'Being so close and observing these beautiful creatures is truly magnificent...I felt privileged' - read Tanya's review of Samboja Lestari!

'Being so close and observing these beautiful creatures is truly magnificent...I felt privileged' - read Tanya's review of Samboja Lestari!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on Apr 13, 2018

Here at The Great Projects, we love hearing about the wonderful experiences that our volunteers have on their wildlife adventures. We chatted to Tanya, a volunteer who chose to visit the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project as part of an extended sabbatical with her wife. Read on to learn all about her time at the project!

Orangutan volunteer

Why did you decide to book this particular project?

My wife and I were fortunate to take a six-month sabbatical from work, allowing us to travel the world. I wanted to ensure we not only had the trip of a lifetime but used our time away to make a difference. Wildlife conservation and the environment have always been very important to me, and after much "googling" I found out about Samboja Lestari on my search and kept going back to it. I had so many questions and reservations, but we took the plunge and arranged our flight to Borneo within our plans.

Which activity did you enjoy most and why?

The activities that you as a volunteer are involved in are all so much fun and rewarding. Kate, our project coordinator, did a great job in making sure we had the opportunity to take part in a range of activities. If I had to choose a favourite, it would definitely be giving the amazing enrichments we made to the orangutans. Seeing how they occupy themselves with these is fascinating and making eye contact with Pepper the first time I gave her a palm leaf enrichment was definitely up there in top moments of my fortnight. Secondly, getting out into the rainforest and swinging a machete to chop down ginger leaves...loved it! Hugely satisfying and seeing the end-to-end process makes a such difference.

Mother and baby orangutan

What was your most memorable experience with the animals at Samboja?

I can’t choose one most memorable experience here as the two weeks we spent at Samboja are the most memorable on our travels. Taking the canoe to the islands to give enrichments was my most special, seeing mummy Maya and baby Meyaz come out of the trees to pick up the enrichments. Being so close and observing these beautiful creatures is truly magnificent and I felt privileged to be able to support the great work being done here.

How was your experience with the project staff and the other volunteers?

Spending so much time with people you hope you get along with can be daunting to begin with but Kate, Sam and Wiwik were the perfect team to involve everyone and ensure we all had the best of times. The group was a great size, so you had plenty of new faces to speak to and we couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of crazy, fun, dedicated, hardworking people to spend our fortnight with. Kate works tirelessly to ensure all volunteers are happy and included in everything they wish to be. She is always around if you have a question or problem and her knowledge and passion is apparent at all times. The whole staff, from restaurant to kitchen to keepers and vets, are fantastic and really do a tremendous job.

Volunteers at Samboja Lestari

Did you feel that you made a real difference to the lives of the animals at Samboja during your trip?

We both felt that we really did make a difference to the lives of the animals at Samboja. Simple enrichments made daily by the volunteers for the orangutans and sun bears, ginger leaf collecting, helping build a new enclosure for Yono the sun bear, moat clearing around the islands. All these things would happen eventually, but volunteers make it happen faster! That's why they are so important.

Do you have any advice for future volunteers?

My advice for future volunteers...embrace it all. Challenge yourself to experience things you may never do at home. I have never sawed bamboo, mixed cement, or cleared pathways in the jungle, I work in an office! Make sure you bring wellies, clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, and lap up every minute you spend with the animals as it goes so fast.

Landscape at Samboja Lestari

Is there anything else you would like to share about your time on the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project?

Accommodation is much better than I envisaged, food was varied, tasty and plentiful. We all loved a Bintang after a hard day’s work! The cold showers are a welcome relief as you will get hot and sweaty, that’s a dead cert! If you are not sure if you can handle it...just try, you can only do what you can do! You won’t regret your time here making lifelong memories and new friends. Just ask The Great Projects if you aren't sure of anything!

Has Tanya's feedback left you feeling inspired? Join this amazing orangutan volunteer project by heading to the Samboja page now!


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