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Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia: Volunteer with Orangutans

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

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.

But you’ll also 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.

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

By participating in a wildlife conservation program, 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.

Put your enthusiasm to use, build your leadership skills, and work on community conservation projects with Raleigh International in the “Heart of Borneo.” Or check out Frontier, which puts you on the Tiger Trail, tracking the elusive animal and helping to halt poaching of this iconic big cat.

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!

Featured Volunteer Programs in Borneo & Malaysia


Volunteer Forever - Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia

Established in 1989, Frontier places travelers on great projects that provide sustainable livelihoods for local communities. Frontier is a nonprofit conservation and development organization with more than 400 programs in 60 countries. Its goal is to inspire travelers of all ages to make their trips meaningful while safeguarding biodiversity. Frontier is an innovator in creating quality volunteer programs, ranging from community development, educational, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, to humanitarian aid, and research and conservation.

Explore Malaysia Islands & Jungles

Travel a tiger trail and take part in turtle conservation on an exciting conservation program with Frontier in Malaysia. With its lush forests, pristine beaches, and tropical islands, Malaysia is a melting pot of diversity in wildlife and people. You’ll enjoy the relaxed, open-minded way of life the Malaysian people experience, and be welcomed by their famous hospitality when you sign up for this project, making significant contributions to the sustainable use of the tropical rainforests and marine life.

Join Frontier guides in the jungle of the Taman Negara National Park, looking for animal tracking signs on the “Tiger Trail,” a wildlife corridor between the park and the main mountain range. Your observations will contribute toward the collection of baseline data and help to deter poachers. You may even see the elusive tigers, leopards, elephants, tapirs, and sun bears that live in the rainforests of Merapoh.

Then, leave the jungle behind and travel to the coast where you’ll volunteer to conserve and protect sea turtles of the Perhentian Islands. This work is vital, as you conduct surveys to identify individual animals for monitoring purposes, record nesting activity, and help protect turtle nests from human poachers and other predators. You’ll also conduct field surveys of coral reefs and educate islanders about marine conservation.

Accommodation is included in this program, as well as project orientation and training. In-country support is available 24/7. While in the rainforest, you’ll stay in a dormitory-style volunteer house in same-gender rooms. Shops are within walking distance of the hostel. You’ll have continental breakfast, packed lunch, and be able to enjoy dinner out on a food allowance.

The second part of your placement is spent at a volunteer guesthouse with mixed-gender dorms. There is a fully equipped kitchen, bathrooms, comfortable lounge, and wifi in the staff quarters. Meals are covered with a food allowance. The cost of this program is $1,745 for two weeks, with dates available from February to November. Learn more and sign up here!

Malaysian Borneo Orangutan Encounter

Help care for and conserve beautiful wild animals, including the enigmatic orangutan, on the Borneo Orangutan Encounter with Frontier. You’ll start your journey with the Malaysian Zoological Society in the busy city of Kuala Lumpur, volunteering as a zoo assistant. There, you’ll help with the feeding and care of the animals at the zoo, clean and help maintain enclosures, and create enrichment activities. Situated on 110 acres, the zoo is home to more than 5,400 mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, and reptiles. As a volunteer, you will help it with its long-term mission to become a world-class zoo.

Next, you’ll fly into Borneo, where the diversity of the wildlife in Sabah includes species like sun bears, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, and the Bornean rhinoceros. You’ll visit an orangutan orphanage and rehabilitation center, and then trek into the heart of Borneo’s rainforest for an introduction to local tribal culture in the Orang Sungai village. In Sabah, you’ll participate in community development activities and a reforestation project. You’ll also collect important wildlife population data from the Kinabatangan River, with an emphasis on orangutans and pygmy elephants.

You’ll stay in a guest house in Kuala Lumpur during the first phase of your expedition, and use a food allowance to sample traditional cuisine at the city’s restaurants and food stalls. During the second phase of the program, in the Borneo rainforest, you’ll stay at a longhouse or a basic, locally-operated B&B in the village.

