This programme is designed to support International Animal Rescue by providing help at their orangutan rehabilitation centre in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, by way of the activities listed below. Please note that these activities are not guaranteed, and that your time at the centre may vary from what is described below.
You will work at IAR’s wildlife conservation and rescue centre in Ketapang on an array of tasks, which will vary depending on what is most necessary at the time. Activities may vary from helping to erect fences, to building walkways for members of staff and other volunteers to use. You may also work on the construction of feeding platforms for the centre's younger orangutans, among other tasks put in place to aid the animals at the centre.
Borneo's humid climate means that certain structures (such as enclosures, boardwalks and towers) require constant upkeep - add to that the boisterous nature of some of the orangutans, it comes as no surprise that maintenance is such a vital and common task at the centre! Your involvement here could entail anything from repainting buildings to repairing enclosures damaged by the apes, to name but a couple of possibilities - no matter what this task entails, it is certainly necessary, so be prepared to be flexible and to put in hard work.
Enrichment is key to keeping the orangutans at the centre stimulated, and you will be involved in the process of making enrichment for the apes. These activities help to promote natural behaviours in the orangutans, drastically enhancing their potential for release. This activity may include setting up hammocks, ropes, and swing tires for the orangutans to play with, as well as using natural materials (such as leaves and bamboo) to create fun puzzles stuffed with fruits and nuts. This is one of the most important and enjoyable activities at the centre and will help to keep the animals active and entertained!
Farming and Planting
To help keep the food bills down, the centre is growing its own local produce to help feed the orangutans. You will take part in organic farming activities during your time here, including planting fruit trees and harvesting vegetables.
Due to the wildfires of 2015, tens of thousands of hectares of forest were affected. International Animal Rescue has been working on various reforestation initiatives to replant lost segments of forest and restore important orangutan habitat, carrying out work alongside local communities who have an important relationship with the forest. IAR plans to plant thousands of trees and this work is a fabulous way for volunteers to get involved. There are few more tangible contributions that you can make to secure the long-term survival of the orangutan than planting a tree.
On your day off each week, you will have the opportunity to explore other areas of Ketapang such as Hutan Kota, a natural park where you may spot proboscis monkeys! There are also local beaches where you can watch the sunset whilst enjoying a relaxing drink from a coconut. The town of Ketapang has markets, numerous shops, and a Buddhist temple– why not explore some of the local culture?
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is only a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive in to Ketapang Airport in West Kalimantan, where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the volunteer house which will be your home for the duration of the project. Get to know your fellow volunteers over a welcome dinner, undertake an orientation with the project staff, and settle in for the night – you have a busy day ahead!
Day 2-10/21 - Project Days:
During this time, you will be working six days a week between the hours of 9am and 4pm (with Saturdays as a ‘half day.’) You will undertake an array of activities as listed in the previous section of this page, however much of your work will involve construction and maintenance. Your tasks will be determined by necessity, with itineraries varying from month to month due to the unpredictable nature of the project. Sundays will be spent at leisure.
Day 11/22 - Final Day:
This will be your final full day at the project site, and after saying goodbye to the orangutans you will enjoy a farewell dinner with your group. Make sure to get plenty of rest in preparation for your journey home!
Day 12/23 - Transfer to Ketapang:
Today is your last day, and you will take a private transfer to Ketapang Airport for your return flight home, or to commence your onward independent travel plans.
Updates & Outcomes
During the 11 years that the IAR Ketapang centre been running, there have been a number of successes alongside a series of difficulties which have impacted the project. While the project has managed to expand dramatically in size (a 20% increase of land was obtained in 2017 alone), the necessity for more islands and better facilities has become urgent due to the masses of orangutans left homeless as a result of 2015’s wildfires. Despite these difficulties, however, the sanctuary have managed to rescue 170 orangutans since opening their doors, releasing a further 40 orangutans as part of their release programme. It is this programme which the project is keen to focus on, as they are systematically reintroducing the animals to the wild.
Of course, the project’s mission does not end there. They are actively encouraging volunteers to get involved with reforestation activities in the area, working in tandem with the local communities to benefit the areas around their homes. Finally, the project is in the process of building an education centre which will eventually be used to host lectures and house students, enabling visitors to the centre to learn more about the importance of conservation and how they can make a difference. Activities such as this one simply would not be attainable without the help of volunteers: without time spent working at the project site on the construction and maintenance of enclosures, climbing structures and more, IAR would find it much more difficult to focus their attention on helping the orangutans, either in the immediate future (via rescue, rehabilitation and release) and the distant future by way of educating locals, and teaching them how to live in harmony with the rainforest and its inhabitants.
