Wildlife conservation volunteering in Borneo
Help to protect and regenerate wildlife habitats and rainforest alongside the beautiful and meandering river Kinabatangan. Spend your days out on the river monitoring the local wildlife, from orangutans to pygmy elephants, as well as replanting and conserving their jungle home. This is a real opportunity to live in a small remnant of paradise – and help to keep it that way.
Become part of an important mission to increase biodiversity in one of the most beautiful and undiscovered pockets of paradise in Borneo. Live life on the banks of the Kinabatangan river in a protected rainforest area called 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 is quite possibly heaven on earth for nature lovers and adventurers.
Once an island covered by extensive rainforests, special measures are now having to be taken in Borneo to protect the dwindling natural habitats. This conservation project is located in one of these newly protected areas and approaches increasing biodiversity with a two-pronged approach. One part is monitoring the wildlife in the area; the other part is regenerating the rainforest. 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.
What will I be doing?
One of the most rewarding aspects of this project is helping to plant trees to regenerate the jungle. Increased jungle coverage means that more creatures can live and survive in the wild. Even after an hour or two you will see the rewards of your efforts- and even more so by the end of the project! Not only will you be planting, but you will also be helping to maintain plots of land that have been planted by previous volunteers to ensure that the trees have a maximum survival rate. The work can be tiring, but you will come away with a real sense of achievement.
In addition to this, you will spend time out on the boat helping with monitoring the wildlife that you see in the area. Observations and sightings are noted down, and the information shared with the local wildlife authorities. Seeing orangutans, elephants, primates, birds and much more is such an exciting part of this project! This is crucial work so that it is understood how many species are in the area, and in what sort of quantities. This helps to maintain the area’s importance as a conservation area. Additionally, if species numbers are down, the causes of this can be analysed and hopefully resolved.
In addition to these principal daily activities, other tasks and activities can include:
- Community development: work with the local community on sustainable projects. Learn from the locals 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: the local children are the future guardians of the rainforest and an important part of this project is to ensure that they understand their environment and how important it is to protect it. The children are aged 6 – 12 and love working with the volunteers. Sessions will be all about conservation to motivate these children to protect their homeland well into the future.
- Jungle exploration: head into the jungle to learn about the fauna and flora which make up this unique ecosystem. 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 become a tourist! Visit the world-renowned Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre to understand more about the rehabilitation process. See orangutans up close and living in their natural habitat.
Accommodation and food
On arrival you will spend your first night in a lovely rainforest guest house on the outskirts of Sandakan. You will be staying in a traditional longhouse, with a balcony that looks out over the jungle and with a series of lakes just a few minutes away. 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 room with at least one other volunteer. An en suite bathroom is shared between you and your room mate(s) with a western toilet and refreshing shower. You will eat a delicious welcome lunch provided by your hosts.
Most other 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. Differing dietary requirements can be catered for, but do be aware that village life is very simple and so “picky” eaters are harder to cater for!
Your final night is spent in a guest house in Sandakan. Dinner is not included so that you have flexibility to choose your favoured type of cuisine.
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.
- Become part of a genuine conservation initiative, working to increase biodiversity in Borneo’s beautiful rainforest environment.
- Work with, and live amongst, the Orang Sungai, “the people of the river” and taste their delicious home cooked food.
- Know that your very presence on the project is helping to preserve the local community.
- Witness orangutans, pygmy elephants and much more on the daily boat trips.
- Visit a world-renowned Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to see these rare primates up close in their natural habitat.
Whyshould I do this?
Borneo is one of the most bio-diverse countries on this planet, yet industry and logging are severely threatening its beauty and wildlife. This project works hard to protect and regenerate the rainforests for future generations of both man and beast. You will see the tangible results of the hard work that you will be doing, and experience life in small river community. Work closely with the locals to help them to protect their environment, and become an extended member of local families whilst eating in their homes.
Fly in to Sandakan airport (SDK). 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
- Oyster luggage tag
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)
- 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