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 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. Existing enrichment includes anything from puzzle feeders 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!
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!
Small construction tasks allow the sanctuary to continue to grow, so as a volunteer you could be helping to construct aviaries, gibbon enclosures, 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.
Visit Semmengoh Wildlife Centre
During your time on the project, you will visit the Semmengoh 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 each day for a free meal, 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 at the project per week; 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 explore a little more of Kuching's culture, there's something for everybody.
Please note, itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline. The below itinerary is for a 2-week project and if you are joining for 4 weeks, day 14 will be day 28 and day 15 will be day 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:
You will arrive into Kuching Airport in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and be met at arrivals by a member of the team. You will then transfer to the Basaga Guesthouse 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:
After breakfast, you and the rest of 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, meeting all of the resident animals, including the orangutans!
Day 3-13 - Project Days:
During these days, you’ll be involved in work with all of the animals at the centre but predominantly the orangutans and sun bears (see the ‘Activities’ tab for an idea of what you’ll be up to). Additionally, two consecutive days each week are free for you to relax or explore the local area and see more of what Borneo has to offer.
Day 14 - Fond Farewell:
This will be your final day on the project, and after a final activity in the morning, you will transfer back to the Basaga Guesthouse. Here you can enjoy a swim in the pool and a warm shower before joining a farewell dinner with the rest of your group and the project staff.
Day 15 - Final Day:
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. Wherever you're headed, you can be sure to be walking away 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 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 interest 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!
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. Therefore, regarding seeing 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 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. On the first night, a welcome dinner is held for you to meet your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators.
On the final day of your project, you will need to book a flight out of Kuching Airport, between 6am and 8pm 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.
Most nationalities do not need to obtain a visa in advance of travelling to Malaysia, as a 90-day tourist visa is issued on arrival. We do, however, recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Private transfers to and from the airport
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Activities at the project site
- Food allowance
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
What's not included?
- Any flights
- Travel insurance
- Visa if required
- Soft drinks or alcoholic beverages