Volunteering in Borneo guide
Read just a handful of the reviews on our Borneo volunteer vacations and you’ll quickly grasp what they’re all about: life affirming, intensely rewarding, and very memorable. But with this guide we aim to get into the real nitty-gritty of these trips, why they’re so vital, what they actually involve on a day-to-day basis, and how the wildlife of Borneo is going to benefit from your efforts.
Vacations are always better when they have a purpose to them, and with its incredible but threatened wildlife, Borneo has purpose to spare.
Not everyone is content to spend their vacations with a paperback on the beach, or learning about the world through museums and galleries. If you want to give back in a real sense, then in Borneo your time and labour can make a tangible difference to beautiful but endangered creatures including orangutans, sun bears and green sea turtles.
Find out more in our volunteering in Borneo guide.
Our Borneo volunteering Vacations
What do volunteering vacations
in Borneo entail?
Borneo volunteering vacations typically range in length from one to four weeks, during which time you may be accommodated in shared jungle lodges at a wildlife center, or even with local Iban or Dayak tribes, sharing meals and bedding down in their traditional longhouse, depending on the project you’re involved in.
You may be working either in Malaysian or Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Malaysian Borneo, comprising the states of Sarawak and Sabah, covers most of the island’s north, and has two prestigious orangutan rehabilitation centers: Matang, just outside Sarawak’s capital, Kuching, and Sepilok in the far northeast of Sabah. Volunteering in Kalimantan spans Tanjung Puting National Park; Samboja Lestari, a tranche of restored rainforest near the city of Balikipapan, and the renowned Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary with some 400 residents, and a superb rehabilitation and reintroduction programme.
Some trips involve a lot more actual volunteer work than others. There are itineraries that resemble standard wildlife watching tours, with a day or so helping out at an orangutan rehabilitation center for instance, perhaps with enrichment tasks, between jungle treks and handicrafts lessons. Other itineraries are much more conservation focused and can mean six-day weeks of physical labour such as helping to build enclosures, in hot and humid conditions. Trips can either be small group tours, following a fixed itinerary on set dates, or tailormade giving you greater flexibility on when you travel. In both cases you will be working alongside a group of other volunteers as well as full time project staff, so this is fantastic for getting to know like-minded people, and also a great way to make valuable connections if you’re interested in pursuing conservation as a career.
If you'd like to chat about Borneo volunteering or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
How fit do I need to be?You don’t need any prior experience to volunteer in Borneo, all that’s required is to be in reasonable physical condition, and of course enthusiastic about conservation. If you do have any particular skills however, such as carpentry, it’s worth letting the operator know beforehand in case there is a project you would be particularly well suited for.
It’s important to be aware that for their safety and your own it’s very unlikely that you will have any actual physical contact with the animals. Orangutans for instance may look cuddly, but they’re incredibly strong. There is also the risk that humans can unwittingly pass on diseases or viruses that could potentially be fatal to the animals.
What you’ll be doing
Depending on the nature of your trip, where you’re based and the precise needs on the ground at the time of your visit, you might be helping out with a wide range of conservation related tasks:
When to goThe island of Borneo has a hot and humid tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 27°C to 32°C all year round. Small group volunteering in Borneo usually takes place between March and December, while tailormade trips can operate at any time of year. Borneo’s rainy season runs from around November to February. During this period the forests are rich in fruiting trees, so orangutans and sun bears are not so commonly seen arriving to feed at the rehabilitation centers. The dry season from March to October is generally the best time for seeing wildlife in Borneo. Visit between June and September for your best chance of seeing turtles in Telok Serabang.
More about Borneo volunteering
Types of volunteering vacations in Borneo range from working in centers for orangutan and sun bear rehabilitation, to wildlife conservation trips which see you helping on tasks to benefit a range of species including sea turtles.
Orangutan volunteering in Borneo is rewarding, fun, heartbreaking and uplifting, as you learn about the dangers orangutans face, but also the determined efforts of those who refuse to let them die out in the wild.
Sun bear volunteering in Borneo is a chance to spend your vacation doing something truly worthwhile: helping to save the world’s smallest, and cutest, bears from extinction in the wild.
Volunteering in the rainforests of Borneo will give your family some incredible experiences to remember for a lifetime.
Matang Wildlife Centre provides an opportunity for orangutans and other indigenous animals to be rescued, cared for and returned to the wild. But they need your help.
Nyaru Menteng Sanctuary in Indonesian Borneo offers a step-by-step programme for orangutans to return to the wild as well as employment opportunities for local people and agricultural alternatives for a sustainable future.
Learn how Samboja Lestari Rescue Centre in East Kalimantan rose like a phoenix from the flames, and how your presence can make a difference to orangutans and the environment.