This activity entails cruising in a boat along the river and its tributaries to observe the endangered wildlife roaming the forest along the river banks. On these trips, you will be on a constant lookout for pygmy elephants and orangutans - bring a camera with you, as you'll want to capture this moment forever!
This will involve tree-planting, nursery care and seedling generation, allowing your children to play a real part in protecting the future of Borneo's rainforests. Along the banks, there are areas with very few trees, so it is difficult for animals to pass from one section to another and if they do, it leaves them vulnerable. Therefore, tree planting will take place in sections identified as high priority, and you will work towards the creation of corridors to allow wildlife to move from one section to another.
The tropical rainforest of Borneo is the perfect setting for a family trek. The trek involves an introduction to the flora and fauna of the rainforest, and to what the rainforest traditionally offers the inhabitants in terms of medicine, food, and survival. This is a great chance to ask questions and to learn from an extremely experienced local guide.
Cultural and Community Interaction
Living and contributing to the Sukau community is a big part of this project. As most lunches and dinners will be served in the homes of individual villagers and local families, you may get to hear about their daily lives, chat with the children, learn their family structure, and see how the Orang Sungai have been living off the rivers and jungles for centuries!
As a family, you will spend half a day working with the local school children on conservation issues that they deal with on a daily basis. You will be provided with a framework and the project facilitator will guide you in the planning of this session. The idea is to share information about conservation activities, both in Borneo and in your home country, and also to give the local school children and your own the chance to interact and understand different cultures. (Please note, this activity is dependant on the school calendar.)
Visit To The Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Towards the end of your stay, you will pay a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, home to captive orangutans who may be in need of sanctuary care. This visit will emphasise the necessity for projects like this one, leaving a lasting impression on all volunteers.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive in to Sandakan International Airport where you will be met by the project facilitator and will take a private transfer to your first night's accommodation. This will be in a longhouse-style accommodation in Sepilok with unobstructed views of the surrounding forest. You will spend the night learning about the 'Corridor of Life' and the project's aims. This is also where you will enjoy a welcome dinner with your project facilitator.
Day 2-5 - Project Days:
Today you will transfer to the project site at Sukau where, upon arrival, you will have a health and safety briefing followed by an orientation and tour around the village. In the afternoon, you will begin your volunteer activities which you will continue for the next 4 days - why not download your free project guide to find out more about these activities? Accommodation here will be in a beautiful Bornean B&B.
Day 6 - Orangutan Centre & Sun Bear Conservation Centre:
You and your family will wave goodbye to the Orang Sungai before travelling to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and then the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to observe the orangutans up close and to gain an understanding of the impact of conservation. Your final evening can be spent resting and relaxing in a comfortable city hotel in the heart of Sandakan.
Day 7- Final Day:
Unfortunately, your family volunteering trip has come to an end - take a private transfer from your hotel in the city to Sandakan Airport for your return flight, or to commence your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project.
Updates & Outcomes
Located in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, this project is situated in an area of rainforest which has unfortunately undergone a great deal of deforestation over the years, leaving much of the wildlife here vulnerable. These logging activities and the prevalence of palm oil plantations have, in recent times, left countless animals without protection. Similarly affected are the tiny communities which call these forests home.
The project has worked hard not only to reforest the vital ‘Corridor of Life’, but to encourage the local ‘Orang Sungai’ to live in harmony with their surroundings, speaking with members of the community to educate them on the importance of conservation. This can be observed most clearly in our volunteers’ efforts with the youngest members of the community: by visiting local schools and working with the children there, the project aims to instil a sense of responsibility into their young minds, as well as a sense of respect for their surrounding environments. These young children will someday grow to be the guardians of the rainforest, and should we wish for Borneo’s threatened wildlife to survive, we must work with the region’s inhabitants to make this possible.
The main goal of this project is to see wildlife species returning to the ‘Corridor of Life’, and so far, the efforts of the project seem to have had some success. With an aim to plant over 2000 new trees annually, the work here is difficult but the rewards are inspiring. The project has, in recent times, seen impressive numbers of orangutans and elephants returning to the area, and it is hoped that this continued perseverance will result in thriving forests for years to come. The project has indeed managed to succeed in their goal of planting such a huge number of trees, with over 2500 saplings being planted last year alone!
