Volunteering in Borneo guide

Read just a handful of the reviews on our Borneo volunteer holidays and you’ll quickly grasp what they’re all about: life affirming, intensely rewarding, and very memorable. But with this guide we aim to get into the real nitty-gritty of these trips, why they’re so vital, what they actually involve on a day-to-day basis, and how the wildlife of Borneo is going to benefit from your efforts.
Holidays are always better when they have a purpose to them, and with its incredible but threatened wildlife, Borneo has purpose to spare.
Not everyone is content to spend their holidays with a paperback on the beach, or learning about the world through museums and galleries. If you want to give back in a real sense, then in Borneo your time and labour can make a tangible difference to beautiful but endangered creatures including orangutans, sun bears and green sea turtles.
Find out more in our volunteering in Borneo guide.

What do volunteering holidays
in Borneo entail?

Practicalities

Borneo volunteering holidays typically range in length from one to four weeks, during which time you may be accommodated in shared jungle lodges at a wildlife centre, or even with local Iban or Dayak tribes, sharing meals and bedding down in their traditional longhouse, depending on the project you’re involved in.
You may be working either in Malaysian or Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Malaysian Borneo, comprising the states of Sarawak and Sabah, covers most of the island’s north, and has two prestigious orangutan rehabilitation centres: Matang, just outside Sarawak’s capital, Kuching, and Sepilok in the far northeast of Sabah. Volunteering in Kalimantan spans Tanjung Puting National Park; Samboja Lestari, a tranche of restored rainforest near the city of Balikipapan, and the renowned Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary with some 400 residents, and a superb rehabilitation and reintroduction programme.
Some trips involve a lot more actual volunteer work than others. There are itineraries that resemble standard wildlife watching tours, with a day or so helping out at an orangutan rehabilitation centre for instance, perhaps with enrichment tasks, between jungle treks and handicrafts lessons. Other itineraries are much more conservation focused and can mean six-day weeks of physical labour such as helping to build enclosures, in hot and humid conditions. Trips can either be small group tours, following a fixed itinerary on set dates, or tailormade giving you greater flexibility on when you travel. In both cases you will be working alongside a group of other volunteers as well as full time project staff, so this is fantastic for getting to know like-minded people, and also a great way to make valuable connections if you’re interested in pursuing conservation as a career.

Our top Borneo volunteering Holiday

Orangutan conservation holiday in Borneo

Orangutan conservation holiday in Borneo

Meet Iban tribes and encounter orangutans in Borneo

From £1195 13 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 3 Nov, 3 Dec
2020: 3 Jan, 3 Feb, 3 Mar, 3 Apr, 3 May, 3 Jun, 3 Jul, 3 Aug, 3 Sep, 3 Oct, 3 Nov, 3 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Borneo volunteering or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

How fit do I need to be?

You don’t need any prior experience to volunteer in Borneo, all that’s required is to be in reasonable physical condition, and of course enthusiastic about conservation. If you do have any particular skills however, such as carpentry, it’s worth letting the operator know beforehand in case there is a project you would be particularly well suited for.

It’s important to be aware that for their safety and your own it’s very unlikely that you will have any actual physical contact with the animals. Orangutans for instance may look cuddly, but they’re incredibly strong. There is also the risk that humans can unwittingly pass on diseases or viruses that could potentially be fatal to the animals.

What you’ll be doing

Depending on the nature of your trip, where you’re based and the precise needs on the ground at the time of your visit, you might be helping out with a wide range of conservation related tasks:
Tree planting and weed clearing to regenerate the jungle Building and constructing facilities such as enclosures and guard posts Building orangutan release sites Feeding animals, cleaning enclosures and enrichment, such as encouraging orangutans to build nests and forage Education and awareness activities in local communities and schools Wildlife monitoring in the rainforest and on the river by boat Spending time with Iban or Dayak communities, the custodians of the rainforest, to learn about their role

When to go

The island of Borneo has a hot and humid tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 27°C to 32°C all year round. Small group volunteering in Borneo usually takes place between March and December, while tailormade trips can operate at any time of year. Borneo’s rainy season runs from around November to February. During this period the forests are rich in fruiting trees, so orangutans and sun bears are not so commonly seen arriving to feed at the rehabilitation centres. The dry season from March to October is generally the best time for seeing wildlife in Borneo. Visit between June and September for your best chance of seeing turtles in Telok Serabang.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Fish Ho Hong Yun] [Jungle lodge: charles taylor] [Trek: Budi Nusyirwan]
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