- posted on 29/08/2019
- by Nicki Smith
Help to rehabilitate the largest number of captive orangutans in the world by volunteering at this orangutan sanctuary!
In the midst of Borneo’s tropical rainforest lies the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary. Founded by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) in 1999, this orangutan rehabilitation centre has become home to 393 orangutans, the largest number of captive orangutans in the world – and The Great Projects are proud to host the centre’s only volunteer programme.
The primary aim is to rehabilitate orphaned and displaced orangutans, including those who have fallen victim to habitat loss and the pet trade, with the ultimate goal of releasing as many of these orangutans back into the wild as possible.
In recent years, mass deforestation has taken place across Borneo to make way for agricultural development. Consequently, Borneo’s great apes have no choice but to wander far and wide in search of food and shelter – all too often straying into unsafe areas such as palm oil plantations, where they are killed or captured by humans. The incredible team at Nyaru Menteng have taken in as many of these orangutans as possible in the hope of providing them with a better future – but the time has come where they need your help.
By assisting with activities such as enrichment, you will help to stimulate the minds of the orangutans and enable them to learn the necessary skills they need to survive in the wild for years to come. You will also work with a number of the sanctuary's orangutans that, unfortunately, can never be released. Since 2012 the BOSF team have release nearly 300 orangutans back into the wild, and your efforts will help even more find their way home!
Below is an example of a typical two-week itinerary. Please note however, some activities may be subject to change during the time of your stay, as they are dependent on weather conditions and the requirements of the project at the time.
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, but please be aware, the volunteer program only runs between March and August.
Since its inception back in 1999, the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary has worked tirelessly towards orangutan conservation, and has developed one of the most renowned and successful rehabilitation and release programmes in the world. The orangutan release programme began back in 2012, when the sanctuary was home to some 600 orangutans – by 2018, a staggering 267 orangutans have been released into the local national park, and serve as to the project’s phenomenal efforts.
The hard work of BOSF and the sanctuary staff is plain to see: the rehabilitation of an orangutan can take up to 7 years, and with so many orangutans still resident at the sanctuary, the team’s efforts are impossible to ignore. The sanctuary carries out orangutan releases every 2-3 months, and rescue efforts take place regularly with at-risk orangutans being brought in for further protection. If the rescued orangutans are found to be in good health, the BOSF team will translocate the animals back into protected areas of rainforest, allowing them to resume their lives in the wild as normal; should they need further help, however, they will be brought to the sanctuary to be treated at the onsite clinic.
We are thrilled to be a part of this exciting conservation programme and look forward to seeing how our volunteers can continue to support the hard work undertaken at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary. Thanks to the team at the Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation, countless orangutan lives have improved over the years – become a part of the story by contributing your efforts as a volunteer!
As we go into our 5th month of running the volunteer project at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary, I want to look back over this time and some of the generous donations we have received from our fabulous volunteers and say a big thank you to them all.
Volunteers will stay in either an authentic longhouse, or one of two houses situated opposite in the jungle surroundings of the sanctuary's grounds. Rooms are based on a twin-share, same-sex basis with 1 double room available for couples at request. Each room comes complete with bed linen, a fan, and mosquito nets. All rooms have their own en-suite bathrooms, complete with a western toilet, shower, sink and mirror.
There is a kitchen and communal area in the longhouse, which is free for all volunteers to use. The communal area also has Wi-Fi available (at no additional cost), but please bear in mind that the signal can be sporadic. There is a free, regular cleaning service if you wish for your room to be tended to and there are also laundry services available, though these come at a small fee.
Volunteers enjoy three meals per day at the project, with all meals and drinking water included in the project fee. Your lunches and dinners will be prepared for you and will consist of typical Indonesian food, such as rice, noodles, and fried vegetables. Breakfast, however, is prepared by volunteers, but the food, such as cereal, yoghurt, bread for toast and eggs is supplied. Vegetarians can be catered for but please let us know in advance so the appropriate food can be purchased.
Alcohol is permitted and beer can be purchased at the sanctuary but may only be consumed at the volunteer accommodation. Snacks are not currently available onsite, but they can be purchased from a small local store which is a 15 minutes walk from the accommodation.
There is a moderate level of fitness required to take part in this project. There may be small construction tasks that will take place in humid conditions, as well as short walks which involve walking uphill. The other tasks are not too physically strenuous, but for the reasons mentioned above we advise that you ensure you can cope with the few physically demanding tasks involved. There are no specific skill sets or experience that are required to join this project, but volunteers must always be willing to work as part of a team.
To volunteer here you must have Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccinations, as well as an HIV and HCV test (to check for Hepatitis C) before arrival. A chest x-ray or skin test will need to be provided to prove that you do not have Tuberculosis. Alternatively, if you have previously had a BCG injection and can provide proof of this, that will also suffice.
This is ESSENTIAL, as without the above you will not be granted access to the volunteer areas on site.
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 always will 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. Also, an environment of constant change, with new volunteers going to the project every two or 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 the tendency to begin to trust humans which is 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 safety as theirs.
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 to the lives of these apes. For more information, please view our article on hands-on contact with orangutans here.
This project runs between March and August, which avoids the rainy season and as it is based at a rehabilitation sanctuary, there are orangutans here year round, so there is no real preferred time to volunteer.
