The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project

Explore Borneo's lush rainforest in search of wild orangutan and the rare pygmy elephant.

From £1,295.00

  • Up to 12 Persons
  • All Meals Included
  • 11 Nights
  • Orangutans
  • 21st of every month
  • Minimum Age 18 (Or From 16 Years Old With An Adult)

Project Details


On this project, you will work with both the local community and the local wildlife.

Boat Trips
Boat Trips
The principal focus of the project is to work towards the conservation of the orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo. By monitoring their numbers and patterns, you will be able to help the project team to understand the successes of their efforts. Cruise along the main river and its tributaries, keeping your eyes peeled for the wildlife species roaming along the river banks, and snapping some great pictures along the way!
As well as observing the wildlife via boat, you will also embark on numerous treks, allowing you to learn more about Sabah’s rainforests. Study endemic flora, observe native fauna, and take the time to appreciate the verdure of this spectacular habitat.
The local environment has suffered greatly over the years as a result of logging and deforestation. The area needs to be reforested if there are to be any hopes of wildlife species thriving here, and a major part of your time volunteering will be spent planting trees. The project aims to plant thousands of trees per year, so get involved and help make a difference to the lives of orangutans, elephants and more.
Spending Time With The 'Orang Sungai'
Spending Time With The 'Orang Sungai'
As a volunteer, you will also work with the local community, living alongside them on the riverbank. In exchange for them opening up their homes, you will spend time educating the community, providing them with economic motivation for conservation. Teach them about the value of their local wildlife, encouraging them to take on sustainable ways of living.
Work With The Local School Children
Work With The Local School Children
As well as educating the local communities, you may also have the opportunity to work with local school children, teaching them about the importance of conservation in their home environment and instilling a more sustainable, conscious mindset – after all, these children are the future of the local community!
Visit To Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Visit To Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
During the project, you will witness both wild and rehabilitated orangutans, gaining an understanding of the processes of releasing them back into the wild. Towards the end of your stay, you will pay a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, home to captive orangutans who may be in the earlier stages of their rehabilitation, or in need of sanctuary care for the rest of their lives. This visit will emphasise the necessity for projects like this one, leaving a lasting impression on all volunteers.


Please note that itineraries are subject to change, and what follows is simply a rough guideline.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive at Sandakan International Airport (SDK) and then be transferred to temporary accommodation, where you will have a welcome dinner and introduction. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to get to know you your fellow volunteers, but be sure to rest up as you have a busy day tomorrow!
Day 2 - Transfer to Sukau Village:
Enjoy a brief lie-in before heading over to Sukau Village and settling into your accommodation in twin-share rooms in the village B&B. You will also get the chance to meet some of the local villagers and explore the area, and today you will be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Sukau Village.
Day 3-10 - Project Days:
This will be the time in which you will engage in a range of volunteer activities, from river-cruise data collection and habitat restoration, to partaking in the village education programme. For more information on the activities you be doing, please click the activities tab.
Day 11 - Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary:
Today you will depart Sukau and transfer to Sandakan. On the way, you will stop at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to view the morning feeding session. After lunch, you will visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre before heading back to Sepilok for the afternoon feeding session. After a busy day, you will check into your accommodation in Sandakan for the night and enjoy a farewell dinner with your group.
Day 12 - Final Day:
This is your final day, which means that it is, unfortunately, time to say goodbye to all of your new friends! You will check out of your accommodation and transfer to Sandakan Airport for your return flight, or to commence 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!

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.

*Rates other than GBP are estimates based on today's exchange rates. All payments are made in GBP.

Updates & Outcomes

Located in Sabah, Borneo, this project is situated in an area of rainforest which has unfortunately undergone a great deal of threat over the years, leaving much of the wildlife here vulnerable: logging activities and the prevalence of palm oil plantations have, in recent times, left countless animals without protection – similarly affected, however, are the tiny communities which call the forests home.

The project has worked hard not only to reforest the vital ‘Corridor of Life’, but to encourage the local ‘Orang Sungai’ to live in harmony with their surroundings, speaking with members of the community to educate them on the importance of conservation. This can be observed most clearly in our volunteers’ efforts with the youngest members of the community: by visiting local schools and working with the children there, the project aims to instil a sense of responsibility into their young minds, as well as a sense of respect for their surrounding environments. These young children will someday grow to be the guardians of the rainforest, and should we wish for Borneo’s threatened wildlife to survive, we must work with the region’s inhabitants to make this possible.

