This project offers you the chance to work on enrichment with captive orangutans and sun bears at the world renowned Samboja Lestari rescue centre.
Samboja Lestari is an area of restored tropical rainforest near the city of Balikipapan in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Established by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), the 2,000 hectare orangutan sanctuary here was created with the aim of providing a safe haven for rehabilitated orangutans, whilst at the same time providing a source of income for local people.
Since 2001, the surrounding area has been planted with more than a million trees covering more than 1000 different species. With the growth of the forest, the density and diversity of wildlife returned. So far 137 bird species and nine primate species have been recorded.
Several Forest Schools built here provide natural, educational playgrounds for the orangutans in which to learn forest skills before returning to cages to sleep at night. A new Clinic and Quarantine area has also been established as well as many new forest cages for larger orangutans and a Babies' Room for the little ones. Six orangutan islands have also been created to accommodate orangutans suffering chronic hepatitis B or other disabilities which prevent them from ever being released into the wild. What's more, there is an area designated solely to house a population of over 40 sun bears.
Your work as a volunteer on this project will be to help rehabilitate these orangutans and sunbears and help with enrichment, husbandry and general sanctuary upkeep. Each year since 2012 orangutans have been able to be released by the foundation and your work as a volunteer will help ensure more orangutans can continue to be released.
Your main activities whilst volunteering with orangutans at Samboja include husbandry, enrichment, forest plantation, maintenance and construction work for both the orangutans and the sun bears resident here. You will be treated as pseudo-staff whilst on the project, meaning full participation in all of the centre's work.
Please note your itinerary will depend on the requirements of the project and is subject to last minute changes due to weather or ground conditions.
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!
At Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary, one of Indonesia's most prestigious and renowned orangutan rehabilitation and rescue centres, and one of the main focal points of BOS ('The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation'), the emphasis is on the rehabilitation and release of orangutans, many of whom were rescued from atrocious situations. The overriding goal is to reintroduce orangutans back to secure natural habitats in order to establish new viable long-term populations to bolster the conservation of the species within the wild. A number of orangutans have been already been successfully released by BOSF so please keep an eye on our blog for any further release stories.
Sadly, some of the orangutans resident here cannot ever be released back into the wild because of injury or illness. For these orangutans, the sanctuary provides them with a safe haven where they can live out the rest of their lives away from the threat of deforestation and human destruction.
The sanctuary also includes a 58 hectare area put aside for the 50 + sun bears resident here which have all been rescued from the illegal pet trade or from areas of major deforestation.
We have received updates from the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project in Borneo about what the volunteers have helped achieve whilst out there. Take a look!
Accommodation during your time at Samboja will be within twin-share rooms at the Samboja Ecolodge where all of the interior and exterior walls are built out of recycled materials. Each room comes equipped with fully working air conditioning, mosquito nets and an en-suite bathroom with cold water and a western-style toilet. Please don’t worry about being too cold in the shower - as it is very hot and humid here all year round, you will probably welcome the respite!
You will have three meals per day provided for you whilst on this project. Breakfast is a variety of cereals, eggs and rice/noodle dishes alongside fruit and fresh fruit juice. Lunches and dinners are delicious and typically consist of noodles or rice with chicken, seafood, mutton or beef and vegetables. Tofu and Soy bean dishes are also provided for vegetarians. Each meal is a buffet.
The construction work undertaken on this project will involve physical labour, often in humid conditions, and so this requires a moderate level of fitness. The other tasks however are not particularly physically strenuous, but a fair level of fitness is advised. No specific skills or experience are required, just a commitment to the project and its aims, a passion for wildlife conservation, an ability to work as a team and an upbeat, positive attitude.
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(to check for TB) - or if you have previously had a BCG injection and can provide proof of this, that will be sufficient. Please can you either email a scanned copy of your vaccinations card and test results to firstname.lastname@example.org or upload them to your project account as soon as they have been completed.
This is ESSENTIAL, as without the above you will not be granted access to the volunteer areas on sites.
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 as a volunteer 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 need to fly into Balikpapan on the project start date between 9am - 5pm. Most volunteers travelling to the project will need to stop and change via Jakarta international airport (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport). There are numerous daily flights departing Jakarta for Balikpapan (Sultan Aji Muhamad Sulaiman Airport). Air Asia or Garuda are generally the cheapest. Once in Balikpapan, you will be met by a project representative who will then transfer you to Samboja. This drive takes approximately one hour.
Please note that if you arrive a day early, you will need to stay at a hotel in Balikpapan. Please speak to us if you would like any suggestions.
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.
Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Entry to Indonesia will be refused and airlines may not carry passengers holding passports with less than six months validity. You are required to retain your arrival card for presentation to Immigration upon your departure.
In order to join this project you will need a tourist visa. You will be able to get one of these on arrival into Indonesia, but please you may have to pay for this on arrival. The cost is currently $25 for a 30-day visa.
If you plan to stay longer than 30 days in Indonesia, you will need to arrange a 60 day tourist visa in advance. The cost for the 60 day visa can vary depending on which Indonesian embassy you are applying through.
We do advise that volunteers should check here to see if there are any specific requirements for their country of residence.
The currency of Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). As of June 2015, the exchange rate was £1 to IDR20,958. Please note that this is likely to fluctuate, so it is best to check XE's website for the most up to date exchange rates.
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.
I loved the whole week and wanted to stay (I think we all did). Possibly my favourite moment was clearing weeds from the moat around one of the islands, fully clothed, up to our chins in muddy water, throwing handfuls of weed on to the island and having them thrown back at us by the orangutans - wonderful! I would not change a thing. This was the most amazing experience, hard work and so rewarding. I really felt that the volunteers made a difference. Being close to such wonderful creatures was humbling and it was good to meet such lovely people, both those who worked for the project and the other volunteers. Really amazing, I can't think of a better word.
Alex Coode, 2016
The beautiful and unique individual personalities of the orangutans; the new friendships made; and the camaraderie in trying to make a difference - and not forgetting all the wonderful team at Samboja Lestari. So knowledgeable, informative, helpful and accommodating. Lot of work behind the scenes gave an air of complete professional competence - thank you Guys!
Sarah Thomas, 2016
This was a truly fantastic experience. It was well organised with a superb efficient site facilitator. We got to take part in close observation of the Orangutans and Sun Bears and help with their daily needs which was just so rewarding.
Graeme Bluett, 2016
Everything was excellent and I really enjoyed my time there. I wish there was a two-month program instead of one :D . Kate who coordinated the program was excellent and very approachable - so that made it even more fun and relaxed.
Sagar Sadarangani, 2016
My favourite memory was going on the boat around the orangutan islands at feeding time. I also got to see off five orangutans who were being released from Samboja Lestari.
Holly Dibden, 2016
My best memory from the trip was accidentally "happening" upon 3 released orang-utans in the nearby forest, and the release we were lucky enough to be around for on the 18th October 2016.
kate stewart, 2016
Straightforward, prolonged observation of the orangutans -- this throws up so many far-reaching questions about orangutans and us in a very direct and visceral way. That's not just me being pretentious: I think all of the volunteers experience something similar when they look into the eyes of an orangutan from a short distance away. Awesome, in the old-fashioned sense of the word -- not a term I use lightly.
Philip Mason, 2016
The minute you saw the orangutans, and when we were there they were doing an orangutan release! The excitement there was incredible.
Angela Wardle , 2016