Wildlife conservation volunteering for families in Borneo
Intrepid families who are keen to make a genuine contribution to wildlife conservation will love this volunteer project in Borneo. Immerse yourselves in the stunning Borneo rainforest, living and working alongside local people, helping to protect their natural environment and the creatures within it. This is a fantastic hands-on and educational trip for children and adults alike.
Dates: Monthly departures.
Suitability: Children need to be a minimum of 8 at the point of departure. You will need to be happy to get stuck in and mucky, prepared to live in rustic accommodation and be open to a very different experience.
Join other like-minded families volunteering in Malaysian Borneo’s beautiful rainforest. Become part of the small local community, helping to preserve their flora and fauna for generations to come.
Once an island covered by rainforest, the Malaysian government are now having to take special measures in Borneo to protect dwindling natural habitats. This conservation project is located in one of these newly protected areas known as the Corridor of Life. Home to a proliferation of wildlife including orangutans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, macaques, singing gibbons and sun bears – not to mention the birds – this riverside location is a nature lover’s paradise. This project is all about keeping these species and their habitat protected – and this is where you and your family come in.
What will we be doing?
Your week volunteering in Borneo will be mainly divided into two parts: wildlife monitoring and rainforest regeneration. To complete these tasks you will be spending a lot of time on the river, enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the wildlife that you encounter on the river banks.
Families become immersed in tree planting projects on the banks of the Kinabatangan river. Increasing the jungle coverage means that more creatures can live and survive in the wild in this area. This is rewarding work, as even after an hour or two you will see the tremendous contribution that you have all made. Children are often the most avid workers on this part of the project, loving to get mucky and stuck in. It is a real thrill to know that the work you are doing will help generations of orangutans and other animals live here in safety.
The second aspect of the trip includes heading out onto the river in traditional boats to monitor the wildlife that you can see on the banks. This is a thrill for all the family – there will be a real competition for who is the first to see an orangutan, elephant and monkey! Observations and sightings are noted down, and the information shared with the local wildlife authorities – this is essential to know as it helps to maintain the area’s importance as a conservation area.
In addition to these principal daily activities, other tasks and activities can include:
- Community engagement: spend time with the local community to learn about their way of life and help them to promote positive environmental work. Examples of this include making fishing nets and growing tree saplings.
- Local education programme: get involved in the local school to help with English and environmental education. This is a great experience for children especially, as they can meet children of the same age as them, learn about their lives and overcome any language barriers with flair!
- Jungle walk: head into the rainforest to explore life in the wild. This is a fantastic way to really contextualise the work that you have been doing here.
- Visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre: on your last day you will be taken to the world-renowned Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre to understand more about the rehabilitation process. See orangutans up close and living in their natural habitat.
Where will we be based?
This project is located in the Corridor of Life, a protected wildlife area in Borneo. The village is home to a river tribe known as the “Orang Sungai”, and you will live alongside these welcoming people. You will be located about 3 hours from the port-side town of Sandakan, far off the beaten track. You and your family will gain complete cultural immersion, living, working and playing alongside the local people.
In your free time you can enjoy relaxing in the beautiful surroundings of your accommodation, watching the wildlife and getting involved in village life. On your last day on this project you will visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre to enjoy two of the best tourist highlights Malaysian Borneo can offer.
Accommodation and food
On arrival you will spend your first night in a lovely guest house in Sepilok, on the outskirts of Sandakan. You and your family will be staying in a traditional longhouse, with a balcony that looks out over the jungle. A delicious welcome dinner is provided by the guest house, and you can relax to the noises of the jungle with the rest of your group.
The following morning you head to the small village of the Orang Sungai people, located on the Kinabatangan river. Here you will stay in a riverside guesthouse, sharing a basic yet comfortable family room with en-suite facilities.
Most meals are provided by the local community. A real highlight of this project is to eat in the homes of the local villagers, with delicious food cooked up in local ways. Your children will get to know the family’s children and you will all learn to communicate over any language barriers. Differing dietary requirements can be catered for, but do be aware that village life is very simple and so “picky” eaters can be harder to please!
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Head well off the beaten track and immerse your family in a completely different way of life.
- Live amongst the Orang Sungai, “the people of the river” and taste their delicious home cooked food.
- Get real conservation experience that makes a genuine contribution.
- Witness orangutans, pygmy elephants and much more on the daily boat trips.
- Enjoy a shared experience with your family, which will be memorable for a lifetime.
Whyshould I do this?
Families have loved taking part in this project for a multitude of reasons. Stepping off the beaten track and well away from the hustle and bustle is great not only for adults but children as well. Real highlights have included seeing children overcome the language and cultural barriers and making friends with local children, as well as experiencing their contentment at seeing a good job well done in the rainforest regeneration programme. Enjoying animals living in the wild is an important lesson, and a wonderful experience.
Fly in to Sandakan airport (SDK) arriving on your project start date. You will be collected from the airport and taken to the local guest house to meet the rest of your group and have a welcome meal.
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Met at Sandakan airport and transfer to your first night guest house in a shared room
- Welcome dinner on your first night
- Transfer from your guest house to the Orang Sungai village
- Shared accommodation in the village with en-suite bathroom facilities
- Three home-cooked meals per day within the local community
- Full training and all project costs
- Transfer from the project site to Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre
- Entrance fees to Sepilok
- Entrance fees to Rainforest Discovery Centre
- Entrance fees to sun bear rehabilitation centre
- Last night accommodation in Sandakan
- Return transfer to Sandakan airport at the end of your trip
- Donation to the project
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and placement advice
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- Advice on visa and health requirements for project
- Local support in Malaysia from English speaking staff
- ATOL financial protection (if Oyster books your flight)
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A passport valid for a minimum of 6 months after your arrival in Borneo/Malaysia
- Flights to Sandakan (SDK) to arrive on the start date of your project
- Camera fees
- Pocket money
- Any associated visa costs- no visa is necessary for under 90 days from UK and most western European and western countries.
- Funds for any independent travel