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The Great Projects

The Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project

Sabah, Malaysia

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

Based in the mystical 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 for the duration of the project, a rural, indigenous community with a population of approximately just 1,000. 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 orangutan wildlife sanctuary in which the project is based 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, and experience more of the incredible work undertaken by this project.

Prior to Arrival

The nearest airport to the Sabah region 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 particular project has a set start date which is 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 & 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.

Regular Days

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

Developing knowledge:

During the project you will learn about orangutans within the rehabilitation stage and also come to understand the process of releasing them back to the wild. Through this you will recognise and compare these situations with that of captive animals, and those with threatened habitats.

Wildlife Monitoring:

The principal focus of the project is to work towards the conservation of the orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo. This is achieved mainly through monitoring their numbers and patterns, as well as those of other animals in the habitat. A perfect opportunity for some great photos!

Boat trips:

In order to see as much wildlife as possible, some of the monitoring/data collection will be conducted from a boat whilst cruising along the main river and it's tributaries to observe the endangered wildlife roaming the forest along the river banks.

Reforestation: 

Another essentially important method of preserving the local environment is through reforestation. Part of your time will therefore be spent planting new trees and tending to the pygmy elephant and orangutan habitat so as to help their numbers slowly increase. Doing so is a vital part of the crusade to ensure the survival of these unique and magnificent animals.

Spending time with the ‘Orang Sungai’ :

As a volunteer you will also work with this welcoming and friendly community, living along the river bank. Educating the community and providing them with economic motivation for conservation is one of the best ways of protecting local wildlife and all volunteers will contribute to this education effort. There is also an opportunity to work with local school children, educating them about the importance of conservation for their home environment and way of life.

Trekking:

You will be taken on numerous treks so as to spot an extensive range of flora and fauna inland, as well as learn about the mysterious rainforests of Sabah. Intrepid travellers rejoice - these are truly memorable experiences which you will be able to remember for a lifetime!

Last Days

The day before you leave you will depart Sukau and transfer to Sandakan. On the way you will stop at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to view the morning feeding session. After lunch you will visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre before heading back to Sepilok for the afternoon feeding session. After a busy day you will check into your accommodation in Sandakan for your 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.

Details on Arrival

Start Dates for 2017 and 2018


21st of every month from January - November and the 11th December (subject to availability)

Please contact us to check whether your preferred start date is still available!

Free-time activities

Enjoy your freetime by going on to the local town and enjoying the surroundings.

Water Sports
Safari/Zoo
Hiking

Program Requirements

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).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Health Declaration
required
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
This project requires physical work in order to partake in 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

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Groups

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by The Great Projects.
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 Sabah region 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.

Accommodation

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.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in Malaysia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Malaysia.
Costs (Prices in USD)
1 week (min. stay)
$724.00
2 weeks (max. stay)
$1,447.00
Average fees
$724.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Sabah/Malaysia between 1 week and 2 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Malaysia.
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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