Volunteer in Borneo Orangutan & Pygmy Elephant ConservationEcoteer Responsible Travel

Orangutan & Pygmy Elephant Conservation Voluntour in Borneo

Learn about orangutans & pygmy elephants and maintain planting sites important for the survival of the orangutan and pygmy elephant population

Orangutan & Pygmy Elephant Conservation Voluntour in Borneo

Volunteer with Borneo Elephants and Wild Orangutan populations and help stop plummeting numbers.  The Kinabatangan River is one of the last areas that has significant wild populations of these endangered species.

Help out in the conservation of wild orangutan and Pygmy elephant populations by joining this conservation volunteering project in Borneo Sandakan. You live in the village of the ‘Orang Sungai’ also known as the river people whilst conducting wildlife observation and collecting important wildlife population data focusing on the orangutan and pygmy elephant population in the forest along the Kinabatangan River. In this Borneo volunteering project, you will be involved in the habitat restoration tasks such as tree planting and maintaining planting sites which are crucial links to the fragmented forests. From this conservation project, volunteers will learn a lot about the major threats towards the orangutan and pygmy elephant populations, stages of orangutan rehabilitation as well as increasing the environmental awareness of the local villagers and students. You will also get the chance to visit the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre at the end of your trip. Come join us and experience Borneo through an animal conservation volunteering project.

If you don’t have the opportunity to volunteer but had always wanted to do something for a good cause, why not fundraise for these projects! Visit our Fundraising page for more info or write to us here

What Daniel Says

“The Kinabatangan River where this project is located is where i first volunteered in 2004 and Mark the leader of this trip was a tour guide at the time at the ecolodge worked at. It is actually the inspiration of the whole of Ecoteer and after I left in 2005 I started up Ecoteer.com. The river and the animals of the forests will always live close to my heart. Mark has worked on the river as guide for more than 10 years and has won several guiding awards. During the programme you will also help with a very successful tree planting programme which was established by APE Malaysia who run the programme. If you join this programme I hope your heart falls in love with the area as much as I have.”


  • Cost

    MYR 4810 per person (approx. £700)
    MYR – Ringgit Malaysia

    Meet and greet at Sandakan Airport (SDK), Malaysia;
    Welcome dinner;
    All transfers as per itinerary;
    Programme introduction in Sabah and orientation in the village;
    Visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre;
    Entrance fees to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre;
    Entrance fees to Rainforest Discovery Centre;
    English-speaking programme facilitator;
    11 nights at designated accommodation;
    Meals as indicated in itinerary;
    All activities, materials, tools and equipment included in “Project Days”;
    Boat and river transfers on “Project Days”
    Conservation contribution to the project.
    Ecoteer Responsible Travel Membership

    Not included: International and internal airfare, camera fees, visa application/fees, private transfers, meals and accommodation when travelling independently or on Off Days, insurance, personal incidentals and any item not stated in the list above

    Download brochure here


    Please allow a minimum of 3 weeks for us to process your application and payment.

    Please make an initial inquiry by telling us about yourself and what project you would like to join. Contact us here

    To make a booking, please contact us here.  We will then email you back with more information and the application form.  Please complete the form and send back to us so we can confirm your reservation and inform you how to make the deposit payment. If the deposit is not received within 2 weeks from the date your reservation is placed, your reservation will be cancelled automatically. Full payment is required no later than 1 month before departure. You may pay online by credit card or a direct transfer to our account. Once a deposit has been paid we will email you our Know Before You Go guide, which will give you useful information to help you prepare to volunteer.

    Cancellation Policy

    a. Cancellation of reservation must be made in writing to avoid any misunderstanding. If the company receives notice to cancel 30 days or more before the date of departure, a minimum administrative fee of RM100.00 or 10% of the tour deposit (whichever is lower) per person will be levied.

    b. If notice of the cancellation is received 29 days or less before the date of departure the following charges will apply:

    c. 15 – 29 working days before the date of departure = 50% of deposit
    8 – 14 working days before the date of departure = 20% of FULL COST
    3 – 7 working days before the date of departure = 40% of FULL COST
    2 working days or less before the date of departure = 100% of FULL COST

  • Sukau

    Habitat Restoration

    Volunteers will not only plant trees but will also help to maintain other plots of land that have been planted by previous volunteers to ensure that the trees have maximum survival rate. Restoring selected plots of land will create corridors of greenery for the orang-utan, elephants and other wildlife to move between the remaining fragments of forests.

    Volunteers will get to observe orang-utan, pygmy elephant and other wildlife roaming the jungles around the village. Wildlife observation is conducted from a boat as volunteers cruise along the river. All animals are wild and therefore their sightings are not guaranteed. Volunteers will not be able to touch orang-utans or elephants or any wildlife within the wildlife sanctuary.

    Community Work

    Working with the community is an essential part of conservation and the most successful ones are those that have brought the community into the folds of the conservation programme itself. The programme includes having meals in their homes, eating home-cooked lunches and dinners and also have mini-projects that we carry out with the community, working with them to understand the complicated conservation world that has descended upon them.

    Community work includes:
    – Develop conservation based programmes for the children in the village aged between 6 to 12.
    – Develop mini projects related to conservation which involves the local community to understand the importance of conservation.

