Borneo is the 3rd biggest island in the world and part of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. In context of Borneo you might also have heard the name Kalimantan. That is the Indonesian name for Borneo. Given its equatorial climate and the oldest rainforest worldwide Borneo offers the most diverse flora and fauna. The wildlife consists of several animals, from the smallest squirrel to the largest elephant. One of the most important animals is the endangered Bornean orangutan. Resulting from illegal mass deforestation, mining and forest fires, the orangutan is under constant danger. Here, your work as a future volunteer comes into play. There is a variety of volunteering projects available such as assisting at an orangutan sanctuary or volunteering in a construction project.
- Borneo, or Kalimantan is politically divided among three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
- Over the past ten years 360 new species have been found in Borneo! That’s 3 new discoveries a month!
- Orangutans are the only apes that are from Asia. The word ‘orangutan’ translates to ‘man of the forest’ and they can only be found in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra.
- If you love climbing, Borneo will be perfect for you! Mount Kinabalu is the biggest mountain in Malaysia!
- Kuching is the biggest city in Borneo. Translated into Malaysian, Kuching means ‘cat’, a name the city gets from its large amount of cats living there.
Volunteer Options in Borneo
If you love animals, working as a volunteer in Borneo is perfect for you! We do offer different projects with orangutans where you can either participate in volunteering in an orangutan sanctuary, the reintroduction of orangutans or in a construction based community project.
The Mantang Wildlife Center is an orangutan sanctuary where injured, orphaned and orangutans rescued from captivity find protection. The people at Mantang Wildlife center work continuously to improve the lives of the orangutans and rely on the help of volunteers. As a volunteer in this program you will support the ambitions of the center by actively participating in the team’s request to improve the lives of the orangutans. Your main work as a volunteer in Borneo will take place in the middle of the Kubah National Park. Here you will become part of the team to improve the human husbandry of the orangutans and assist with construction work.
Another volunteering project available in Borneo is a 4-6 week jungle adventure in Borneo’s beautiful rainforest. In this project you will help to reintroduce the orangutans to a remote area in the center of Borneo. The location is based in the Indonesian part of Borneo and covers 35.000 hectares of primary protected lowland rainforest as well as several hundred thousand hectares of upland rainforest. The area is known as the Kehje Sewen and the project obtained permission to use this area in late 2011. Since then, they were able to successfully reintroduce 15 rescued orangutans. The plan is to release 250 more in this area and to do that, the project needs your help! During your time volunteering you will stay in Camp Lasik. Your role as a volunteer in Borneo is to help the monitoring research team with a number of physically challenging projects such as:
- Rope Bride Construction
- Building of information posts, hides and look-outs
- Community and village support
- Monitoring and checking the orangutans
- Potentially help to release the orangutans
You love to build and paint? And you are not afraid of working with tools? Then you are needed as a volunteer in Borneo for a construction project. This program is a community based project to renovate and rebuild a research station in the middle of the Tanjung National Park and is indispensable for the amazing work to help the Borneo orangutans. In previous construction projects the teams worked on the construction of orangutan release sites and built new guard posts in protected areas. As a part of the construction team you will not only actively help the Orangutan Foundation but also have the opportunity to work in an amazing landscape.
Being a volunteer in Borneo is perfect to get in contact with new people who share the same interests like you! Besides that, volunteering also helps you to focus on your future and gives you the opportunity to find out what you want to achieve in life.
For couples & families
Of course you are able to volunteer as a couple or together with your family. During your stay you will learn how you can achieve something great as a team and the work will bond you and your partner or family. Volunteering is also possible with children. During the work they are not only able to experience how to interact correctly with animals, but also learn about inequalities and ecological problems.
Taking part in a volunteer project as a group is an amazing opportunity to connect and to meet your people in a new and not daily environment. You and your friends want to experience something new? Then volunteering is perfect for you. It is also a great team-building opportunity for you and your colleagues.
On the days you are not busy with your volunteer work Borneo offers you amazing places you definitely need to visit.
Free time activities
Sometimes you want to experience a contrasting program to your daily work as a volunteer. You definitely need to visit Kuching, which is located in the north west of Borneo. The city brings together different cultures and is both modern and traditional. If you visit the city on the weekend you cannot miss the market, where you can try tropical fruits or local dishes such as dried fish. On evenings the whole city meets at the boardwalk, which is known for its amazing and cheap street food. If you want to bring souvenirs you will find something special in the located stores. At night both tourists and locals meet at the town square to talk and to party.
Another amazing place to visit is the Mulu National Park in Sarawak, which contains one of the largest cave systems in the world, known as Deer Cave. This cave is home to over 30 different species of bats which you can explore nesting on the roof of the cave. At sunset you might get the chance to watch hundreds of thousand bats leaving the cave – a remarkable experience.
If you are into diving you cannot miss Sipadan. The island is located in the east of Borneo in the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, rising 600 meters from the seabed. It is the center of one of the richest marine habitats in the world where you will get the chance to see sharks, nesting turtles or large schools of parrotfish.
Live like a local
Borneon food is influenced by Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food. When in Borneo, make sure that you try as many of the traditional dishes as possible. The local dishes are cooked with a variety of spices, such as chili or coriander. The most popular dish is Sarawak Laska, a soup cooked with traditional noodles (mee hoon), egg, chicken and prawns.
Culture & religion
Due to its history Borneo is multi-cultural and split into several ethnic groups. Therefore Borneo is respectful towards different religious believes. The main religions are Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Borneo is a mostly conservative and traditional society and there are a few cultural rules that you need to keep in mind. If you visit a temple or another holy place make sure to wear long sleeves and cover your hair. This is important for both men and women. Another cultural difference in between the ethnic groups is the handshake. For example Malay women may not shake hand with men.
In Kuching there are both public and private hospitals. Generally, the health care system in Borneo is said to be very good and communication in English is not a problem. Before you start your volunteer work in Borneo make sure that your medical insurance is valid in foreign countries. Most insurances offer a special contract for the time you spend abroad. During volunteering make sure to wear insect spray, do not walk around barefoot and wear long sleeves and pants.
Borneo is generally safe for travelers of both sexes. The crime rate is low but you should stick to the usual precautions, meaning do not walk alone at night and do not leave valuables such as cameras etc. visible. Due to the incidents in 2015 there is a curfew saying that travelers should avoid the beaches after 6pm, which you should satisfy while you volunteer in Borneo.
English is widely used and spoken in Borneo, especially in touristic areas. But the Malay language is also very much used but mostly in governmental agencies. Due to the large Chinese settlement in the major cities, a variety of Chinese dialects are also spoken.