Orangutan Volunteer Review From Samboja Lestari!

Orangutan Volunteer Review From Samboja Lestari!

Posted by Connor Whelan on 1st Nov 2016

Here at The Great Projects we are extremely proud of each of our projects, and we are always the first to tell you all of the reasons why you should visit them and help to change the lives of animals all around the world. However, we know that sometimes it is good to hear things from other volunteers who have been there and done it, and that is why today we are bringing you a volunteer blog from Sharon, who headed out to the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project in Borneo just last month. You can really feel Sharon’s passion for the orangutans come through in her words, so much so that you won’t be surprised to hear that she has already booked to go back in 2017! I think it is time to let Sharon do the talking!

Samboja Lestari – Where Volunteers Are Valued

I am by nature extremely protective over animals ....but now that I understand more about many species becoming endangered, I have become more active in my endeavour to help. There are so many ways one can help, but when I researched many websites and foundations one stood out from the rest.... The Great Projects website led me to the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary - a sanctuary in Kalimantan Borneo which seemed to be carrying out the most strategic and effective ways to rehabilitate Orangutans and release them back into the wild....AND… they had what seemed the perfect volunteer program. I knew instantly that I wanted to go there.

Samboja Volunteers

It was something I had dreamed of doing for years and couldn't wait to be a part of their program. I was not disappointed.

I soon discovered it was an all-encompassing program that was very hands on. Each day became more exciting than the last one. From making the most creative enrichment treats for the Orangs and getting the chance to give it to them…to cleaning their cages and feeding them ginger leaves which we had ourselves cut down in the forest to give to these magnificent animals for their nesting. It was hard work but it was oh so rewarding. I was even lucky enough to witness 4 Orangutans being readied for release back into the wild. I was in my element! This was what the program was about….and I was in the midst of it all.


Then there were the cement- multi-platforms that we the volunteers built on two of the man-made islands where some of the rehabilitated Orangs are soon to be moved to. It was back breaking work, but everyone worked with vigour. It was incredible. Hard work… enjoyable? Absolutely! We all knew who it was for and couldn’t wait to get it finished.

Cleaning Orangutan Cage

To mention everything would takes pages and pages of writing, but the wonder of knowing that these Orangutans will eventually be in their natural habitat was a thrilling thought to say the least.


The volunteers all bonded instantly as we were all working for the same cause and the conversation flowed easily. The carers and keepers (especially Kate, Wiwik and Sam) worked alongside us, guiding and educating the volunteers on the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the rehabilitation program. It was then that for the first time I saw the big picture. This was not about getting close to cute Orangutan babies.... (Although we did get to see them from a distance and they were cute!) Rather, this was a very real program that taught you so much about why Orangutans were in this situation in the first place, how we could help in the immediate and long term period, and more importantly it gave us the chance to experience hands-on activities and be a committed and valued part of the team, albeit for only a 2-4 week period. I was so blown away by it all, in every which way, that the minute I returned home I booked another trip to return to Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary in May next year.

Volunteer Coordinator

Of course the killing, maiming or domesticating of Orangutans is not going to end anytime soon and it became very obvious to me that just posting sympathetic comments on social media was not enough to help this very dire situation if you truly wanted to support it. This program is an eye opening experience to understand the full story. It taught me so much about why Orangutans desperately need more help to keep them from becoming extinct.

This experience however also taught me so much about myself. I now know that I can do much more than what I first thought and I encourage like-minded people to walk this same track. It has changed my life completely. I am fully committed to helping to save the Orangutan!

As you can see here, Sharon thoroughly enjoyed her time at Samboja and she learnt a lot about the plight of the orangutan in the process. If you would like to get involved and help the orangutans as well, then take a look at the Samboja Project page and enquire today. You can help make a difference to the lives of these wonderful apes!

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