To learn more about the project first hand, why not see what the Nixon family got up to when they joined the project in 2018.
If you're anything like us, you probably spend much of your time daydreaming about your next 'great escape' - but instead of taking a typical holiday, why not consider a volunteer experience? Here at The Great Projects, we believe that there's a better way to holiday, so read on to discover why a volunteer adventure could be the best way to spend your time away.
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Little do people know, the cultivation of this product has caused a colossal, detrimental impact upon endangered species, as well as the rate of deforestation, climate change and more! Read up to find out more, and view a list of palm oil free alternatives!
Have you considered one of our orangutan holidays?
Is this trip for you?
Sepilok (first night): For your first night in the rainforest, you will stay in a traditional longhouse with facilities to be shared amongst all participating families (please note that this extends to dorm rooms, as well as bathroom facilities.)
Sukau (project days): During the project, you and your family will stay in a comfortable and authentically Bornean, village-run B&B within walking distance of the centre of the village and the village jetty - a wonderful opportunity for you and your family to familiarise yourselves with a brand-new culture! Bedrooms have attached toilet blocks and warm-water showers, and you will be provided with towels and bed linens. Each day, breakfast is served in a common area overlooking the river. Please note that families of 3 or more may be split into 2 or more rooms depending on room structure and availability.
At Sandakan (final night): For your final night, you will stay in a comfortable hotel room in the equivalent of a 3-star hotel in Sandakan town. The hotel is within walking distance of the promenade and many quaint little shops and eateries. The town has internet cafes, a supermarket, restaurants and food stalls serving local and western foods.
All meals and beverages are provided and are included in the price of the project, though breakfast is to be prepared by volunteers. Lunch and dinner are prepared by local villagers in their homes, presenting a great opportunity to hear about their daily lives, to chat with the children, and to see how the community has been living for centuries. Those with dietary requirements will be catered for, however, we do kindly request that you let us know of your needs well in advance. We also kindly request that your children are respectable and considerate when dining with the group and/or with the villagers, and that your family is prepared to eat Malaysian-style meals.
The work involved in this project is not physically exerting, but there are short jungle treks during the week, so a moderate level of fitness is required. There are also no specific skills required in order to join this project – all that we ask is that you come with a willingness to get your hands dirty!
The vaccinations required will depend on the medical history of each individual. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check NHS Fit for Travel’s website. The Great Projects are not qualified to provide medical advice, therefore it is vital that you speak with your own doctor.
We are often asked whether or not volunteers will have the chance to touch or play with the orangutans whilst on this project. Our answer to this question is, and will always be no, and this is for good reason.
Orangutans are highly susceptible to human diseases and something as minor as the common cold can prove fatal to these Great Apes. An orangutan is also around 7 times stronger than an adult male human so a no contact policy is just as crucial for your wellbeing as orangutan welfare.
That is not to say that as a volunteer you will have no interaction with the orangutans, it simply means that you will have no direct contact with them. You will still hope to observe them whilst in the corridor of life and see them at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. For more information please view our article on hands-on contact with orangutans here.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
There is no specific 'best' time to join this project, as wildlife is visible all year round. With that in mind, the only differing factor is the weather.
Based on weather, you may prefer to join this project between February and October, as the rainy season hits between November and January. However, over the years, the weather patterns have been changing (both in Malaysia and globally), making this season less clearly defined.
You will need to arrive into Sandakan International Airport between 8am and 4pm on the start date of your project. You will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall and transferred by road to your first night's accommodation. This transfer will take around 30-40 minutes, and is included in your project fee.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
There is no prior visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia as a 90-day tourist visa is granted on arrival. However, please check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information. Visas are of the volunteer's own responsibility.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is approximately 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR and 0.31 USD. To see up-to-date exchange rates, please visit www.xe.com
What's included in the price of the project?
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
- Transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project facilitator
- Accommodation and meals as indicated
- Entrance fees to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre
What's not included?
- Any flights
- Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
- Visas if required