Orangutans and Pygmy Elephants

Company : The Great Projects
Activities: Adventure Holidays / Career Break / Tours / Conservation Volunteer Projects / Wildlife Tours
Country: Malaysia
Location : Malaysian Borneo
Duration: 1 week to 2 weeks
Approx Costs: 750 to 1250 £ Pound (UK)

Explore Borneo's lush rainforest in search of wild orangutan and the rare pygmy elephant. 

Volunteers 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, volunteers 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 all volunteers will also spend time working with Borneo orangutan sanctuary staff, assisting with wildlife monitoring through river-cruises and rainforest-treks. As well as orangutans and pygmy elephants, the area is also home to singing gibbons and hornbills - making it a wildlife-spotting haven.


Day 1

Arrive at Sandakan International Airport (SDK) and transfer to temporary accommodation, where you will have a welcome dinner & introduction.

Day 2

Enjoy a small lie-in before heading over to Sukau Village and settle into your accommodation in twin share rooms in the village B&B. You will also get the chance to meet some of the local villagers and explore the area.

Day 3-10

Volunteer Activities begin, including river-cruise data collection, habitat restoration and partaking in the village education programme. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days at Sukau will be included.

Day 11

Depart Sukau and transfer to Sandakan. Stop along the way at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to view the morning feeding session. After lunch visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre before heading back to Sepilok for the afternoon feeding session. Check into accommodation in Sandakan for the night.

Day 12

This is the final day. You will check out and transfer to Sandakan airport for return flight or commence independent travel plans.

Project Activities

On this project you will get the chance to take part in a wide variety of exciting activities. Below are examples of some of those included in this project.

Developing knowledge

Volunteers will learn about orangutans within the rehabilitation stage and also come to understand the process of releasing them back to the wild.

Wildlife Monitoring

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.

Boat trips

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 river.


Another essentially important method of preserving the local environment is through reforestation. Part of every volunteer’s 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.

Spending time with the ‘Orang Sungai’ community

volunteers 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.


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 lush and mysterious rainforests of Sabah.

Start Dates

21st of every month.

Costs / Benefits

Prices from £1,095

What's included in the price of the project?
• Airport transfers to and from Sandakan Airport (SDK)
• Welcome dinner in Sepilok, Sandakan
• Transfer from temporary accommodation to project site accommodation
• Programme introduction in Sabah and orientation in the village
• Entrance fees to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
• Entrance fees to Rainforest Discovery Centre
• English-speaking programme facilitator
• 11 nights at designated accommodation
• Meals whilst partaking in the project
• All activities, materials, tools and equipment included in orangutan volunteer 'Project Days'
• Boat and river transfers

What's not included?
• International and domestic airfare
• Visa application/fees if required
• Meals and accommodation when travelling independently
• Travel insurance
• Private transfers


This project requires physical work in order to partake in the restoration efforts, and so a moderate level of fitness is advised. The physical work is not overly-exerting, but is necessary most days. No specific skills are required to volunteer for this project, however a love of animals, strong work-ethic and ability to work in a team are vital.

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