Family Volunteering in Borneo

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Travel to Borneo, and see how you can aid orangutan conservation whilst meeting indigenous tribes-people on this exciting wildlife safari!

Today’s children are becoming increasingly engaged with the world around them. Whilst many of us grew up watching cartoons without much to say, modern films and television shows often possess an important message at their core – and why shouldn’t they? After all, providing our children with an enjoyable way to learn about the environment and global cultures can certainly be valuable – and here at The Great Projects, we believe that your next family holiday could be another exciting way to discover!

By joining a family volunteer project in Borneo, you and your little ones will embark on the educational adventure of a lifetime. You will visit the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain Forest area of Borneo, home to the WWF-protected ‘Corridor of Life’: a region of tremendous importance in sustaining wildlife, from the iconic orangutan to the empathetic pygmy elephant. While these animals are indeed adorable, their homes have sadly been damaged or even lost as a result of deforestation, and without environmental intervention, they may not survive another generation. Under the guidance of a professional facilitator, you and your family will help to reforest these areas of depleted land, which in turn will provide a lifeline to many of Borneo’s most endangered species.

When you’re not out exploring the rainforest, you will have the unique opportunity to learn all about your environment from those who know it best: the Orang Sungai! Also known as the ‘People of the River’, the Orang Sungai will be your hosts for the majority of your time on the project, sharing not only their homes with you but their way of life too. This provides a fantastic opportunity for your children to learn about a culture different from their own and may have a positive impact on shaping their view of the world.

This project aims to provide a meaningful, educational experience for all involved; not only for you and your children but for the people and animals who call the rainforest home. So if you’re looking for a better way to holiday, then look no further than this family volunteer experience in Borneo.

Today’s children are becoming increasingly engaged with the world around them. Whilst many of us grew up watching cartoons without much to say, modern films and television shows often possess an important message at their core – and why shouldn’t they? After all, providing our children with an enjoyable way to learn about the environment and global cultures can certainly be valuable – and here at The Great Projects, we believe that your next family holiday could be another exciting way to discover!

By joining a family volunteer project in Borneo, you and your little ones will embark on the educational adventure of a lifetime. You will visit the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain Forest area of Borneo, home to the WWF-protected ‘Corridor of Life’: a region of tremendous importance in sustaining wildlife, from the iconic orangutan to the empathetic pygmy elephant. While these animals are indeed adorable, their homes have sadly been damaged or even lost as a result of deforestation, and without environmental intervention, they may not survive another generation. Under the guidance of a professional facilitator, you and your family will help to reforest these areas of depleted land, which in turn will provide a lifeline to many of Borneo’s most endangered species.

When you’re not out exploring the rainforest, you will have the unique opportunity to learn all about your environment from those who know it best: the Orang Sungai! Also known as the ‘People of the River’, the Orang Sungai will be your hosts for the majority of your time on the project, sharing not only their homes with you but their way of life too. This provides a fantastic opportunity for your children to learn about a culture different from their own and may have a positive impact on shaping their view of the world.

This project aims to provide a meaningful, educational experience for all involved; not only for you and your children but for the people and animals who call the rainforest home. So if you’re looking for a better way to holiday, then look no further than this family volunteer experience in Borneo.

Family Spot Pygmy Elephants whilst Volunteering in Borneo
Boat Trips
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.
Habitat Restoration on a Family Volunteering Project in Borneo
Habitat Restoration
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.
Family Jungle Trek in Borneo
Trekking
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
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!
School Interaction
School Interaction
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!
Orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
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.

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.

Duration Price
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Accommodation

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 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.

Meals & Beverages

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.

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

There is no specific 'best' time to join this project, as wildlife is visible all year round.

The weather is also quite constant throughout, with temperatures averaging 29-33°C (84-91°F) in the daytime and 24°C (75°F) at night. Whilst it can rain all year round due to it being a rainforest climate, the rainy season is typically between November and February, making March to October a popular time to volunteer.

Average Monthly Weather in Sandakan, Malaysia

Getting There

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.

Visa Requirements

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.

Fitness & Skills

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!

Vaccinations

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.

No Contact Policy

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.

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • 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

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Travel insurance
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987