    Sepilok & Sandakan

    Volunteers will spend the last day of their programme at Sepilok and Sandakan as a tourist. Volunteers will visit the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre and observe feeding of orang-utans. In Sandakan, volunteers will be able to see the local township and savour the local lifestyle.

  • Day 1 (D)

    Arrive Sandakan Airport (SDK) and transfer to dormitory-style accommodation. Best to arrive at the airport before 1700 hours.

    1800 hours, meet at lobby for welcome dinner & introduction to the programme.

    Day 2 – 10
    (B, L, D)

    After breakfast, transfer to Project Site.

    After showing you to your accommodation, your will be given a thorough Health & Safety briefing as well as an orientation around the village.

    The project involves wildlife observation to collect important wildlife population data. Habitat restoration work involves tree-planting and maintenance activities at high priority areas. These are crucial in connecting fragmented forest in the area to encourage healthy orang-utan and pygmy elephant populations. Community and Education programmes involve interaction with the villagers and the students of the village school.

    Day 11
    (B, L)

    Depart for Sepilok. Walk through the Rainforest Discovery Centre to reinforce what you have learned about the rainforest over the past few days. After lunch, visit Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre where you will learn about the challenges of orang-utan rehabilitation. After this learning session, you will head into Sandakan. Check into accommodation. Free at leisure. Try to catch the sunset from the rooftop bar.

    Day 12

    Check out and transfer to Sandakan Airport. Recommended departure flight to be after 11AM.
    Optional: independent travel to Kota Kinabalu or Turtle Islands

  • Arrival night in Sepilok: Dormitory-style room in a traditional style longhouse. Hot water showers and toilets are shared. Set on high grounds overlooking the greens of Malaysia, you will find this a peaceful and relaxing place to start your trip, specially to recuperate from a tough stint at the zoo. If you arrive early, and wish to explore, Sandakan is about 35 minutes away and all along the way, there are mini townships where you will find little shops, eateries and banks. However, public transport does not ply the roads frequently. The airport is almost halfway between Sandakan and the dormitory. Welcome dinner and introduction usually starts at 1800 hours at the “lobby” of the dormitory. Please confirm timing when you check in.

    At Sukau: Comfortable and basic village-run B&B, set in the middle of the village, within walking distance to the centre of the village and the village jetty. Rooms are shared with other participants and the attached toilet comes with western toilets and cold water showers. Breakfast is taken at the common area overlooking the river.

    At Sandakan (last night): Comfortable and basic hotel room in Sandakan town, shared rooms with other participants with attached toilets & showers. It is within walking distance to the Promenade, and many quaint little shops and eateries. The town has internet cafes, supermarket, restaurants and food stalls serving local and western foods. There is also a beautiful rooftop restaurant and bar nearby where you can have a drink and watch your final sunset in Borneo.

  • 12 days: January – December, starts 21st of each month, ends 12 days later

  • 1. What are the requirements to join this volunteering project?
    Volunteers will need to be able to speak English to be able to communicate with the facilitator. Minimum age requirement is 18 years old. Volunteers should also have a positive attitude and willing to participate in all task given to them.

    2. How many hours do volunteer work per day?
    7 to 8 hours a day with lunch break.

    3. How do I go to the project site?
    From your country of origin (except Malaysia), take a plane to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). From KLIA, take a plane to Sandakan airport where volunteers will be picked up by the staff.

    4. Do I need to apply for visa to join?
    Tourist from the following countries will receive a 90 day free tourist visa upon arrival:

    Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kirgystan, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Lienchestien, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherland, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, St Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen.

    5. What vaccinations do I need for this volunteering project?
    Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), tetanus-diphtheria & malaria.

    6. Is this program suitable for families with children?
    No, this programme is not suitable for family with young children.

  • To make an enquiry or to book, kindly email us using our Contact Us form.


“One of the best things about this programme is that it really benefits the local community. I got immense satisfaction from the knowledge that I had come to Sabah and done a variety of activities that benefitted the local people.”
Farrah Naz

“I believe we observed 60 species, about 2/3 birds. Feel free to envy me (lots!) for seeing all of the following in the wild (ie the rainforest around the river bank):- mother & baby orangutans, dominant orangutan settling into his nest for the night,- five pygmy elephants with a baby feeding on the grass on the river bank… What I perhaps enjoyed the most was the class we did at the school. Groups of volunteers teach the children about protecting the environment and our module was on recycling… If you ever want to see Borneo, I would definitely recommend combining it with something like my project. You see and experience so much more!”
Monica Filkova

“Out of all my experiences last year, when people ask me what I would like to see again… I always say our trees… our little saplings… it’s one of those ‘before I die’ things… I want to see a wild orangutan in our trees!!!!!”
Louise Sullivan

“Watching on TV is very different to seeing it in reality. This programme has opened my eyes to what I want to do in the future.”
Sunil Talati

“The only negative comment I have … is, one month was not long enough.”
Elaine Purvis

“It was especially rewarding to be able to see that the money I spent to join the project was clearly vital to maintaining the progress being made… a real investment in frontline conservation… You’ll sweat, bleed, laugh and cry, and you’re going to love every minute of it!”
Steve Jackson

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