The main goal of this project, of course, is to see wildlife species returning to the ‘Corridor of Life’, and so far, the efforts of the project seem to have had some success. With an aim to plant over 2000 new trees annually, the work here is difficult – but the rewards are inspiring. The project has, in recent times, seen impressive numbers of orangutans and elephants returning to the area, and it is hoped that this continue perseverance shall result in thriving forests for years to come. The project has indeed managed to succeed in their goal of planting such a huge number of trees, with over 2500 saplings being planted in 2017 alone!

Which Orangutan Project Is Right For Me?

Which Orangutan Project Is Right For Me?

  • posted on Aug 21, 2018
  • by Leanne Sturrock

Which orangutan project is right for you? With conservation projects this good, it's sometimes hard to pick out the trip that you'll love the most. But worry not - we're here to help!

Read More

Is this trip for you?



Your time on this project will be spent staying in three different accommodations: a dormitory-style accommodation on your first night at the project (complete with warm showers and western toilets); a local village B&B for the bulk of your time here; and a final night in a comfortable yet basic hotel in Sandakan town. Please note WiFi is not available in the accommodations.

The local village B&B in Sukau is situated right on the riverbank, with a common area overlooking the river itself – a tranquil place to start your day! Rooms here will be shared with other volunteers on a two-per-room basis, and each room has an en-suite with warm showers and western toilets. While this accommodation is basic, it is comfortable, coming complete with linens and bath towels. What’s more, you’ll be situated right in the middle of Sukau village, offering you ample opportunity to get to know your hosts and learn all about their ways of life!

Additionally, there are laundry facilities available at the project site in Sukau; please note that this costs around RM15 (£2.75/$2) per kilogram.

Meals and Beverages

Meals and Beverages

All meals and beverages are provided and are included in the price of the project, though breakfast is to be prepared by volunteers. Lunch and dinner are prepared by local villagers in their homes, presenting a great opportunity to hear about their daily lives, to chat with the children, and to see how the community has been living for centuries. Those with dietary requirements will be catered for, however, we do kindly request that you let us know of your needs well in advance.

Fitness & Skills

Fitness & Skills

This project requires physical work in order to partake in the restoration efforts, so a moderate level of fitness is advised. The physical work is not overly exerting but is necessary most days. No specific skills are required to volunteer for this project; however, a love of animals, a strong work ethic, and an ability to work in a team are all vital.



It is essential that you check with your GP with regards vaccinations, as this is very much dependent on your medical history. It is also useful to consult the NHS Fit for Travel website in conjunction with your GP’s advice. The Great Projects are not qualified to provide medical advice - you must speak to your GP for information well before travelling.

No Contact Policy

No Contact Policy

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 month 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 a tendency to begin to trust humans which can be 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 well-being 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 when visiting Sepilok and along the river if you are lucky enough to see them. For more information please view our article on hands on contact with orangutans here.

Project Details

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

There is no specific 'best' time to join this project, as wildlife is visible all year round. With that in mind, the only differing factor is the weather.

Based on weather, you may prefer to join this project between February and October, as the rainy season hits between November and January. However, over the years, the weather patterns have been changing (both in Malaysia and globally), making this season less clearly defined.

Getting There

The nearest airport to the project is Sandakan International (SDK), and you must arrive between 7am - 4pm on the project start date, where you will be met at the airport and transferred to the temporary accommodation. This transfer will take between roughly 30-40 minutes, and the cost is included in your project fee.

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.

Visa Requirements

There is no prior visa required for most nationalities to enter Malaysia as a 90-day tourist visa is granted on arrival. However, please check the Malaysian Immigration website for detailed information. Visas are of the volunteer's own responsibility.

Currency and Exchange Rates

The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit. The conversion rate is approximately 1 MYR to 0.19 GBP, 0.23 EUR, and 0.31 USD. We advise visiting, where you can see live exchange rates.

What's included in the price of the project?
  • Airport transfers to and from Sandakan Airport (SDK)
  • Welcome dinner in Sepilok, Sandakan
  • Transfer from temporary accommodation to project site accommodation
  • Programme introduction in Sabah and orientation in the village
  • Entrance fees to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  • Entrance fees to the Rainforest Discovery Centre
  • English-speaking programme facilitator
  • 11 nights at designated accommodation
  • Meals whilst partaking in the project (except for your final 'farewell' dinner) and bottled water/fruit juices
  • All conservation activities, materials, tools, and equipment
  • Boat and river transfers
What's not included?
  • International and domestic airfare
  • Visa application/fees if required
  • Travel insurance
  • Internet access

Speak To A Travel Expert

Enquire to receive the Project Guide for free!

Project Reviews

Give Us A Call


+44 208 885 4987

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.

Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987

Foreign Office Travel Advice