With the largest number of orangutans in the world living under the care of a single organisation, the team try their hardest to provide the animals with the most stimulating enrichment as possible. Enrichment, being the backbone of this project, helps the orangutans maintain their forest school skills which are vital in order for them to be released. As a volunteer, you’ll be a part of this important process by helping the on-site team collect, prepare, create and distribute all different types of enrichment to the orangutans. There’s no greater feeling than seeing a great ape interact with something you’ve made!
To start your volunteering journey, you'll embark on a river cruise around the spectacular orangutan islands to catch your first glimpse of the great apes. The orangutans spend time on these islands prior to their release and are given the space to put their forest skills (acquired through the rehabilitation programme) to the test. This will be a great opportunity for you to learn a little more about the project and the many successful releases BOSF have undertaken, as well as learning about some of the characters on the islands!
Sun Bear Care
There might be a multitude of orangutans at the centre, but let's not forget about the gorgeous sun bears resident at the sanctuary too! There are no specific keepers for the bears here, so it's important that the project staff and volunteers pull together to contribute to the sun bears care. Please note: the bears are due to move to the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project in July 2019.
After spending much of your volunteer experience creating enrichment for the orangutans, you'll have the opportunity to get back to boating around the pre-release islands. This activity will really highlight what you've been helping to work towards! Here you’ll be able to observe the orangutans behaving naturally and freely, and witness first-hand the value of BOSF's work - alongside that of you and your fellow volunteers. This is the perfect picture opportunity for any photography enthusiasts!
You will take a trip to a local hilltop called Bukit Tangkiling, where you will be able to take in the stunning views of the surrounding area. You will walk up a steep hillside where you will see many traditional Dayak buildings and shrines along the way, learning about their indigenous religion as you go. While there are no longer any traditional tribal people living in the area, the locals still have fascinating customs with regards to religion and burials.
On one evening you will take a trip to a traditional local night market which is the perfect opportunity to really experience how the people here live. Given its lack of tourists, you will have the chance to interact with the locals, explore souvenir stalls and taste some unique local cuisine! Most of the local people in the area come here to purchase their groceries amongst other things, so this really is a great insight into Indonesian life.
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.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will fly into Palangkaraya Airport where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary. Upon arrival, you will be able to settle into your accommodation and meet your fellow volunteers. In the evening, you'll have dinner before being given a full orientation by the volunteer coordinator.
Day 2 - Orangutan Islands:
After breakfast, your morning will begin with an incredible river cruise around the orangutan islands. Here you will have the chance to see the orangutans that are in the final stage of rehabilitation before their eventual release. After lunch, you will take part in your first enrichment activity for the orangutans.
Day 3 - Orangutan Enrichment:
In the morning you could be preparing food for some of the 393 orangutans who reside at the sanctuary, including those with special dietary requirements or collecting bamboo to create enrichment for the orangutans. After lunch, you'll head out to collect materials for the orangutans to build their nests with!
Day 4 - Orangutan and Sun Bear Enrichment:
Today you will create enrichment for both the orangutans and sun bears. Whilst we have specific enrichment items we often create and give to the animals, we are always open to new ideas, so this is your chance to be creative. Some previous volunteers' ideas are still used today, so this is also a great chance to leave your mark!
Day 5 - Bukit Tangkiling:
In the morning you will work on food preparation or enrichment for the orangutans before heading to Bukit Tangkiling after lunch. Here you will embark on a hilltop trek to take in the scenery and learn a little about the local history and culture.
Day 6 - Babies at Play:
After breakfast, your group will split into two to work on either enrichment or husbandry before an afternoon you will never forget. After collecting nesting materials you'll head over to the baby playground to watch the young orangutans return from their day in jungle school!
Day 7 - Relax and a Visit to the Night Market:
Today is Saturday, so take the day to enjoy your free time as you please! In the evening, the whole group will head to a traditional local night market, where you will get a real taste of Indonesian culture…and of course the incredible food! This is also the perfect opportunity for buying souvenirs.
Day 8 - Orangutan Enrichment and a Trip to Town:
Every two weeks the volunteers travel into the local town to purchase items for enrichment making. You'll sit down for a lunch in town before visiting a nearby tourist market. Once finished, you'll make your way back to the volunteer house to enjoy dinner with your group.
Day 9 - Reforestation and Orangutan Enrichment:
In the morning you will take part in vital reforestation work around the sanctuary in areas that have been affected by many things, including forest fires. In the afternoon, your group will be split into two to work on either enrichment or collecting nesting materials for the orangutans.
Day 10 - Another Orangutan Day:
After splitting into two groups, alternating between creating and distributing enrichment and husbandry in the morning, you'll have another incredible opportunity to watch the young orangutans play after their day in jungle school. You will definitely want your camera for this!
Day 11-12 - Orangutan Observation:
On these days, you will get back into the boats to enjoy orangutan observation! You will work on daily enrichment tasks before venturing out to the orangutan islands to watch these beautiful apes in their semi-wild conditions. This rewarding experience will really highlight what you've been working towards!
Day 13 - Final Day:
Sadly, your final day at the project has arrived. Enjoy a lie-in this morning before packing your things and bidding farewell to the project staff, your new-found friends and of course, the animals! You will then transfer back to the airport for your flight home, or to commence your onward 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, but please be aware, the volunteer program only runs between March and August.
Updates & Outcomes
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.
- posted on 26/04/2019
- by Bambi Smyth
From a connection with a dominant male orangutan to watching the babies play after jungle school, volunteer Bambi tells all about her time at the Nyaru Orangutan Menteng Sanctuary in a guest blog!
Find out what Kim, Lucy and Ryan had to say about their time volunteering on the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary Project! Hear about their highlights in this review video.
Is this trip for you?
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.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
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.
What's Included In The Price Of The Project?
- Three meals per day
- Airport transfers
- River cruise
- Hilltop trek
- Visit to the night market
- Conservation donation
What's Not Included?
- All flights
- Alcohol and soft drinks