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?
A major part of this project revolves around the creation of enrichment. This is the process of providing the animals with stimulating environments and activities designed to promote their natural behaviours, which in turn may enhance their potential for release. Enrichment can also be used to improve the quality of life for the animals at the centre, with existing ideas, such as puzzle feeders and bubbles, providing a sense of entertainment as well as mental and sensory stimulation.
Husbandry for the orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals is an important part of a day’s work at Matang. This activity includes feeding the animals and cleaning their enclosures – both essential elements of any wildlife centre. Be prepared to get your hands dirty, as this can be messy work!
Volunteers provide crucial support with maintenance at the centre, and without the added manpower, the project team would not be able to continue their conservation efforts in the way that they currently do. Whether you assist with painting, cleaning, varnishing or gardening, there is always work to be done!
Construction tasks allow the centre to continue to grow, and as a volunteer you may help to construct aviaries, enclosures, feeding platforms in the forest, boardwalks around the park, or even ranger stations in the national park. The more construction that is completed, the more animals the centre will be able to accept in the hope of rehabilitating and releasing as many of them as possible.
Over the past few years, volunteers have helped the project to create an organic farm in order to grow food for the animals, which in turn has boosted the centre’s sustainability. The team are determined to keep their produce organic, and therefore, you may spend some time tending to the farm. Please note, this is only an occasional activity and is not a guaranteed part of your itinerary.
Visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
During your time on the project, you will visit the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, which is home to a number of semi-wild orangutans that have either been orphaned or rescued from captivity. Whilst these animals now roam the forest freely, they do come back to feeding platforms twice a day, and it is here where you will hope to get a glimpse of them up close.
Free Time & Additional Activities
You will have two consecutive days off per week; this is likely to be a weekend, but it could vary depending on which day you start the project. You will most likely have travelled a long way to reach Borneo, so we always suggest taking advantage of any free time to explore the surrounding area! Whether you’re looking to unwind by the ocean or explore a little more of Kuching’s culture, there’s something for everybody – so why not see how you could spend your downtime by clicking here?
The below itinerary represents a typical 2 weeks on the project, though if you join the project for 4 weeks, days 14 and 15 will become days 28 and 29. There is also a 1-week option available for select start dates and the itinerary can be viewed by clicking here.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into Kuching Airport, Sarawak, you will be met by a member of the project team and transferred to the Basaga Guesthouse in Kuching. You will enjoy a welcome dinner in the evening, followed by an orientation with the project facilitator and your fellow volunteers.
Day 2 - Transfer To The Project:
After breakfast, your group will take a private transfer to Matang Wildlife Centre. After settling in, you will meet the rest of the project staff and take a full tour of the centre, where you will catch your first glimpse of the animals – including the orangutans!
Day 3-13 - Project Days:
This is where the project truly begins, and you will spend the next eleven days taking part in a range of activities from enrichment and husbandry to construction and maintenance. Two consecutive days each week are also free for you to relax or explore the local area and see more of what Borneo has to offer.
Day 14 - Fond Farewells:
This will be your final day on the project, and after taking part in one final activity at the centre, you will be transferred back to the Basaga Guesthouse. Here you can enjoy a swim in the pool and a warm shower before joining your group for a farewell dinner.
Day 15 - Final Day:
After saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers and the project team, you will be driven to the airport in time for your return flight home, or to continue with your independent travel plans. Wherever you are headed next, you can be sure to leave Borneo with a lifetime of unforgettable memories!
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 all available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project! Please note, the 7-night durations only take place on select dates throughout the year and often become fully booked up to 6 months in advance.
Updates & Outcomes
The main aim of The Great Orangutan Project is to work with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) towards sustainable orangutan populations in large, well-protected habitats to secure the long-term future of the species in Sarawak. The hope here is that these efforts will help to secure the long-term future of the species in the region. Additionally, your contribution to the project is vital for both the active work and funding that it provides to keep the centre open, which in turn provides a lifeline for many of Borneo’s endangered species.
The sanctuary’s team is made up of members of the local community, who are employed to work at the centre with both the animals and the volunteers. Everybody involved with the centre is dedicated to managing and promoting responsible tourism and volunteering experiences which work in the best interest of the environment and its wildlife, and by joining this project you will help to support these efforts.
- posted on 19/09/2018
- by Gaynor Pugh
Our volunteer Gaynor decided to visit Borneo with her two closest friends, but what she experienced she will never forget! Written by Gaynor herself, take a look at her very own diary from her time spent on the project. From her daily adventures and new experiences to her intriguing claim to fame!
Find out exactly what is involved with The Great Orangutan Project and what you can expect. Read about various daily activities, stimulating enrichment and husbandry for the many charming animals that call this project home. We're talking orangutans, sun bears and many more incredible species!
Want to find out how you can make a difference to the lives of the animals on The Great Orangutan Project? Read about future project plans, new enrichment activities including some beautiful blossoming friendships!
Is this trip for you?
Whilst on the project you will be staying in one of three authentic jungle chalets in the heart of the wildlife centre. Each chalet has two or three bedrooms, a communal living space, kitchen, bathroom and veranda area. There is a maximum of four to a house and rooms are allocated on a twin-share same sex basis (unless you are joining as a couple, in which case you will be accommodated together). Each room has fans and whilst there are showers there is no hot water, although a cold shower can be appreciated after a hot days work. The kitchens have basic appliances such as a gas hob, 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 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 chalets and an authentic Bornean experience!
On the first and final night, at the Basaga Holiday Residences, meals are provided in the restaurant. Vegetarian and vegan volunteers can also be catered for here.
Whilst at Matang Wildlife Centre, you will be responsible for preparing your own food in the kitchen of the chalet where you are staying. You can either cook for yourself or, as volunteers often do, take it in turns to cook for the rest of the group so you get a chance to taste everyone's home cuisine. 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! If you have special dietary requirements, these trips are particularly useful as you'll be able to choose suitable food for yourself!
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.
There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project and as such, the vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We, therefore, recommend that you consult your GP/Doctor regarding your own immunisation needs.
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?
As this project is based at a wildlife centre, there are orangutans, sun bears, and other animals here all year round, meaning there is no ‘best’ time to volunteer with regards to seeing wildlife.
However, the weather may 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, making February to October a preferable time to volunteer. The two weeks from December 19th and over the remainder of the Christmas period are particularly popular dates for our volunteers, so we would recommend booking early if you wish to travel at this time of year.
You will need to arrive into 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 at the Basaga Holiday Residences. A welcome dinner is held for you on the first night, giving you time to get to know your fellow volunteers and the project staff.
On the final day of your project, an airport transfer can be provided back to Kuching Airport if your flight departs between 6am and 8pm. Otherwise, you are free to commence your independent travel plans.
Most nationalities do not need to obtain a visa in advance of travelling to Malaysia, as a free 90-day visa is issued on arrival. Please note, however, that visas are of your own responsibility and that you should check your own requirements with your country’s embassy.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Food allowance
- Private transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- A donation to the project
What's not included?
- Travel insurance
- Visa (if required)
- Soft drinks or alcoholic beverages