Which Orangutan Project Is Right For Me?

Which Orangutan Project Is Right For Me?

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on Aug 21, 2018

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 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 - 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).

Orangutans climbing

Elsewhere, our flagship programme (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, of course, orangutans.

Conversely, if you’re someone who only has orangutans on the mind, then the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project could be your dream trip. With more than 200 orangutans on site, you’ll be blown away by the amount of great apes at Samboja. The sheer amount of orangutans here means that you’ll discover all shades of the animal’s fascinating personality and nature, so if you have a strong preference for the species, then consider spending time here. Sunbears also call Samboja home, so there is potential for a little variety, too!

Finally, our newest of all the orangutan projects - the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary - has the enviable accolade of being the largest orangutan rehabilitation centre on earth, with more than 400 orangutans found onsite. The project has enjoyed media attention in the form of tv shows such as Orangutan Jungle School, and shares something in common with Samboja in that both projects are run by the incredible Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). Like Samboja, Nyaru Menteng is also home to a small population on sun beards, offering a little versatility to your stay. (Do just bear in mind that to take part at Nyaru Menteng, you will have to undertake a 5-day quarantine period - you can learn more about this on our project page!)


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 project out of the bunch that could be considered a ‘hotel’ experience – your food comes cooked and prepared, a maid cleans your room, and there is clearly a Western state of mind when it comes to where you lay your head. However, if you'd prefer a more authentic experience. select any of the other projects. The accommodations on The Great Orangutan Project are of more of a self-catering nature, so why not enjoy cooking with your camp and attempt to master your Indonesian-inspired culinary prowess? If you prefer to meet in the middle in terms of creature comforts, check out 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 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 rooms shared on a twin-share, 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 just need to rustle up your own breakfast, using the ingredients and foodstuffs provided to you by the project!

Pygmy elephant


While all of 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 Nyaru Menteng costs £1195; elsewhere, 11 nights at The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant project costs £1295 in a typical month, 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, but one of them – The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project – only runs for a duration of 11 nights. If you’re looking for a longer (or, indeed, a shorter) stay, look to the other projects available: The Great Orangutan Project offers both 14 night and 28 night experiences; Nyaru Menteng offers 12 and 26 night stays; and finally the Samboja project has durations of 7, 12 or 26 nights (dependent on month and availability - so do be sure to check out the project pages!)


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 project is perfect in that there is always something to do without even thinking about having to make your own plans. With canopy walks, rainforest treks and numerous other extra-curricular activities ready to go, you’ll be guaranteed fun 24/7 at Samboja! 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 campmates will always be around to entertain you, should you want their company!

Volunteer in Borneo

Volunteers enjoy time on a boat at Samboja Lestari

Ethics and Purpose

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 insurmountable 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 Nyaru Menteng offers an insight into conservation on a monumental scale. As mentioned before, this project is the biggest and most successful 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! 

Samboja 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 well-rounded rainforest experience.

Group Size

Volunteer with orangutans

Another important thing to consider, is the amount 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 offer a different maximum group size, so give some consideration to this fact. The Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary, for example, only takes on 8 people at a time – so you may feel that your time on the project is a little more personal. Elsewhere, other projects accept a larger group…which comes as great news to social butterflies! It may be that you feel that more work can be done as a bigger group, too – but speak to our sales team to discover more about availability at the time of booking.

We hope that this guide helps you towards booking your dream trip. One last thing which we must mention, however, is to 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 the project. You will be surrounded by the orangutans when volunteering, but in no way will you be allowed to hold or touch them. None of the orangutan projects we support permit holding the great apes, nor will you be able to feed them – this is due to various ethical, safety and medical reasons, and we request your understanding of this matter 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 to 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 project page now and pick your favourite trip!

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David davidson jones commented 2 weeks ago
I'd love to come and volunteer
Gina commented 3 months ago
I liked that vision of this project and I'm very interested, but i don't have money. I want to know if you have any scholarship or challenge program for the people that wants to be a volunteer?

Sorry for my English.
Sandra commented 1 year ago
This is fantastic! Thanks for all the overview!

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