Wildlife conservation in Borneo

“Contribute to extraordinary wildlife conservation in Sabah rainforest of Malaysian Borneo, along the Kinabatangan River. See orangutans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys and more. Stay in community accommodation.”


Wildlife conservation project | Sabah wildlife |Sandakan | Orang Sungai community | Kinabatangan river | Tree planting and habitat restoration | Orangutans | Pygmy elephants | Proboscis monkeys | macaques

Description of Wildlife conservation in Borneo

By volunteering on a wildlife conservation project in Borneo, you will discover one of the most beautiful and undiscovered pockets of the island, stepping off the beaten track and into the heart of an important conservation area. Help to conserve a proliferation of wildlife including orangutans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, macaques, singing gibbons and sun bears – not to mention the birds! –through protecting and regenerating their jungle environment.

Habitat destruction has led to a rapid decline in many of Borneo's species. This inspiring project helps in a twofold way:

1) Planting trees to regenerate the jungle. Increased jungle coverage means that more creatures can live and survive in the wild. This involves planting trees, clearing weeds and growing saplings. This is incredibly rewarding, as just after a few short hours you will see the amazing work that you have done.

2) Spend time out on the beautiful river, monitoring the wildlife that you see in the area from the boat. Sightings are noted down, and the information shared with the local wildlife authorities. Seeing orangutans swinging through the trees, elephants grazing and macaques leaping through the branches is quite incredible. This is crucial work so that it is understood how many species are in the area, and in what sort of quantities - and thus help preserve the area's conservation status.

In addition to these principal daily activities, other tasks and activities can include community and education, a jungle trek and a visit to the world famous Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre. You will also be taken to the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery day to round off your trip.

Accommodation and food
You will be staying in local guest houses throughout this project. Meals are provided either by your guest house hosts or by members of the local community. Food is delicious and varied, and are a real highlight to the trip.

Expect to share an en-suite room with one volunteer.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:Arrive to Sandakan on the 21st of the month. 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.
Day 2:Transfer to the small village of the Orang Sungai people, located on the Kinabatangan river. 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.
Day 3 +:Spend your days out on the river monitoring wildlife and helping with rainforest regeneration work.
Day 12:Leave the beautiful river behind and head back to Sandakan via the inspiring Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre, Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

01273 823 700 Calling from outside the UK?

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
US pricing:
The currency converter above works on todays exchange rate. We do take bookings in USD but the price is set at a rate confirmed months in advance and is typically above the current exchange rate. Please enquire for details.
Accessible overview:
There are challenges associated with volunteer travel, and these can make accessible travel difficult. However, we are very keen to chat with travellers with specific needs to see if we can make a trip possible.

Responsible tourism

Wildlife conservation in Borneo

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

• For each traveller that goes away with us, we voluntarily plant a tree with our charity partners Tree Aid. Trees are planted in rural African communities and local people are taught how to sustainably use the trees to improve their economic situation - whilst also benefiting the planet.
• Where food is provided, it is locally produced and sourced, reducing food miles, supporting local industry and minimising single-use plastic
• As a traveller you will learn about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, both pre-departure and through your volunteer project
• Accommodation is on-site, reducing the reliance on transport. When volunteers wish to go off site, this is encouraged to be in groups using local drivers
• Where possible, and without jeopardising safety or quality, transfers are done on a shared basis to reduce carbon emissions


Conserving Borneo
This project is all about conserving the dwindling natural environment in Borneo - and hopefully enabling it to regenerate and survive for many more generations to come. Orangutan populations are plummeting, mainly thanks to palm oil plantations and deforestation. On this project, volunteers help to plant new rainforest and maintain it, ensuring that animals have safe places to live and thrive.

Protecting the world
We are passionate about encouraging our travellers to be kind to the environment as they travel. Each participant receives advice about how to care for the environment whilst they are away. This includes water usage, how to avoid single use plastic, and electricity usage.

We insist that all participants bring their own water bottles when they travel with us, and clean free water is always available. We have even created a water bottle that can be purchased before departure and encourage people to use it at all stages of their journey including at the airport, on flights and whilst on their project. We are striving for all of our projects to be free of single use plastic.


Meeting local needs
This project engages directly with the local community. Meals are provided by local families, boat and bus drivers do all transfers and the guest houses are rented from local families. In addition to this there is an active local education and immersion scheme which allows families to get to know their friendly hosts. Volunteer spending is spread around the local community by engaging a large range of local individuals and businesses. Saplings are bought from locals who grow them to help regenerate the rainforest.

Cultural sensitivity
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in rural Borneo. Volunteers are briefed on the local cultures and customs. Our policy is to send people in small groups, which minimises the environmental and social impact that the participants have on the destination and helps them to integrate into the local community.

4 Reviews of Wildlife conservation in Borneo

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 05 Nov 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The whole thing. Seeing the difference in a site after a mornings work was
really rewarding. Of course seeing so much wildlife was also of course a highlight

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Expect to work hard for part of most days. But it’s a very manageable amount. It’s hot and sweaty work but totally rewarding.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely. The local operators presence on the ground was evident as they were
well known in the community and the clear results from their years of reforestation work was obvious.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Amazing. I have nothing negative to say.

Reviewed on 09 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Meeting new people especially the locals in the river village.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Make sure you check the times of the fruiting trees as we did not see
any orangutans as they had depleted their food source the month before and had moved on.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

As some local families were paid to provide some meals for us and as they
were obviously poor families it did benefit local families. Our tree
planting to provide a primate corridor will definitely help the orangutans.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I had a great time, met some lovely people and would certainly recommend this holiday to others.

Reviewed on 05 Apr 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Working in a tropical downpour and seeing a mother and baby Orangutang climbing a tree near the work site.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Don't really need to bring wellies. Bring a good pair of binoculars and don't forget the Jungle Formula bug repellent.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. Contact with local people, particularly the afternoon spent with students in the school talking about conservation issues. Hopefully the 140 trees we planted will benefit the wildlife in about 20 years time.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

An interesting and insightful look at conservation in Sabah, Borneo. A bit short though - two full weeks would be better.

Reviewed on 06 Mar 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing a large wild male Orangutan eating figs in a tree by the Kinabatangan River - we were so close to him and he looked so relaxed! What a beautiful special creature.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Get fit before going! The machete for me was hard to master and the heat and humidity make physical work more demanding. Thinking about future generations of orangutans swinging and feeding from the trees that we would be planting was my inspiration to carry on when I felt that I was beyond exhaustion!! Take a travel plug so you can wash your clothes as you will get very dirty! Also good binoculars are essential to participate fully in the wildlife monitoring - its so much fun and when you can identify species for yourself (especially if you can find them before eagle eyed Mark!) it's really rewarding.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Definitely yes. The community day and eating with locals, as well as the boats being captained by locals, made sure that they knew what we were doing and why. It provides jobs for local people. Seeing trees planted 4 years ago now being visited by elephants, as evidence by their dung and rub marks on the trees indicates that this planting is working and that is very inspiring for me.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A fabulous experience. APE Malaysia who run this project are an organisation that I can highly recommend. Mark Louis Benedict who led the project that I was on is a hugely knowledgeable and passionate person, for whom no question raised was too much trouble to answer. He went to considerable effort to make sure we saw as much wildlife as possible and explained in detail to us the challenges that Borneo faces to preserve is remnant rainforests. If you care about this precious environment and the creatures that make it their home please do this holiday!

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