Orangutan volunteering in Borneo

“Volunteer for one, two or four weeks at the Matang Wildlife Centre and help towards the rehabilitation and release of orangutans in Borneo. Hard work but incredibly rewarding”


Help with the feeding of orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals | Assist with maintenance and construction tasks | Get to know local people and workers at the sanctuary | Share a twin room jungle chalet at the wildlife center | Optional opportunities to visit a long house and meet Iban tribe members |

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Vacation type

Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

This project, based in Borneo, involves work with a local wildlife center to re-establish, rehabilitate and release orangutans into the wild. The orangutan sub-species, Pongo Pygmaeus Pygmaeus, is the most endangered of all the orangutan species and requires urgent action if it is to be saved from permanent extinction.

Many of the native orangutans that inhabit this area of Borneo are under threat from human intervention that disrupts their way of life and can often prove fatal. Baby orangutans are frequently left orphaned as their parents are slaughtered for meat, or killed due to the destruction of their natural habitat. Many orangutans are also captured to be sold in the pet trade, which often results in their mistreatment and abandonment when they become too much for their captors to handle.

This project strives to reverse this trend, and to repair the fractured relations between humans and orangutans that have such devastating consequences. Volunteers are vital to further the work with local people, Malaysian authorities and universities that the project carries out, working towards a sustainable solution to the problem of orangutan decline.

Through exhaustive work with communities and local authorities, this incredible species can be saved. As a volunteer, you will actively contribute to the day-to-day work involved in orangutan conservation, and play a vital role in the overall conservation of the most iconic species in this part of Borneo.

The Impacts of this Trip

There is a common misconception that volunteering abroad must be a good thing and will positively benefit not just the volunteer but the host community and those involved. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The increased demand for volunteer placements in developing countries has been met by an influx of new projects and volunteer-sending organisations created purely to meet this demand. The result may cause devastating effects to local culture and result in the exploitation of both the volunteer and the host community.

This project strives to adhere to the strict Responsible Travel policy, and has been developed so that it addresses actual local needs and has the community’s needs at its heart. Understanding and respecting the host community is paramount to the success of any project as long term commitment, support and adoption of sound environment, economic and social practices. This project employs as many local people possible, making it sustainable socially as well as environmentally.


2 Reviews of Orangutan volunteering in Borneo

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 31 Jul 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

I enjoyed the time in Batang-Ai in the longhouse most. A natural paradise- the tribes people were wonderful and our guide also.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Some insect repellent attracts killer bees and hence we didn't bother to wear any in the jungle. Use other methods like taking vitamin b for a month (or thereabouts) before going and during the trip. People relying only on repellent seemed to still get bitten whereas I hardly did at all. It's a great idea to bring a sleeping bag liner or sheet. And a towel. Lots of sun protection. Watch out for the accommodation at Bako National Park - we got moved as the original accommodation we got was awful. Basic is one thing... that was something else.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I felt like it was a real experience because it wasn't all 5 star. I do feel like it helps the local tribe in Batang-Ai and am pleased that some of the money goes to the Matang rescue and rehab center (who organise the tour).

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Overall, an excellent trip which I am glad I decided to do. This was something I decided to do about 2 weeks before the start date and I went in 'blind' to some extent. I just went with the flow and loved it all.

Reviewed on 14 Jan 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Working with such amazing animals and finding out how intelligent and human like they are.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be ready for humidity, heat and mosquitoes, but with a good supply of bug spray, and if you stick to the shade and drink lots of water, you'll be set to have a brilliant time. You will learn so much about orangutans and yourself, and meet many interesting new people.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Brilliant once in a life time experience.

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