Explore Borneo's lush rainforest in search of wild orangutan and the rare pygmy elephant!
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
Please note that itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline:
You will spend your regular working days actively taking part in conservation activities. These includes the following activities:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Enjoy your freetime by going on to the local town and enjoying the surroundings.
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.
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.
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.