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Become immersed in tribal life, whilst working towards the conservation of magnificent orangutans

Volunteers on this project will take an unforgettable jungle tour through the lush Borneo rainforests to experience the beauty of orangutans in the wild. The programme also features two visits to the region’s orangutan centres – the Matang Wildlife Centre and the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, as well as three breathtaking national parks – Bako National Park, Kubah National Park and Batang Ai National Park. Both orangutan centres and all national parks are managed by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, who play an active role in the ongoing conservation of the area’s orangutans.

This ‘voluntour’ is designed to raise awareness of the conservation efforts made in Sarawak, to restore the harmony between people and orangutans that has become strained in recent years. This project is a voyage of discovery for the volunteers who take part, including one-day "back stage passes" to the rehabilitation efforts at Matang Wildlife Centre, the released, semi-wild orangutans of Semenggoh Nature Reserve, the seven different habitats of Borneo in the amazing Bako National Park and a one week trip into the rainforest. This will involve meeting the descendants of the legendary Borneo head-hunters – the Iban tribes – who are now the custodians of the wild orangutans of Batang Ai National Park.

This project gives you a great opportunity to experience orangutans in their natural habitat, and to witness, first-hand, the conservation efforts behind their rehabilitation. The programme is ends with a trek through the rainforest to experience the way of life of the indigenous Iban tribes, and to become immersed in their cultural practices.

Project Summary

Focus: Orangutan & Tribes

Location: Sarawak Malaysian Borneo

Duration: 2 weeks

Arrival and starting point: Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Start Dates:
3rd of every month 2014/5
17th of the month, May - October 2014
(please note August, September 17th & October 17th are fully booked)

There is good availability for the rest of 2015

Minimum age: 18

Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is only a rough guideline.

Day 1: Arrive in Kuching airport (KCH). Transfer to the guesthouse for a welcome dinner and meet fellow volunteers.

Day 2: Transfer to the wildlife centre to meet the English facilitator and all the resident animals, including the amazing orangutans.

Day 3: Work behind the scenes with staff at a busy rehabilitation centre. Help with everyday tasks such as the feeding and orangutan enrichment. Please note there will be no touching or holding of orangutan or other animals for their safety and yours.

Days 4-5: Work with the orangutans in the morning and at mid-day head for Bako National Park having lunch on the way. Once there, check into accommodation. There is an optional night walk in the jungle.

Day 6: Transfer to Damai beach. Spend the night in accommodation at Permai Rainforest Resort.

Day 7: Visit the cultural village in Sarawak – a ‘living museum’ to the Dayaks (indigenous tribes) of Borneo. Transfer back to Kuching, and spend night in the guesthouse before departing for Batang Ai.

Day 8: Transfer to Batang Ai National Park – orangutan country! After reaching the mountainous border with Indonesia, transfer to light-weight, traditional longboats and begin a boat journey into the heart of Borneo.

Day 9-12: Spend these days in Batang Ai rainforest. Regular activities include walks into the surrounding rainforest in search of its elusive inhabitants, learning traditional handicrafts, cooking, fishing and interacting with the tribespeople, picnics amidst breath-taking scenery, night walks in the open jungle for the more adventurous, and swimming in jungle rivers and waterfalls

Day 13: Transfer back to Kuching and visit the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre.

Day 14: Transfer to Kuching airport for return flight or commence independent travel plans.

For more details on the specific tasks and activities involved in this project, please see the ‘Duties’ tab.

The aim of this project is to allow volunteers to experience first-hand, the positive conservation efforts being made in the Sarawak region, by uncovering some of the existing problems and exploring the solutions to sustaining orangutan populations in Malaysian Borneo.

Volunteers should partake with an open mind, appreciating the opportunity to discover new lifestyles and cultures, and with the aim of absorbing as much information as possible about the orangutan conservation efforts.

The attitude of the volunteer towards the host community is paramount to the success of this project.

Volunteers are able to partake in all manner of tasks, including feeding, care and enrichment at the rehabilitation centre, and interacting and building bonds with the indigenous people. This is essential in repairing the fractured human – orangutan relations in this region.

Since this project is primarily a ‘voluntour’, the emphasis is not as much on individual volunteer tasks as with many of our other projects, The aim is to build up a local consciousness about the conservation of the orangutans and many other native species, through gaining and imparting knowledge.