You will need to fly into Palangkaraya Airport on your project start date, arriving between 8am - 5pm, with most international flight routes going via Jakarta International Airport (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport). Upon arrival into Palangkaraya Airport, you will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall who will then transfer you to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary. This transfer takes approximately 40-minutes.
If you arrive a day early, and stay in a hotel close to Palangkaraya Airport, we will be able to arrange your transfer to Nyaru Menteng from there.
To join this project, you will need a tourist visa, which you can get on arrival in Indonesia. The cost for this visa is approximately US$35.
If you plan to stay in Indonesia for longer than 30 days, you can get a 30-day tourist visa on arrival and then extend your visa for a further 30 days by taking a trip to an embassy while in-country. Alternatively, it is possible to arrange a 60-day social/cultural visa in advance of your arrival and we can provide you with the correct documents to support your application.
We advise that you speak to the embassy in your country to see if there are any requirements for travel. Please note that your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months from your date of entry into Indonesia.
My favourite moment was when the young 'orangies' came back after Jungle School and we were able to watch them all playing on the 'Jungle Gym' we had made for them - they were having a great time playing on the swings, the slide and the sandpit, it was magical to see. I'd always dreamed of seeing Orangutans - you were able to deliver my dream...... and then some. Just to say thank you to Chloe, our co-ordinator and Andri her colleague. They were brilliant in organising everything and were a wealth of knowledge. Our group was fab too, really good fun. Apart from seeing the Orangutans - I enjoyed the 'enrichment activities', putting together the activity materials and then being able to watch the 'orangies' engage with them. I was very impressed and moved by the passion and commitment the staff at the sanctuary demonstrate in their efforts to help these animals and also the conservation activities where we were involved in planting trees. My dream has ended for the time being but the memories..... wow, I'll always have them. Thank you.
Nicki Smith, 2019
What impressed me so much about Nyaru Menteng was the ambitious scale of the work, with so many orangutans to attend to in the nursery, forest school, pre-release islands and so forth. The staff manage this with great efficiency, enthusiasm and dedication, but as a volunteer, it was very satisfying being able to provide additional enrichment and help to the orangutans and sun bears. I did feel that I was doing something genuinely useful. I cannot imagine anyone not being fascinated and delighted to watch the young orangutans winding down after a hard day in forest school. and the boat trip to the pre-release islands is the closest most of us will ever get to seeing orangutans under natural conditions.
Philip Mason, 2019
I would like to give a big thank you to everyone at The Great Projects. With special thanks to my travel consultant Hannah and the volunteer coordinators Chloe and Andri. Chloe is an incredible person who's energy and enthusiasm brought the group of volunteers together into an outstanding team. It is so hard to pick just one favourite memory, as the entire trip was just such an enriching and rewarding experience. The memories of which I will treasure forever. I particularly enjoyed both of our boat trips, when we got to spend time observing and learning about the behaviours of the orangutans out on the pre-release islands. The water enrichment with the orangutans at Nyaru Menteng 2 was also a highlight, as it allowed us to get to know their individual personalities. And seeing the babies playing after their day at jungle school was incredibly entertaining. Being so close to the personalities I watched and loved on Orangutan Jungle School was completely surreal!
Natasha Harcourt, 2019
All in all, it was a fantastic and interesting experience seeing all the passionate people caring for the orangutans and being part of it! One of my favourite moments was definitely watching the babies in their playground after coming back from forest school. But it was not even less worthy watching the adults and how they enjoyed the enrichment we provided - unbelievable how gentle these powerful giants are, licking jam from farn leaves without damaging them!
Birgit Werner, 2019
Being able to take a ride on the BOSF bus which was featured in Orangutan jungle school, was a real privilege for me. There are too many favourite moments to pick out just one as the time I spent at Nyaru Menteng was breathtaking! To see how hard BOSF works to help orangutan survival is truly humbling. The program would not have been complete without Chloe - and Andri - the volunteer coordinators. They are both amazing individuals who exceeded my expectations in their help, dedication and knowledge. The enrichment team were so welcoming and included us fully in their tasks. Wonderful people, wonderful dedication and a truly magical month.
Deborah Gaunt, 2019
My favourite moment was the water enrichment with the Big Boys. I will never forget Farudz - that enormous, magnificent orang-utan - accepting water (in a hose) from me, and washing his face in his cupped hand. Unbelievable! Unforgettable! I feel so privileged.
Joanna Bambi Smyth, 2019
It is a wonderful trip. The Sanctuary is truly inspirational- the team there are so dedicated to the protection and ongoing survival of the incredible Orangutans with the ultimate objective of releasing them back into the wild. The trip is hard work, it’s hot, humid and conditions challenging but oh so worth while. I urge you to book onto the Nyaru Menteng Project and experience for yourself this life changing adventure and opportunity to make a really important contribution to the lives of the wonderful Orangutans.
Julie Chivers, 2019
Creating enrichment for hundreds of orangutans was an experience like no other. Seeing the baby orangutans play after school was a real highlight of the trip and seeing the orangutans on the pre-release islands was a privilege. It's really great to know that the work you do is making a real difference.
Ryan Browne, 2018
If you have any questions about this project or would like help finding the perfect project for you then please feel free to give us a call or send us through your enquiry and we will be happy to help.
Nikita & team.