Volunteer with Orangutans on this award-winning Orangutan project at Matang Wildlife Centre in beautiful Borneo
This project, which was our flagship project is now a multi-award-winning orangutan volunteer project based at Matang Wildlife Centre. Here you can get involved with the conservation and protection of one of the world's most fascinating and enchanting species – the Bornean orangutan.
Due to mass deforestation, mining and forest fires, the habitat of the area's orangutans is depleting and under constant threat. As a consequence, the species is increasingly endangered. The Matang Wildlife Centre is a refuge for orangutans which have been left injured, orphaned or have been rescued, usually as a direct result of these threats. The centre works tirelessly to reverse this trend in a number of ways and is thoroughly enriched by the involvement of volunteers.
As a volunteer on this project you will enjoy the incredible rainforest surroundings of Kubah National Park as your backyard, and work as part of a team alongside the local facilitators to aid the centre through improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment for the orangutans and assisting with construction tasks. This allows the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (who manage the centre which is owned by the Sarawak government) to concentrate on the rehabilitation of the orangutans and the centre's other animals.
Taking part in this project allows you to actively participate in the efforts of the impressive Matang Wildlife Centre and its fantastic team and help to improve the lives of the orangutans; all whilst working towards their future protection.
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.
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.
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!
This Projects' overall goal is to work with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation 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 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.
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 feature mains electricity and a fan in each room. There are also showers, but please be aware there is no hot water. These are self-catered with basic kitchen 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 in which 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, and so requires you to have a moderate level of fitness. The other tasks however are not particularly physically 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 a 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.
You will need to arrive at Kuching Airport on the start date of your project between 7am and 5pm, where you will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall and transferred by road to your first nights accommodation. On the first night there is a welcome dinner where you will meet all of 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 get expensive the closer you get 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 feel free to contact our flight partners via our flights page.
There is no visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia. Please do however check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information.
The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is around 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR and 0.31 USD.
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.
My favourite moment was when one of the orangutans Sandi, managed to get hold of the hose when cleaning out the enclosures; she was sat there washing herself and when the water was turned off started looking into the tube then trying to shake water out. She also threaded the hose through the cage to stop us getting it back and was very cunning when it came to bribery attempts when she would never quite let go but still managed to grab her treat. You could see how very clever she was and got a sense of her personality which is a little bit mischievous.
Far too many amazing memories, I was surprised how much I fell in love with the Sun Bears especially Karmele, she touched my heart. How intelligent & funny the Orangutan's are & my favourite moment was trekking into the jungle to witness 4 juvenile Orangs climbing freely in the trees in the jungle as part of their rehab programme.
Marsha Warden, 2015
For me, my favourite part was the whole experience! It would be far too difficult to choose an isolated favourite moment. The work routine, the group we had, the wonderful excursions we went on over weekends and other days off - it was all fabulous. The thing I will cherish most was the connections with the animals made and the incredible people working there - both staff and long term volunteers. I cannot wait to go back. I wouldn't have left if I didn't have another destination to go to after. Thank you to everyone at Matang!
Krista Jackson, 2014
Wow! What an amazing trip. Exhausting and hard work, but has given us something to think and talk about. Thank you so much for all of the care that you put into this trip for us. It was something special.
Lisa Dostine, 2013
I can’t actually think of one favourite moment as I enjoyed the whole experience. Being able to work so closely with the orangutans was a truly amazing experience, they are such special, intelligent animals and I loved every minute of my time there.
Jennifer Ravat, 2013
This summer I spent 4 weeks volunteering at the Orangutan Project at Matang Wildlife Centre in Malaysian Borneo. I was part of a fantastic team and we worked hard - scrubbed, hosed, fed, painted, mixed some concrete - but seeing projects, small and large, progressing and in some cases being completed was hugely rewarding. Watching the animals benefit from our work and witnessing the dedication of the full time orangutan project staff made me feel very privileged to be part of the team - even for a short time. I have already booked again for next year…I can’t wait!
Sinead O'Mahoney, 2013
It was wonderful to work so closely with the orangutans and get to know their characters and individuals. My month at Matang is honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had and would recommend it to anyone who loves wildlife and wants to do something to help orangutans.
Deborah McCracken, 2013