While you’re in-country, take time to explore the world’s oldest rainforests, climb majestic mountains, and discover hidden beaches. Other opportunities include taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour around the city, learning how to cook, or taking a stroll along the canopy skywalk in a national park. Duration of this program is 28 days and the fee is $2,645. Learn more and apply here!

Malaysia Tiger Conservation

Learn how to track the elusive Malaysia tiger and help contribute to the conservation and protection of this iconic animal from poaching. Frontier’s Malaysia Tiger Conservation program places you in a remote rainforest in Merapoh with indigenous communities, tracking tigers, leopards, elephants, tapirs, and sun bears. You’ll help with anti-poaching efforts, use camera traps, and even help to teach English for a day.

This project aims to reduce the threat of poaching and human impact on the wildlife corridor between the Taman Negara National Park and the main mountain range in West Malaysia. Your presence in the forest is a deterrent to poachers and ensures the animals have a safe environment to live and breed. With some luck, you’ll be within viewing distance of some of the world’s most exotic and beautiful animals.

You’ll collect important data on the range and movement of different species, identifying animal tracks and other vital signs. If you find snares on your hikes, you’ll record their GPS locations and help to destroy the snares. You’ll also monitor camera traps, capturing the movements of camouflaged animals.

While on this expedition, you’ll spend half a day exploring some of the limestone caves in the Merapoh region, some of which contain underground rivers and waterfalls, while others display drawings by the people who lived centuries before. In the caves, you might see swiftlets, bats, snakes, and invertebrates. Another day will be spent teaching conversational English to the people of the local village, Batek, focusing on environmental topics.

You’ll arrive in Kuala Lumpur and stay in a dormitory-style volunteer house with same-gender bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms. Nearby, you’ll find shops and more within easy walking distance. You’ll have continental breakfast, packed lunch, and be able to enjoy dinner out on a food allowance. Recreational activities include exploring the tea plantations and lush forests of the Cameron Highlands or taking an eco-bike tour through Melaka. Find inner peace with yoga lessons along Langkawi’s serene beaches, or stroll around the city and sightsee local landmarks and temples. Program fees are $795 for eight days. Click here to learn more and to register!

Raleigh International

Volunteer Forever - Volunteer in Borneo & Malaysia

Raleigh International has been operating for decades, giving young people leadership lessons and experience in sustainable development work. By partnering with communities, organizations, NGOs, and governments, Raleigh identifies projects where young people between the ages of 17 and 24 can inspire change. A charity founded in 1984, Operation Raleigh became Raleigh International in 1992 and started operating out of Borneo, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, India, and Tanzania. Raleigh International works with research professionals to support poor and marginalized communities by harnessing the passion, energy, and creativity of the world’s youth.

Take Part in a Borneo Expedition

Explore and volunteer in Borneo on a transformative expedition with Raleigh International, contributing to a sustainable development project and gaining a sense of global citizenship. This is a challenging opportunity for you to work with a team of other young people, working where the need is great, and positive support builds toward a sustainable future.

You’ll work on an environmental project in partnership with an NGO in the conservation areas of Canyon, Danum Valley, or Maliau Basin, guided by rangers who will make sure your efforts are scientifically driven and quantifiable. Sabah in Malaysian Borneo is the area known as the “Heart of Borneo,” a beautiful place with tropical rainforests and ideal climate conditions for a variety of species to thrive. It’s a wonderful place to research and it holds the potential for new discoveries because many of its niches are isolated and remote. Between 1995 and 2010, more than 600 new species were discovered there – an average three per month.

On an expedition in Borneo you will focus on the following areas:

  1. Providing access to safe water and sanitation
  2. Protecting vulnerable environments
  3. Building resilient communities
  4. Developing the leadership of other volunteers

Expeditions run throughout the year, lasting from five, to seven, to 10 weeks in duration. Your charitable program fee of $1,916 for 10 weeks covers your travel and medical insurance, full training and support both pre-departure and while in-country, food, accommodation, transportation to the project site, and specialist equipment. Learn more and sign up here!

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. Program fees are $616 per week, with a two-week minimum stay, and include accommodation, food, airport pickup, orientation, and program activities. Click here to learn more and to register!

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.