- posted on 13/02/2018
- by Ellie Hutchin
The IAR Orangutan Project had an extremely busy, but extremely successful January! They released multiple animals, treated those out in the field and more! Check out just what they've been up to during their endeavours to aid wildlife conservation in Borneo, and to see how you can help this orangutan conservation project!
- posted on 27/12/2017
- by Leanne Sturrock
From orangutan rescue to environmental disasters, 2017 has been fraught with heartwrenching stories about nature. Read on to learn about some of the stories from our own projects, as well as those from elsewhere around the globe.
Thinking of joining the IAR Orangutan Project? Now is the perfect time to get involved in orangutan conservation. Check out today's blog to see how our volunteers have been helping out on the project recently!
Is this trip for you?
Throughout the duration of the project, you will be accommodated in a rented property located around 30 minutes’ drive from the orangutan centre. The house will be shared with your fellow volunteers, meaning that the kitchen and bathrooms are also shared. Bathrooms are comprised of the traditional drop-toilets, and you will have basic washing amenities in the form of a container of cold water and a scoop to pour the water over yourself. While these facilities are basic, they are practical, and the cold water of the washing facilities will come as a bit of a relief in the humid atmosphere!
Each volunteer will have their own bedroom equipped with linens and pillows, but we do recommend that you bring your own towel for use when freshening up. There is WiFi in the house, but power cuts do happen so be sure to bring a range of entertainment with you!
You will be provided with two meals per day, Monday to Saturday. Please note that breakfast will be at your own cost, but there are shops in the nearby towns for you to pick up essentials such as cereals and bread. Lunch and dinner are pre-prepared for you by the project staff and can be tailored to your needs – please download your free project guide to learn more about this!
On Sundays, no food will be prepared for you by the project staff, so we recommend paying a visit to one of the great restaurants in town and getting a taste of the local culture!
Most of your work here will involve physical labour, so we ask that all volunteers have a relatively high level of fitness. You will be on your feet a lot during your time here, and temperatures are very hot and humid, so please make sure that you stay well-hydrated and are aware of the amount of effort expected from you! A positive mental attitude is key, as is your ability to work well as part of a team.
The vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website. The Great Projects are not qualified to provide you with medical advice.
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. In addition to this, an environment of constant change, with new volunteers going to the project every four weeks and being in contact with the orangutans would be very detrimental to the orangutans' well-being. With no consistency in their lives, behavioural problems arise. They also have a tendency to begin to trust humans which could be damaging should they be released back into the wild, as they will become easy targets for poachers. Finally, an orangutan is around 7 times stronger than an adult male human, so a 'no contact' policy is just as crucial for your well-being as orangutan welfare.
That is not to say that you will have no interaction with the orangutans; it simply means that you will have no direct contact with them. You will still observe them on a daily basis and see how your contribution to their husbandry and enrichment makes a real difference in these great apes' lives. For more information please view our article on hands-on contact with orangutans here.
What is the best time to volunteer?
Since this project is based at a rehabilitation sanctuary, you can expect to see orangutans year-round. Weather may play a role in booking your preferred date, but please note that temperatures are relatively consistent and that it can rain all year round. The distinct ‘rainy season’ falls between November and January, but it is important to remember that the orangutans need year-round care, no matter what the weather.
You will need to arrive into Ketapang Airport on the start date of your project between 7am and 5pm. Here, a project representative will meet you in the arrivals hall before transferring you to the volunteer house. Please ensure that your flights are booked during the times stated, as there is a ‘welcome dinner’ in the evening which you do not want to miss! The easiest way to get to Ketapang is travelling via Jakarta (with a change over in Pontianak).
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flight page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Entry to Indonesia will be refused and airlines may not carry passengers holding passports with less than six months validity. You are required to retain your arrival card for presentation to immigration upon your departure.
In order to join this project, you will need a tourist visa. You will be able to get one of these on arrival into the country of Indonesia, but please note that you may have to pay for this on arrival at Ketapang Airport. Visas are of the volunteer's own responsibility.
If you plan to stay longer than 30 days in Indonesia, you will need to arrange a 60-day tourist visa in advance. The cost for the 60-day visa can vary depending on which Indonesian embassy you are applying through.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah. 1 IDR is approximately 0.00006 GBP, 0.00009 USD and 0.00007 EUR. Please check www.xe.com for live exchange rates.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Airport transfers
- Overland transportation
- Accommodation and meals as indicated
- All volunteering activity equipment
- Local guides
- English speaking project leader
- Conservation donation
What's not included?
- All flights and visas
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages