Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Conservation

founded in 2003
The Great Projects
Ask A Question
Coordinator | Lauren
Coordinator | Lauren
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.
Explore Borneo's lush rainforest in search of wild orangutan and the rare pygmy elephant, observe the wildlife and take part in conservation activities! This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

Based in the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain Rainforest in Sabah, this orangutan project completely encompasses the awe-inspiring diversity and dynamism of Borneo's wildlife. The area in which you will be volunteering is situated within WWF's protected 'Corridor of Life', a region of enormous importance in balancing land-development and the needs of its indigenous communities and wildlife.

About The Project

This project allows complete immersion into the natural wonder of the unique habitat, aiming to work on the reforestation of the environment, to help orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo to thrive. As a volunteer, you will stay in the small village of Sukau, a rural, indigenous community with a population of approximately 1000. The charming, hospitable 'Orang Sungai' ('People of the River') are always keen to share their way of life and welcome guests into their community. In return, you will assist with educating the local population on the importance of conservation and implementing more sustainable ways of living. The main part of the programme will be centred on activities in and around Sukau village or along the Kinabatangan River, but you will also spend time working with the project staff, assisting with wildlife monitoring through river-cruises and rainforest-treks. As well as orangutans and pygmy elephants, the project is also home to gibbons and hornbills, making it a wildlife-spotting haven. Towards the end of the programme, volunteers have the chance to visit the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to experience more of the incredible work undertaken by this project, and to gain a greater understanding of the necessities of conservation.

Prior To Arrival

The nearest airport to Sabah is Sandakan International (SDK) and you must arrive between 7am - 5pm on the project start date where you will be met and transferred (included in the price of the project) to the temporary accommodation which will take roughly 1.5 to 2 hours.

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.

Please Note

This project starts on the 21st of each month, and it is a full 11-night programme.

Typical day

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

First Days

Arrive at Sandakan International Airport (SDK) and transfer to temporary accommodation, where you will have a welcome dinner and introduction.
The next day, you will be heading over to Sukau Village and settle 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.

Project Days

You will spend your regular working days actively taking part in conservation activities. These include the following activities:

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': 

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:

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!

Last Days

The day before you leave you will depart Sukau and transfer to Sandakan. On the way, you will stop at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to view the morning orangutan feeding session. After lunch, you will visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre before heading back to Sepilok for the afternoon feeding session. This visit will emphasise the necessity for conservation projects, as you will have the opportunity to compare the lives of captive orangutans to those that live in the wild.

After a busy day, you will check into your accommodation in Sandakan for the night and enjoy a farewell dinner with your group. On your final day, you will check out of your accommodation and transfer to Sandakan Airport for your return flight or to commence your independent travel plans.

Free-time activities

Enjoy your free time by going on to the local town and enjoying the surroundings. Visit the Agnes Newton Keith Home, Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple, or the Sandakan Memorial Park. Alternatively, you can speak to your travel consultant for further suggestions before departure, or chat with your project facilitator for their top tips!

Water Sports


In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
This project requires physical work in order to fulfil 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.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

What's Included

Services by The Great Projects
  • 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
Airport Pickup at Sandakan Airport

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 and transferred to the temporary accommodation which will take roughly 30-40 minutes. Your transfer is included in the project fee.


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.

Dorm Room Guest Family Hotel
Food & Beverages

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.

Internet Access
Sorry, no access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Sandakan Airport (SDK) in Sandakan. We assist you to find cheap flights to Malaysia.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Malaysia provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Malaysia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Malaysia.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

This project takes place between January and November, with start dates in the 21st of every month. You may also be able to volunteer on the 11th of December. Please contact us to find out whether your preferred start date is available.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 - 2 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
12 days (min. stay)
12 days (max. stay)
Average fees
$989 /week

The organization charges its fees in GBP. The price table in USD is subject to currency fluctuation. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if The Great Projects cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by The Great Projects.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Conservation

Explore Borneo's lush rainforest in search of wild orangutan and the rare pygmy elephant, observe the wildlife and take part in conservation activities!


You might be also interested in

Local Animal Rescue Center Escazu, Costa Rica Volunteer Now Costa Rica
As part of our local animal shelter, you'll be responsible for a variety of activities such as feeding, maintenance and engaging with animals!
Sea Turtle Conservation Ambassador Quepos, Costa Rica Tortugas de Pacuare
Volunteer and save turtles, make a difference and meet one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Join us in Pacific CR!
Conservation of Whale & Dolphin Populations Tenerife, Spain GVI
Contribute to critical whale & dolphin conservation initiatives in the beautiful subtropical island archipelago - Canary Islands.
Migrants and Refugees Integration Support Napoli, Italy International Napoli Network
Help the refugee and migrant community to gain a foothold in Europe by supporting shelters, schools, health care and activities tailored to their long-term integration.
Orangutan Sanctuary Assistant Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia The Great Projects
Help to care for stunning endangered apes by volunteering at this sanctuary where you will help to provide enrichment and more for the resident orangutans.
Carnivore Conservation Assistant Kanaan, Namibia The Great Projects
Become a Carnivore Conservation Assist and help to collect data for research on the carnivore species living in the stunning area of Kanaan.

Why am I seeing this?

You requested a page that doesn't exist on this site any more. This could be caused by a link you followed that was out of date, by a typing in the wrong address in the address bar, or simply because the post has been deleted.

Take Me Home