Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary

This project offers you the chance to work on enrichment with captive orangutans and sun bears at the world renowned Samboja Lestari rescue centre.

Samboja Lestari is an area of restored tropical rainforest near the city of Balikipapan in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Established by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), the 2,000 hectare sanctuary here was created with the aim of providing a safe haven for rehabilitated orangutans and sun bears, whilst also at the same time providing a source of income for local people. Since 2001, the surrounding area has been planted with more than a million trees covering more than 1000 different species. With the growth of the forest, the density and diversity of wildlife returned. So far 137 bird species and nine primate species have been recorded.

About the project

At Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary, one of Indonesia's most prestigious and renowned orangutan rehabilitation and rescue centres, and one of the main focal points of BOS ('The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation'), the emphasis is on the rehabilitation and release of orangutans, many of whom were rescued from atrocious situations. The overriding goal is to reintroduce orangutans back to secure natural habitats in order to establish new viable long-term populations to bolster the conservation of the species within the wild. A number of orangutans have been already been successfully released by BOSF so please keep an eye on our blog for any further release stories.

Sadly, some of the orangutans resident here cannot ever be released back into the wild because of injury or illness. For these orangutans, the sanctuary provides them with a safe haven where they can live out the rest of their lives away from the threat of deforestation and human destruction. The sanctuary also includes a 58 hectare area put aside for the 50 + sun bears resident here which have all been rescued from the illegal pet trade or from areas of major deforestation.

Prior to Arrival

You WILL require a Social and Cultural visa to join this project. This will need to be arranged before you travel, as the 'visa on arrival' that you receive as you enter all Indonesian airports will NOT be acceptable. More information on this will be provided within the pre-departure information you receive upon booking.

You need to fly into Balikpapan on the project start date between 9am - 5pm. Most volunteers travelling to the project will need to stop and change via Jakarta international airport (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport). There are numerous daily flights departing Jakarta for Balikpapan (Sultan Aji Muhamad Sulaiman Airport). Air Asia or Garuda are generally the cheapest. Once in Balikpapan, you will be met by a project representative who will then transfer you to Samba.

First Days

Arrival at Balikpapan Airport in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. A lodge representative will meet you at the airport arrivals and will transfer you to the eco lodge at Samboja Lestari. Once settled in you will be given a briefing by Kate your project facilitator.  Your induction day which consists of a tour of the entirety of the facility site. Not only will you meet the resident orangutans but you will also meet the facilities' sun bears.

Regular Days

Your work as a volunteer on this project will be to help rehabilitate these orangutans and sunbears and help with enrichment, husbandry and general sanctuary upkeep. Each year since 2012 orangutans have been able to be released by the foundation and your work as a volunteer will help ensure more orangutans can continue to be released. Your main activities whilst volunteering with orangutans at Samba includes:

  • husbandry, 
  • enrichment, 
  • forest plantation, 
  • maintenance and construction work for both the orangutans and the sun bears resident,
  • feed the orang-utans,
  • forest walk with members of the orangutan release team and a botanist.
Last Day
On the final day,  transfer will be arranged to Balikpapan Airport or you continue with your travel plans.

Suitable for


Typical day

Most days at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary will be quiet different. To give you an idea how they might look like, find two examples below:

  1. Forest Walk:
    For a change of pace and an education, on this morning you will take part in a forest walk with members of the orangutan release team and a botanist. During this walk, you will learn about the flora and fauna resident here as well as the food that the orangutans like best! The afternoon is spent working on enrichment for the orangutans, after all there are 250 at the centre and enrichment is something the project tries to provide to each of them every day.
  2. Orangutan Enrichment and the Night Market:
    Today will be an orangutan day, where you create enrichment items for the orangutans and you may also help with leaf collection. These leaves are given to the orangutans so that they may make their nests. Tonight you will have the opportunity to visit the local vibrant night market.

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
18 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Health Declaration
Other Skills
No specific skills or experience are required, just a commitment to the project and its aims, a passion for wildlife conservation, an ability to work as a team and an upbeat, positive attitude.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in Indonesia? Volunteer World directly connects you with The Great Projects

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Free-time activities

Canopy Walk
A popular excursion from the centre. You will have the opportunity to walk high up in the forest canopy, keeping your eyes peeled for all kinds of fauna and flora. There may even be the chance to spot a pair of singing gibbons!
River cruise
A wonderfully relaxing afternoon is spent on the black river. You will board a local boat and travel along the winding river in search of the endangered proboscis monkey famous for its oversized nose. During your journey you will travel through a local fishing village, which will offer you the chance to see how local people lived and then we will travel briefly out to sea where we will watch the sunset.

Water Sports


What's included?
Airport transfers to and from Balikpapan, accommodation, three meals per day, tea, coffee and drinking water at the lodge, all volunteer activities at the project site, conservation donation to Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Airport Pickup

You need to fly into Balikpapan on the project start date between 9am - 5pm. Once in Balikpapan, you will be met by a project representative who will then transfer you to Samboja.


Accommodation during your time at Samboja will be within twin-share rooms at the Samboja Ecolodge where all of the interior and exterior walls are built out of recycled materials. Each room comes equipped with fully working air conditioning, mosquito nets and an en-suite bathroom with cold water and a western-style toilet. Please don’t worry about being too cold in the shower - as it is very hot and humid here all year round, you will probably welcome the respite!

Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

You will have three meals per day provided for you whilst on this project. Breakfast is a variety of cereals, eggs and rice/noodle dishes alongside fruit and fresh fruit juice. Lunches and dinners are delicious and typically consist of noodles or rice with chicken, seafood, mutton or beef and vegetables. Tofu and Soy bean dishes are also provided for vegetarians. Each meal is a buffet.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks
4 weeks (max. stay)

You can volunteer at the project site in Balikpapan /Indonesia between 1 weeks and 4 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
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.

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What's next?

The nearest airport is Sepingan (BPN) in Balikpapan. We assist you to find cheap flights to Indonesia.
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 Indonesia provides security and is a plus to have.
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Samboja , Balikpapan , Indonesia