On this project you will have the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of activities. Your main focus, however, will consist of providing enrichment and husbandry for the orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals. Additionally, you'll have time to explore the areas surrounding the project - so why not see how you could spend your downtime by clicking here?
Volunteers provide crucial help with maintenance on the project site, and without the added manpower, the in-country team would not be able to continue their conservation efforts in the way they currently do. You may help with painting, cleaning, varnishing and gardening. There is always work to be done!
Free Time & Additional Activities
You will receive two consecutive days off at the project; this is likely to be a weekend, but it could vary depending on which day you start the project. You will have most likely travelled a long way to reach Borneo, so we always suggest taking advantage of your free time to explore the surrounding area! Whether you're looking to unwind by the ocean or to explore a little more of Kuching's culture, there's something for everybody.
A major part of this project is creating enrichment. This is the process of providing the animals with stimulating environments and activities to encourage and promote natural behaviours. Enrichment enhances the potential for release as well as improving the lives of the animals at the centre. Enrichments have included anything from puzzles to bubbles!
Husbandry for orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals is an important part of a day’s work. This includes feeding the animals as well as cleaning the wildlife cages and enclosures - an essential part of any wildlife centre. Be prepared to get your hands dirty, as this can be messy work!
Small construction tasks allow the sanctuary to continue to grow, so as a volunteer could be helping to construct aviaries, gibbon cages, feeding platforms in the forest, boardwalks around the park and ranger stations in the national park. The centre is then able to accept more animals and hopes to be able to rehabilitate and release as many of them as possible.
Over the past few years, volunteers have helped create an organic farm to grow food for the animals and to enable the centre to become a more sustainable institution. The orangutan sanctuary is determined that the farm remain organic. Tending to the farm has, therefore, become an occasional job for volunteers, but it is not a guaranteed part of your itinerary.
The below itinerary is for a 2-week project. If you are joining for 4 weeks, day 14 will be day 28 and day 15 will be day 29. Please also note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive at Kuching Airport in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and will be met at arrivals by a member of the team. You will then transfer to Basaga Guest House in Kuching where in the evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with the project facilitator and your fellow volunteers.
Day 2 - Transfer to the project site:
After breakfast, you and the rest of your group will take a private transfer to the Matang Wildlife Centre. Here, after settling in, you will meet the project staff and take a full tour of the centre.
Day 3-13 - Project Days:
These days will include working with all of the animals at the centre, predominantly the orangutans and sun bears! The weekends on this project are kept free for you to explore the local area, so you can take in some of the amazing sights Borneo has to offer!
Day 14 - Fond Farewell:
This will be your last day at the project, so after a final morning of activities you will pack up and transfer back to the Basaga Guesthouse for your final night’s stay. A farewell dinner in the evening with the project staff and the other volunteers will take place this evening.
Day 15 - Departure:
You may have time for a lie in, depending on your flight time, before taking a private transfer to Kuching Airport for your return flight home or to continue your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 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
This projects overall goal is to work with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) towards genetically sustainable orangutan populations in large, well-protected habitats to secure the long-term future of the species in Sarawak. Your contribution is therefore vital for both funding and actively helping with the work undertaken at Matang Wildlife Centre.
The sanctuary's team is made up of members of the local community who are employed to work at the centre both with the animals and the volunteers. Volunteers focus on aiding the Matang Wildlife Centre through improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment and assisting with the on-going construction work, allowing the SFC to concentrate on rehabilitation and wider conservation efforts.
Everyone involved with the Matang Wildlife Centre is dedicated to managing and promoting truly responsible tourism and volunteering experiences that work in the best interests of the animals and environment - something The Great Projects is also passionate about.
We would like for you to get to know some of the animals at The Great Orangutan Project on a first name basis. By volunteering on this orangutan conservation project, you get to see all of these incredible species, provide them with a variety of stimulating enrichment activities, assist with construction tasks and more activities that give the animals at the sanctuary a happy life!
Here at The Great Projects, we love hearing about the wonderful experiences that our volunteers have on their wildlife adventures. We chatted to Erika, one of our recent volunteers on The Great Orangutan Project, to learn more about her time in the rainforest!
- posted on Mar 21, 2018
- by Bronwyn Browning
The project coordinator at The Great Orangutan Project recently got in touch to enlighten us about all the different types of enrichment that are used at the sanctuary and how much it benefits these great apes. Did you know, for example, that orangutans recycle certain types of enrichment to use in their own innovative ways?
Is this trip for you?
Matang Wildlife Centre provides ten houses for staff and volunteers to live in. Each house has two or three bedrooms, a communal living space, kitchen, toilet, shower and veranda area. There is a maximum of four to a house and rooms are based on twin-sharing. The houses have mains electricity and a fan in each room. There are also showers, but please be aware there is no hot water. As you will be self-catering on the project, there is a kitchen in each house with basic appliances such as a gas hob (two-ring burner), fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster.
These wooden houses are original structures from the construction of the centre in 1997. They are government owned and have undergone precious little maintenance over their years of wear and tear in the jungle. Please do not expect shiny, new and pristine lodgings – expect well-used, jungle cabins and an authentic Bornean experience!
On the first and final night at Basaga Guesthouse meals are provided in the restaurant.
Whilst at Matang Wildlife Centre you will be responsible for preparing your food and drinks in the kitchen of the house where you are staying. As part of the cost of the project you will receive a weekly allowance for food and water and weekly supermarket trips are also included!
The construction work undertaken on this orangutan project does involve physical labour, often in humid conditions, so does require you to have a moderate level of fitness. The other tasks, however, are not particularly strenuous, but a fair level of fitness is advised. You do not need any specific skills or experience, just a commitment to the project and its aims, the ability to work as part of a team and an upbeat, positive attitude towards the project and orangutan conservation.
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.
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. 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 wellbeing. 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 wellbeing 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.
When is the best time to volunteer?
As this project is based at a rehabilitation sanctuary there are orangutans, sun bears and other animals here year round. Regarding wildlife, there is no preferred time to volunteer.
Weather, however, can have an impact on your preferred travel dates. Whilst it can rain all year round due to it being a rainforest climate, the distinctive rainy season is between November and January. Therefore, generally, the best time to volunteer is between February and October. That being said, the 2 weeks from December 19th over the Christmas period is also very popular.
You will need to arrive at Kuching Airport on the start date of your project between 7am and 5pm. You will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall and transferred to your first night's accommodation. On the first night, a welcome dinner is held for you to meet your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators. Once you have booked this project we recommend that you start to research your flight options immediately as prices can vary wildly and they can become expensive closer to your departure date.
On the final day of your project, you will need to book a flight out of Kuching Airport, between 7am and 5pm or commence your independent travel plans.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
There is no visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia. Please do however check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is around 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR and 0.31 USD.
What's included in the price of the project?
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
- Private transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Activities on the project site
- Food allowance
What's not included?
- Any flights
- Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
- Visas if required
- Soft drinks and all alcoholic beverages
- Any additional trips undertaken other than in the planned itinerary