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Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia: Volunteer with Orangutans

Robin Van Auken | Hands-on Heritage
Written By
By Robin Van Auken
Volunteer Forever - Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia

Updated for 2023-2024: Volunteer travel is back. At Volunteer Forever, we’ve been updating our articles to ensure readers have the latest and best information. In this updated Volunteer in Malaysia and Borneo guidebook, you’ll find the best volunteer programs for 2023-2024 and beyond, including amazing opportunities to volunteer with orangutans. 

When you volunteer for a conservation program in Malaysia and Borneo, you’ll learn about wildlife protection in a key area of the world with critically endangered ecosystems and species. If you wish to volunteer with orangutans, Malaysia and Borneo are the best destinations, as they’re home to this amazing species. 

Now is as vital a time as ever to volunteer with orangutans. All three orangutan species are critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Based on estimates, there are:

  • 100,000 Bornean Orangutans
  • 14,000 Sumatran Orangutans
  • 800 Tapanuli Orangutans

Those numbers should alarm you. By serving as a conservation volunteer in Malaysia and Borneo, you can help turn the tides, and protect important wildlife and ecosystems from further decline. 

The experience can also be transformative for you. You’ll learn about yourself when you spend the night in the rainforest, watching as the fireflies come out, listening as bird calls fall silent and frogs and insects crescendo. You’ll challenge yourself and find inner strength when you rappel down a cliff or wade in chest-high pools in dark caves or place your hand in a tiger print in the mud. You’ll learn about your own wild and exciting life.

So, are you ready to volunteer in Malaysia and Borneo? Are you ready to help the orangutans? Read on to find out more about all the amazing volunteer opportunities.

How Can You Volunteer with Orangutans or Help with Animal Conservation?

By participating in a wildlife conservation program, such as a project where you volunteer with orangutans, you’re preparing yourself for a career in preserving the habitats of plants and animals, working to change attitudes toward nature and helping people imagine humans and wildlife living in peace.

If the thought of working with orangutans brings out the anthropologist in you, join a primate sanctuary and research center caring for and rehabilitating orangutans that were once part of the illegal animal-trade system. You could also join Volunteering Solutions on a Wildlife Safari and Volunteering Experience, and take part in important conservation tasks such as animal population observation and habitat restoration. Your help will go a long way in ensuring local wildlife has a safe place to live naturally. 

There are many ways to volunteer with orangutans and help conserve the environment in Malaysia. Whether you join a community conservation project or wilderness trek, you can raise awareness, clean up waste, rescue injured animals and more.

Continue reading to learn more!

Featured Volunteer Programs in Borneo & Malaysia

Take a look at some amazing conservation programs offered in Malaysia and Borneo. Pick one, or two, or three and embark upon your wildest year yet!

Volunteering Solutions


Volunteering Solutions began in 2007 and has helped more than 17,000 folks volunteer overseas. With 150+ projects across 27 countries, Volunteering Solutions has a wide variety of volunteer projects, including programs where you volunteer with orangutans. 

Known for high-quality, affordable programs, Volunteering Solutions is a great choice if you want to volunteer in Malaysia and Borneo. To learn more about Volunteering Solutions and interning through their organization, visit their website here. (UK readers, please visit their UK site here). Also, check out the three great marine conservation internship programs. 

Read about Volunteering Solutions’ programs in Borneo and Malaysia below.

Borneo Wildlife Safari and Volunteering Experience

Get up close with wildlife in Borneo during this amazing program. Experience the goodness of local living while meaningfully contributing towards the conservation of flora and fauna. 

You’ll also journey through the mysterious Borneo Rainforests and work at a sanctuary dedicated to providing a safe habitat for orangutans, sun bears, pygmy elephants, gibbons and other local animals. 

During the 12-day program, you’ll not only volunteer to help orangutans, but you’ll also live among the gentle Orang Sungai, or ‘People of the River’. You’ll learn their ways of life, eating meals and working alongside them. You’ll contribute to habitat restoration by planting trees and maintaining planting sites vital for orangutans and pygmy elephants. 

If you want to volunteer with orangutans and other wildlife in Borneo, while immersing yourself in native culture, consider this program. It’s off-the-beaten track and provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Click here to learn more!

