On this project you will work with both the local community and the local wildlife.
During the project you will learn about orangutans within the rehabilitation stage, also coming to understand the process of releasing them back to the wild. Through this you will recognise and compare these situations with that of captive animals, and those with threatened habitats.
The principal focus of the project is to work towards the conservation of the orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo. This is achieved mainly through monitoring their numbers and patterns, as well as those of other animals in the habitat. A perfect opportunity for some great photos!
In order to see as much wildlife as possible, some of the monitoring/data collection will be conducted from a boat whilst cruising along the main river and its tributaries to observe the endangered wildlife roaming the forest along the river banks.
Another important method of preserving the local environment is through reforestation. Part of your time will therefore be spent planting new trees and tending to the pygmy elephant and orangutan habitat so as to help their numbers slowly increase. Doing so is a vital part of the crusade to ensure the survival of these unique and magnificent animals.
Spending time with the ‘Orang Sungai’
As a volunteer, you will also work with this welcoming and friendly community, living along the river bank. Educating the community and providing them with economic motivation for conservation is one of the best ways of protecting local wildlife and all volunteers will contribute to this education effort. There is also an opportunity to work with local school children, educating them about the importance of conservation for their home environment and way of life.
You will be taken on numerous treks so as to spot an extensive range of flora and fauna inland, as well as learn about the mysterious rainforests of Sabah. Intrepid travelers rejoice: these are truly memorable experiences which you will to remember for a lifetime!
Please note 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 & 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 including river-cruise data collection, habitat restoration and 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 Sanctuary 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, so 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!
Updates & Outcomes
As a volunteer, you will be fully engaged in working alongside the local people in this truly unique experience, conserving the environment for the benefit of the wildlife that depends on it - in particular, the vulnerable orangutans and pygmy elephants. The verdant rainforest and river are teeming with life and vibrancy, making the whole area a hotbed of beautiful and exotic wildlife.
This project also has the added benefit of allowing you to both live and work with local villagers, thus being completely immersed in their rural way of life, and creating personal bonds with the communities that the project's efforts will actively benefit.
In order to contextualise and reward the hard work completed by the project's volunteers, this trip also includes a visit to the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary towards the end of the twelve days. This offers you the chance to experience the tireless rehabilitation work undergone in the centre that your volunteering work will aid, and to encounter the magnificent and enchanting orangutans up close.
Here at The Great Projects, we have received an update from The Great Elephant Project in Sri Lanka and unfortunately the people and the elephants have been having a rough time due to some weather anomalies. This has resulted in some eleraids! Elephants have been raiding village homes for food stores and the night watchman got a shocking surprise...
The 19th of May is Endangered Species Day, and the need to help our planet's at-risk animals is greater than ever. Find out how you can make a difference by reading today's blog.
Find out why you should visit the Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project in Borneo - with 10% off of dates between June and August, what better time is there to get involved?
Is this trip for you?
For the first night in Sepilok, you will stay in dormitory style accommodation with warm showers and a western toilet in a traditional longhouse.
Whilst on the project you will stay in the Sukau village local B&B, in shared rooms. There is also ample opportunity to spend time in the homes of the villagers and join them for meals.
For the last night in Sandakan, you will stay in a comfortable and basic hotel in the town.
All meals and beverages are provided and are included in the price of the project. The meals are prepared by local villagers in their homes which offers a great opportunity to hear about their daily lives, chat with the children, and see how they have been living for centuries. Some nights you will also have the chance to cook and eat as a volunteer group.
This project requires physical work in order to partake in the restoration efforts, and 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, strong work-ethic and ability to work in a team are 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.
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 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 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.
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, most people suggest 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.
The nearest airport to the Sabah region is Sandakan International (SDK) and you must arrive between 7am - 5pm on the project start date, where you will be met at the airport and transferred (included in the price of the project) to the temporary accommodation which will take between roughly 30-40 minutes. Sandakan Airport is a local airport which is served by Malaysian Airlines, Air Asia, and Firefly.
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.
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.
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
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 Sanctuary
- Entrance fees to the Rainforest Discovery Centre
- English-speaking programme facilitator
- 11 nights at designated accommodation
- Meals whilst partaking in the project
- 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