With the extinction of orangutans being a very real possibility in the near future, volunteers are essential in the process of finding a sustainable solution. A third of the price of this project goes directly towards supporting the rehabilitation of the orangutans that volunteers visit, through various centres and initiatives in the local area. This money also helps to support the Iban tribes and to sustain their way of life. It provides them with the means to protect their native jungle where wild orangutans live, and allows them to afford education and healthcare for their children.

The voluntour itself employs local guides and supports local communities wishing to live in harmony with their rainforest home, and demonstrates that orangutans and their environment are worth more alive and nurtured, than forested and sold. This is a virtuous circle, generating interest within the local community and authorities, which places value on their natural heritage and secures the future welfare of the species that also call it home.

Volunteers on this project are certain to gain an insight into the world of the orangutan and the threats it faces, and to learn more about conservation efforts in this area.

What level of fitness is required to take part in this project?
This project requires a moderate level of fitness, as there are many jungles walks and treks throughout the programme.

Do I need any special skills or qualifications to take part in this project?
No special skills are required of volunteers on this project. All volunteers will need a positive mental attitude, commitment to the cause and its aims and ability to work well as part of a team.

What vaccinations will I need to travel to Malaysian Borneo?
Vaccinations required will depend entirely on the medical history of each volunteer. Therefore it is essential that you consult your GP regarding this issue prior to departure. We also thoroughly recommend that you check Fit For Travel’s website in conjunction with visiting your GP.

What is the malaria risk in the area this project is based?
There is a high risk of malaria in the Sarawak region of Borneo. Therefore, it is essential that you consult your GP before making a decision about prophylactics and other preventative measures.

What is the currency in Malaysian Borneo?
The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is around 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR and 0.31 USD. For up-to-date conversion information click here .

What essentials should I take with me?
• Passport, travel insurance and travel documents.
• Cash and a credit/debit card.
• Camera, charger and adapter.
• Small backpack for daily use.
• Shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops and trousers.
• At least one pair of sturdy closed shoes.
• Raincoat if travelling during the summer
• Suncream and aftersun.
• Insect repellent.
• Flashlight.
• Toiletries and a towel.

"I loved every minute of this tour. Meeting the orangutans at Metang was a definite highlight and was the reason I booked the tour, however the highlight of my trip was the stay at the longhouse in Batang Ai.. Meeting the Iban community was amazing and the treks into the jungle were also out of this world and Alvin and Christina were fabulous guides".
Nicola Wiltshire, September 2014

"Trekking deep in Borneo jungle and seeing a wild orangutan was an amazing moment. The work in the rehabilitation centre in Matang and the conversations with Leo and Tasha have changed my mind frame about animal conservation. I will never forget. Congratulations for the amazing job at the guys in Matang. Thank you for the privilege to be part of it!"
Maria Notaridou, May 2013

"My personal highlight would have to be the trekking in the jungle and meeting the Iban Longhouse people. The people were amazing and so generous to allow us to join them in their house. I had a fabulous time and feel in love with the people. I also really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers on my trip and Francis our guide was a dream.
Learning about conservation of animals has changed the way that I view things like zoos and nature parks. I still understand that they have a place in society, but I am trying to educate my friends about the bigger role of conservation and how it is not just about realising animals from captivity.There is so much more too it. Leo was amazing - Mr Conservation - there is nothing he does not know."
Michelle Holland, June 2012

"On behalf of myself and my sister, we would both like to say what a FANTASTIC time we both had on the Orangutan and Tribes Voluntour this June 2013. It exceeded all expectations in relation to adventure, wildlife and nature than we could have ever imagined!"
Cassie Screen, June 2013

"Wow, what an experience. The guys at Matang, and our Guide Alvin made this an unforgettable experience. We spent the first 2 days at Matang Wildlife Park, working there as "Volunteers" and we got to see behind the scenes of the conservation project being undertaken there. It was a real eye opener. We got to see everything, and even got to help out in the quarantine area with some very cheeky macaques!!! After Matang we visited the Bako National Park and then spent 5 nights in the real jungle with a local tribe. This was amazing. We even were lucky enough to come across a wild male Orang eating his breakfast!!! A truly rare and amazing sight. I would recommend anyone to do this tour. It is a real life changing experience. Great work Leo and Tash, keep it up."
Marc Haldron, May 2013

"Seeing the Orangutans was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip! But, also travelling by longboat into the heart of the jungle was also an amazing experience!"
Fiona Dewey, November 2012

"I really enjoyed spending time with the Iban community when staying in the jungle. I also enjoyed visiting Matang Rehabilitation centre and learning about the orangutans from Leo. I got to feed big George a piece of pumpkin!"
Andrea Willis, April 2012

Getting There
Volunteers should arrive at Kuching airport, where they will be met by a project representative, and taken by private transfer to each site accommodation in turn.