Sun Bear Conservation Volunteering in Borneo, Malaysia

Spend two weeks at the Sun Bear Conservation Center outside Sandakan town. There, you’ll take care of the smallest bears in the world, helping to clean dens and create environment and food enrichment. You’ll also assist with rehabilitation and the process of releasing the sun bears back into the wild. 

This program also involves raising awareness of responsible living and traveling among locals and tourists. These campaigns not only benefit sun bears, but also orangutans, pygmy elephants and other native animals in Borneo. 

Click here to learn more!

Family Volunteer Adventure in Malaysia

What’s better than volunteering with family? It’s volunteering with family to help orangutans, gibbons, hornbills and other amazing animals.

For this family volunteer adventure in Malaysia, you’ll head into the wilderness of the Sabah region in Malaysia. As you experience local life and culture, you’ll take part in conservation efforts to protect local wildlife and flora and fauna. Beauty will surround you every step of the way. 

If you want to volunteer with orangutans and other animals alongside loved ones, all the while getting an immersive cultural experience in a marvelous environment, look no further than this awesome project from Volunteering Solutions. It will be the 7-day adventure of a lifetime. 

Click here to learn more!

Global Nomadic

Volunteer Forever - Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia

Global Nomadic has connected more than 10,000 people on life-changing volunteer placements and internships worldwide since its launch in 2009. Partnering with nonprofit organizations and companies in more than 40 countries, Global Nomadic’s impactful programs and research projects focus on conservation, wildlife rehabilitation, community development, journalism, human rights, and educational research. Global Nomadic also offers reputable and worthwhile opportunities around the globe for young professionals to further their careers.

Orangutan Rehabilitation Project

Join Global Nomadic in Borneo, gaining experience working toward the long-term conservation of orangutans. This rehabilitation project is an excellent choice for students majoring in Conservation Biology, Zoology, Veterinary Medicine, or Animal Science, as it offers theoretical and practical knowledge, skills in animal management, and field research methods.

The orangutan sanctuary is located on a 35-acre island and allows students and scientists to research the primates in their habitat. Tasks you’ll perform are physical and demanding, and you’ll need to be prepared for the country’s humidity, which not only can be exhausting but can also affect the structures built in Borneo. Constant maintenance is required, such as cleaning, painting, and repairing. You’ll assist with building climbing structures for orangutans, as well as boardwalks for the tourists and staff. You’ll also help to clean, feed, and care for the captive animals – you’ll also take on ancillary tasks such as farming and planting, food preparation, and care for the orangutan exhibition area.

You’ll need to be at least 18 years of age and have a good level of fitness, patience, and flexibility – there are guidelines for interacting with the animals, which follow a strict diet.

You’ll stay in a hostel dormitory in Perak, with shared rooms, plus meals during the week. Private rooms are available for an additional fee. Weekends can be spent on day trips to the capital Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, and the Georgetown World Heritage site. See the sights in Taiping, including a night market, and visit Kuala Sepetang, where you can see mangroves and eagles.

Click here to learn more and to register!

International TEFL Academy (ITA)

teach English in Europe

Want to combine volunteering in Malaysia with living and working there? Consider teaching English in the country. In your free time, you can volunteer with orangutans, work on conservation projects, assist with community development and more.

Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy offers English teachers a great pathway into many countries. They provide the gold standard in TEFL certification, each year certifying 5,000+ people to teach English overseas. Destinations such as Malaysia are quite popular thanks to high demand for ESL teachers in the country and solid salary and benefits.

After obtaining TEFL certification, you’ll get job placement assistance in Malaysia. In no time, you can be living and working in Malaysia, and volunteering in your spare time. You can earn $2,000+ per month — more than enough to live comfortably in the country. 

Learn more about teaching English in Malaysia here.

Ready to Volunteer in Borneo or Malaysia and Get Your Wild On?

Some of the world’s most amazing animals are threatened with extinction because of human predation and habitat destruction. Journey to Borneo and Malaysia and be part of a dedicated team, keeping these jungles free by running anti-poaching patrols, finding and destroying snares, collecting useful data, and recording wildlife movement along important trails. Help provide a healthy habitat for intelligent orangutans and keep them safe and protected long-term through sustainable ecotourism. From tigers to turtles to tapirs, the animals of Asia need your help to stay wild and free.

Now, all that’s left to do is sign up for program. Soon, you’ll be on your way to volunteer with orangutans, sun bears, tigers and other wildlife in Borneo and Malaysia.