Orangutans and Pygmy Elephants

Company : The Great Projects
Location : Malaysian Borneo
Duration: 1 week to 2 weeks
Approx Costs: 750 to 1500 £ 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 and 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 Rehabilitation Centre 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 to commence your independent travel plans.

Project Activities

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

Boat Trips:

The principal focus of the project is to work towards the conservation of the orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo. Monitor their numbers and patterns as you cruise along the main river and its tributaries, taking some great pictures along the way!


You will embark on numerous treks, learning more about Sabah’s rainforests, flora and fauna.


The local environment has suffered greatly over the years as a result of logging and deforestation. The area needs to be reforested, so a major part of your time volunteering will be spent planting trees. The project aims to plant thousands of trees per year as to make a difference to the lives of orangutans, elephants and other animals in the area, so get involved!

Spending Time With The ‘Orang Sungai’:

During the project, you will live alongside the local community on the riverbank. In exchange for them opening up their homes, you will spend time educating them, providing them with economic motivation for conservation. Teach them about the value of their local wildlife, encouraging them to take on sustainable ways of living.

Work With The Local School Children:

As well as educating the local communities, you may also have the opportunity to work with local school children, teaching them about the importance of conservation in their home environment and instilling a more sustainable, conscious mindset – after all, these children are the future of the local community!

Visit to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary:

During the project, you will gain an understanding of orangutan rehabilitation and release. Towards the end of your stay, you will pay a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, home to captive orangutans who may be in the earlier stages of their rehabilitation, or in need of sanctuary care for the rest of their lives. This visit will emphasise the necessity for projects like this one, leaving a lasting impression on all volunteers.

Start Dates

21st of every month.

Costs / Benefits

Prices from £1,295

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.

Booking / Enquiry

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