long-house, meeting the Iban tribes, visiting nearby markets and social and interactive activities with locals and researchers. Interaction with the local communities is always encouraged to strengthen local relationships and continue to aid human animal conflict.
On The Great Orangutan Project, the working week is Monday to Friday, giving you the weekends off. As you will have most likely travelled a long way to Borneo we always suggest taking advantage of the weekends to explore the surrounding area - including Kubah National Park and Damai Beach, either by yourself of with your fellow volunteers.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
You will arrive into Kuching Airport in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and be met at arrivals by a member of the team. You will then transfer to Basaga Guest House in Kuching where, in the evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with the project facilitator from the Orangutan sanctuary and your fellow volunteers.
After breakfast you and the rest of your group will take a private transfer to the Matang Wildlife Centre Orangutan Sanctuary. Here, after settling in, you will meet the project staff and commence your volunteer programme. (for all of the details of what you will be doing please view the activities tab).
After 2 or 4 weeks at the orangutan sanctuary this will be your final day. After the mornings work you will be transferred back to the Basaga Guesthouse in Kuching for your final night’s stay and a farewell dinner in the evening with the project staff and the other volunteers you have gotten to know so well during your stay.
Depending on your departure flight time you may have time for a lie in or even to see Kuching one last time before you take a private transfer to Kuching Airport for your return flight or continue your independent travel plans.
Updates & Outcomes
The Great Orangutan Projects' overall goal is to work with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation towards genetically sustainable orangutan populations in large, well-protected habitats to secure the long term future of the species in Sarawak. All volunteers are therefore vital for both funding and actively helping with the work undertaken at the Matang Wildlife Centre.
The sanctuary's 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. Volunteers focus on aiding the Matang Wildlife Centre through improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment and assisting with the on-going construction work, allowing SFC to concentrate on rehabilitation and wider conservation efforts.
Everyone involved with the Matang Wildlife 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.
The sight of this bear was certainly shocking to say the least – no doubt the worst example of animal suffering that we have seen, and sadly we have seen too many animals kept in deplorable conditions and under immense stress...
This month we have been fortunate enough to get ourselves a skype interview with one of our volunteers from Australia: Owen Huw Morgan! Owen first travelled with us back in 2011 on the 'IAR Orangutan Project' in Ketapang, Kalimantan.
For this week's blog we have been fortunate enough to receive some photos and information from Michelle Cullen – one of our volunteers who took part in 'The Great Orangutan Project' at Matang Wildlife Centre, located just outside of Kuching, Sarawak. We were lucky enough to be able to ask her some questions – Here are her responses (and pictures of course)!
Is this trip for you?
Matang Wildlife Centre provides ten houses for staff and volunteers to live in. Each house has two or three bedrooms, a communal living space, kitchen, toilet, shower and veranda area. There is a maximum of four to a house and rooms are based on twin-sharing. The houses feature mains electricity and a fan in each room. There are also showers, but please be aware there is no hot water. These are self-catered with basic kitchen appliances such as a gas hob (two-ring burner), fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster.
These wooden houses are original structures from the construction of the centre in 1997. They are government owned and have undergone precious little maintenance over their years of hard ware in the jungle. Please do not expect shiny, new and pristine lodgings – expect well-used, jungle cabins and an authentic Bornean experience!
Meals and beverages are prepared by volunteers in the kitchen of the self-catered houses. As part of the cost of the project you will receive a daily allowance for food and water and weekly supermarket trips are also included!
We do also offer a catered option if you would prefer whereby 3 meals a day are provided at the wildlife centre. This does however; incur an additional cost of £50 for a 2 week stay and £100 for a 4 week stay. We can only cater for up to 6 people per trip so please book early if you would like this option.
The construction work undertaken at this Borneo Orangutan Sanctuary does involve physical labour, often in humid conditions, and so requires you to have a moderate level of fitness. The other tasks however, are not particularly physically strenuous, but a fair level of fitness is advised. You do not need any specific skills or experience, just a commitment to the project and its aims, the ability to work as part of a team and an upbeat, positive attitude as an orangutan volunteer.
The vaccinations required will depend on the medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
You will need to arrive at Kuching Airport on the start date of your project between 7am and 5pm, where you will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall and transferred by road to your first nights accommodation. On the first night there is a welcome dinner where you will meet all of your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators. Once you have booked this project we recommend that you start to research your flight options immediately as prices can vary wildly and they can get expensive the closer you get to your departure date.
On the final day of your project you will need to book a flight out of Kuching Airport, between 7am and 5pm or commence your independent travel plans.
If you would like help booking your flights please feel free to contact our flight partners via our flights page.
There is no visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia. Please do however, check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is around 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR and 0.31 USD.
What's included in the price of the project?
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
- Private transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Accommodation and meals as indicated
- Activities on the project site
What's not included?
- Any flights
- Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
- Visas if required
- Soft drinks and all alcoholic beverages
- Any additional trips undertaken other than in the planned itinerary