Accommodation
In Kuching, volunteers stay in a boutique guesthouse, which features internet, television and phone, in shared rooms.

In the Matang Wildlife Centre, volunteers will stay in the grounds of the centre – an idyllic setting in a remote rainforest area, inside of Kubah National Park.

In Batang Ai, the accommodation consists of a basic lodge, with cold showers, electricity from a generator.

Meals and Beverages
Three meals a day and drinks are provided throughout the tour. Meals with typically consist of noodles, rice, vegetables and meat. Vegetarian options are always available.

Visas
There is no visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia. Check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information.

What's included in the price of the project?
• Airport transfers.
• Overland transportation
• Accommodation and meals as indicated
• All volunteering activity equipment
• Local guides
• English speaking project leader
• Conservation donation.

What's Not Included:
• All flights
• Vaccinations and anti-malarials
• Travel insurance
• Alcoholic beverages.

Below is a video by Shawn Fox who joined the Orangutan & Tribes tour in January 2014.

Fast Facts
Name:Borneo (Malaysia)
Population: 3,117,405
Capital: Kota Kinabalu
National Language: Malay
Time Zone: GMT+8
Country Code: +60

General Information
Renowned for its incredible rainforests and unequalled, natural diversity, Borneo is an enchanting and verdant destination. Due to its amazing collection of native species, Borneo is also at the forefront of the responsible travel and international volunteering revolution. The lush, green vistas and fascinating tribal cultures of this island make it one of the most interesting and visually stunning places to visit in the world.

The acknowledged capital of the Malaysian portion of Borneo is Kota Kinabalu. Characterised by a modern charm mixed with fabulous cultural heritage and the warm hospitality of its people, this city provides the perfect starting point to any visit to Malaysian Borneo, or is easily visited by those travelling elsewhere in the region first. Alongside the city buildings and ancient temples rolls miles of coastline, home to countless virgin coral reefs, stunning island paradises, and miles of tropical rainforest. The atmosphere of this city is one of cultural collision, and the city encompasses much of what Malaysian Borneo has to offer.

Alongside this amazing city, Malaysian Borneo has many other astounding attractions to offer visitors apart from the enchanting rainforest exploration opportunities. This is one of the world’s greatest destinations for scuba-divers and snorklers alike, offering countless coral reef environments that are abundant with rare and exotic marine life. Mount Kinabalu also stands majestically over the city and its surrounding environment, providing an imposing and breathtaking vista that can also be explored on foot. The Kinabatangan River is also a visually impressive place to visit, and cultivates an overwhelming amount of wildlife species.

Sarawak and Sabah are some of the main regions of the northern portion of Borneo. Blessed with stunning mountain scenery, exotic rainforests and jaw-dropping beaches, it is hard to find a Malaysian destination with more mysticism and charm. Of course Sabah is renowned for its copious populations of orangutans, but this region has a flavour of its own, with a diverse and fascinating culture, warm-hearted, welcoming indigenous communities and incredible variety of local cuisines. As well as its miles of lush, green rainforests, Sabah and Sarawak are also blessed with a stunning coastline and many off-shore islands, making it another ideal location for diving, snorkelling and swimming expeditions. Sipadan Island is a particularly beautiful and popular diving location, visited by marine enthusiasts all year round.

The region’s rainforests and diversity of wildlife however, are truly Borneo’s greatest treasure. The enchanting surroundings and populations of orangutans provide a truly unique setting for rainforest treks, and undeniable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences

Climate
Unsurprisingly, Borneo has a rainforest climate. This manifests itself through hot, humid days and much rainfall. The rainy season is typically from November to February and the dry season from June to August.

Average Temperature and Rainfall
Average Temperatures in Sarawak, Malaysia

Basic Phrases in Malay:

‘Hello’- ‘Hello’
‘Goodbye’- ‘Selamat tinggal’
‘How are you?’- ‘Bagaimana anda?’
‘Please/Thank you’- ‘Sila/Terima kasih’
‘Yes/No’ – ‘Ya/Tidak’