Over the course of the project, your family will embark on a number of boat trips in search of Malaysia's remarkable wildlife! Whether up in the trees, down on the river banks or even in the water below, there are animals to be discovered at every turn. Your expert guide will be on hand to share facts on all creatures big and small, making this an excellent opportunity for your children to learn more about the vibrancy of the rainforest.
One of the most rewarding ways for anybody to make a difference to conservation efforts can be found when planting trees! You and your children will be shown how to plant and maintain saplings on a dedicated site, where plant life had previously been removed as a result of logging or deforestation activities. Your efforts here will not only help to create a safe passageway for the animals to use as they move throughout the 'Corridor of Life', but will also ensure that the forest will sustain Borneo's wildlife for many years to come.
What greater adventure could there be, than a trek through the Bornean rainforest? This is an educational experience for the whole family, as you will learn all about the forest's flora and fauna from up close. Additionally, your guide will explain how the communities here have relied on the rainforest for food, shelter and even medicine for generations, allowing you to gain a further understanding of the very people you'll be living alongside throughout your time in Sukau.
Cultural and Community Interaction
During your time on this project, you will live alongside the members of a local community known as the ‘Orang Sungai’. You will exchange stories of your daily lives, will learn about each other’s family structures, and will gain an understanding of how they have lived off of the land for centuries. You might even be invited to join in with some traditional activities, such as crafting, making music or dancing!
Depending on the time of year that you take part, you may be invited to pay a visit to the local school! You will be provided with a framework and encouraged to plan a lesson which covers topics such as conservation and the environment. Whilst the main purpose of this activity is to help educate the Malaysian youth, you'll also experience great pride when watching your children build on their confidence and make new friends!
Visit To The Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Towards the end of your time on the project, you will pay a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which is home to a number of orangutans which may require care for the remainder of their lives. This visit will only emphasise the need for conservation projects like this one and is sure to be a memorable part of your time in Borneo.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into Sandakan Airport, you and your family will be collected by a friendly driver and transferred to your first night’s accommodation. Here, you will be given time to settle into your new surroundings before enjoying a welcome dinner and finally resting up ahead of a busy week!
Day 2 - Arrival into Sukau:
Your morning begins with a brief lie-in, followed by a two-hour journey to the tiny village of Sukau, your home for the next four days. During the drive, your guide will tell you more about the project’s aims and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. The remainder of your day will be spent out on a river cruise in the midst of the rainforest: keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready in case any animals make an appearance!
Day 3 - Sapling Maintenance:
Get ready for an early rise: you’ll be waking up at around 5:30am to enjoy breakfast before heading out onto the river! You will cruise to a sapling maintenance site, where you and your children will be taught how to (safely!) cut away any undergrowth with a machete. By maintaining the forest in this way, any previously-planted saplings will have more room to grow. Later in the day, you’ll head out on another exciting river cruise in the hope of spotting a pygmy elephant…or thirty!
Day 4 - Tree Planting:
You’ll head out bright and early once more as you head back to the sapling maintenance site. Here, you and your children will have the opportunity to plant your very own trees, which will someday grow and provide both shelter and food for the animals of the rainforest. Later on, you’ll join a local family for a meal in their home, and may even be treated to a performance of traditional music or dance!
Day 5 - Rainforest Trek:
A trek through the magnificent Malaysian rainforest awaits you today, so listen closely as your guide tells you all about the wonderful flora and fauna found in the region. You’ll take part in another river cruise in the afternoon in the hope of spotting some of Borneo’s most impressive wildlife species, such as proboscis monkeys, hornbills and even orangutans (if you’re lucky!).
Day 6 - Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Centre:
The time has come for your family to leave Sukau, but there are more animal encounters to look forward to as you head back to Sepilok! Here, you’ll pay a visit to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Sanctuary, but the stand-out moment of the day will take place at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. It is here where you and your children will witness the orangutans’ feeding times, offering a spectacular view of the great apes up close.
Day 7 - Final Day:
Unfortunately, your family volunteering experience has come to an end. You will take a private transfer back to Sandakan Airport in time to catch your flight home or to continue with your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 per person 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?
During your time on this project, your family will stay in a range of accommodations across various styles and locations.
Sepilok: For your first night in the rainforest, you will stay in a traditional longhouse. Your room will be of a dormitory-style, with a number of bunk beds available. Depending on the size of your group, you may share the dorm room with another family. There are showers and western-style toilets available downstairs, which you will also share with the other families on this trip.
Sukau: During the project, you and your family will stay in a comfortable and authentically Bornean B&B located within walking distance of the centre of the village and the jetty - a wonderful opportunity for you to familiarise yourselves with a brand-new culture! Each bedroom can accommodate up to three people and also provides access to an en-suite bathroom. Please note that families of 3 or more may be split into 2 or more rooms depending on room structure and availability.
Sandakan: For your final night, you will stay in a comfortable room in the equivalent of a 3-star hotel in Sandakan town. Each private room can accommodate up to three people and comes with its own en-suite, complete with western toilets and hot-water showers.
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, chat with the children, and to see how the community has been living for centuries! If you or your children have any dietary requirements, we kindly ask that you let us know in advance so that the correct meals can be prepared for you during your stay.
While the work on this project is not necessarily difficult, there is an element of activity involved in reforestation. For this, you will need to kneel down in order to plant the saplings, and you must be able to work in a humid climate. Additionally, your family will embark on a trek which may cover tricky terrain. There are no specific skills required in order to join this project – all we ask is that you come with a willingness to learn and to get involved with conservation efforts!
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 the 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 Airport between 7am 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 45 minutes, and is included in your project fee.
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 your own responsibility.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Three meals per day
- All transfers
- Full orientation and support from your project facilitator
- Entrance fees to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre
- A donation to the project
What's not included?
- Travel insurance