Which orangutan project is right for you? With conservation projects this good, it's sometimes hard to pick out the trip that you'll love the most. But worry not - we're here to help!
It’s probably fair to assume that the first thing on anybody’s mind, when it comes to animal conservation, is the wildlife you can expect to see and work with whilst on the project. Are you hoping to see a vast array of animals, or do orangutans have your whole heart? If you’re somebody who wants to experience a little bit of everything, The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project is for you. Considered the most ‘wild’ of all of our orangutan experiences, the clue really is in the name here, and you can expect to witness two of the most endearing species on the planet. This is the only project where the animals can be spotted in their natural habitat, and ultimately, you will be in the middle of the jungle, so the possibilities of seeing multiple wildlife species is at its highest level here (though we cannot guarantee sightings of all jungle species).
The Great Orangutan Project also provides the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of activities (primarily husbandry and enrichment) for sun bears, macaques, slow lorises, binturongs and many other animals, as well as orangutans. So if you want to work in close proximity to a large number of animal species on a daily species then this project is certainly the best option for you.
If you only have orangutans on the mind, then the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project or the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary could be your dream experience. With approximately 200 orangutans at Samboja Lestari and 400 orangutans at Nyaru Menteng (making it the largest orangutan rehabilitation centre on earth), you’ll be blown away by the number of great apes you could meet at either. The sheer number of orangutans means that whichever you choose, you’ll discover all shades of the animals’ fascinating personalities and incredible character traits.
Again, bearing in mind that you’ll be spending time in the jungle, there may be moments where your creature comforts go out of the proverbial window. If considerable comfort is king when it comes to your holidays, choose the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project. This is the only orangutan project where the accommodation has a more ‘hotel’ feel as your food comes cooked and prepared, your rooms are cleaned, and the bedrooms are complete with air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. If, however, you would prefer a more authentic experience, select any of the other projects.
The accommodation at The Great Orangutan Project is of a more self-catering nature, so why not enjoy cooking with the rest of your volunteer group and attempt to master your Malaysian-inspired culinary prowess? If you prefer to meet in the middle in terms of creature comforts, take a look at The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project, in which you'll spend your evenings in a local village B&B and can look forward to having your meals cooked by local villagers, allowing you the optimum time to get to know those who know Borneo like the back of their hand.
Finally, the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary offers a stay in an authentic longhouse, with twin-share rooms and en-suite bathrooms shared on a same-sex basis (though there are 2 double rooms available for couples on a first-come, first-serve basis). There is a kitchen and communal area for all volunteers to use, and two out of three meals will be prepared for you each day. You will just need to make your own breakfast, using the ingredients and food items provided to you by the project!
Volunteer Accommodation at Samboja Lestari
While all our projects are of great value (and a donation from each booking goes towards conservation efforts), we do of course understand that price can play a part in your decision making. At full cost, the very popular Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project comes in at £1295 for 12 nights, while the same duration at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary costs £1195. Elsewhere, 11 nights at The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant project costs £1295 and of course, The Great Orangutan Project comes in at £1280 for 14 nights.
Most of our projects do offer a couple of different durations, however, The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project only runs for a duration of 11 nights. If you’re looking for a longer stay, look to the other projects available.
Some people prefer flexibility; others prefer to have plans in place. Which camp do you fall into? If you’re somebody who prefers to follow an itinerary, the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project and the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary are perfect in that there is always something to do without even thinking about having to make your own plans. With additional included excursions including trips to a local night market, you’ll be guaranteed fun 24/7! However, if you’d prefer to make your own plans (be it visiting another part of the country for a short weekend excursion, heading into the town to visit market stalls, or simply to sleep and regain energy), The Great Orangutan Project will be preferable for you. Feeling free from the clock may indeed be the option you prefer, but one thing is for sure: your fellow volunteers will always be around to entertain you, should you want their company!
Volunteers enjoy a river cruise at Samboja Lestari
What is the main reason for your trip? Is it simply to feel closer to nature, or are you a budding conservationist? Is adventure the main draw, or has something compelled you to make a change to our planet? Plenty of people have been saddened, shocked and moved by the news of deforestation and its effects on our wildlife – and if you feel the same way, The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project may be the one for you. With a large focus on reforestation and significant efforts towards protecting/reviving our rainforests, this project is quite possibly the most hands-on in terms of general rainforest care. The project also has a strong focus on community outreach, which may interest some volunteers. However, if you’ve got a soft spot for the work done to protect the orangutans themselves, you may find that the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary offers an insight into conservation on a monumental scale. As mentioned before, this project is the largest orangutan rehabilitation centre on earth, helping at least 267 orangutans find freedom since 2012. The sanctuary's efforts are seriously impressive, and you may want to learn more by paying a visit!
The Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project is similar to The Great Orangutan Project, in that with either project you could find yourself taking part in enrichment or husbandry activities, as well as construction and maintenance, depending on the project's greatest need for help at that time. Both projects are very well-rounded in terms of educational aspects and activities, so choose either one to enjoy a balanced rainforest experience.
Another important thing to consider is the number of people you may find yourself working alongside on the project. It might be that some volunteers are looking to meet a whole legion of like-minded individuals, whereas others prefer a little more peace and quiet. Each of our projects have a different maximum group size, so give some consideration to this fact. The Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary has a maximum group size of 8 so you may feel that your time on the project is a little more personal, however, the maximum on any project never exceeds 14, so you will always have a personal and involved experience no matter which you choose.
We hope this guide helps you towards booking your dream orangutan volunteer experience, however, one final thing we ask is that you be realistic with your expectations of the trip. By this, we ask that you respect that no physical interaction is allowed with the orangutans on any of the projects and whilst you will be in close proximity to orangutans and other animals when volunteering, in no way will you be allowed to hold or touch them. None of the orangutan projects we support permit holding these great apes, due to various ethical, safety and medical reasons, and we request your understanding of this at the time of booking. The Great Projects follow similar guidelines to other ethical conservation projects which prohibit hands-on contact (read more about this here); that said, by joining our projects and abiding by these simple terms, you will be helping to improve care and quality of life for these magnificent animals – giving them an improved chance for rehabilitation and release, and for their survival as a whole.
Ready to book? Head to our orangutan volunteering page now to find a project which is right for you!
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