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>  Volunteer Projects Asia  >  The Great Orangutan and P

This project is based in a remnant of paradise called the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain Rainforest in Sabah, on the island of Borneo, within the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) protected ‘Corridor of Life’. It is an area of enormous importance for both wildlife and the local communities who live here.  The wildlife sanctuary you will be living in is home to singing gibbons, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, hornbills and the pygmy elephant, as well as a host of other rarely seen wildlife. 

You will stay in the small village of Sukau which is 2 hours from Sandakan Airport with a population of approximately just 1,000.  There is one primary school in the village and most villagers derive their income through tourism, plantations and related village businesses. The main part of the programme will be in Sukau village with activities conducted in and around the village or along the Kinabatangan River. You will live among the gentle, ever-smiling Orang Sungai or “People of the River” during this programme, experiencing their ways of life and joining them in their homes for meals. 

As the project is within the wildlife sanctuary where pygmy elephants and orangutans live, we are responsible to ensure that their habitat is protected. With a focus on these species, volunteers assist with wildlife monitoring from a boat cruising on the river and on treks in the rainforest. From here, observe and record any wildlife that roams along the river banks at the forest’s edge, taking photographs of the animals and collecting data for research purposes. Volunteers also help to restore destroyed habitats by contributing towards reforestation and assisting with educating the local population on the importance of conservation and implementing more sustainable ways to live.  #lovesabah

Project Summary

Fous: Elephants, Orangutan, Indigenous community

Location: Sabab, Malaysia

Duration: 12 Days

Start Dates: 21st of every month

Minimum age: 18 

Day 2 - Enjoy a little lie in before heading over to Sukau. Accommodation at Sukau is room-sharing with other participants in the village B&B which is run by members of the local village. Please note bathrooms have cold water showers and western toilets.

Day 3 to 11 - Volunteer Activities - includes:

Wildlife Population Density Data Collection: cruising on the river to observe and record the endangered wildlife that roam the forest along the river banks, taking photographs, if possible, of the wildlife (focusing on pygmy elephants and orang-utans) for record and research purposes;
Habitat Restoration: tree planting, nursery care and seedling generation, sapling maintenance, mulching & composting, water hyacinth clearing and tree growth data recording;

Education Programme: spend half a day with school children of the community to work on conservation issues that the children deal with on a daily basis and emphasize their immediate and personal impact on conservation;
School Project / Community Development: development of a continuous project with the community of the local village. This project directly benefits the community and volunteers will interact with the community on various levels

Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days at Sukau will be included.

Day 11 - Depart Sukau and transfer to Sandakan. First stop Sepilok Orang-utan 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 (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)

Day 12 - Check out and transfer to Sandakan airport (Breakfast).


You will help monitor the numbers and patterns of various animals, including orangutans and pygmy elephants. These activities will often be conducted from a boat as you cruise along the river and whilst we cannot guarantee that you will see a pygmy elephant, every group who has undertaken this project have had the magical experience of sighting these mysterious animals.

You will also work with the community - a local tribe called the 'Orang Sungai' (People of the River). They are a very gentle people who live 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. You will have the opportunity to work with local school children providing them with an education in the importance of conservation.

One of the foremost ways we can preserve the local environment is with re-forestation. Part of your time on this trip will therefore be spent planting new trees and tending to the pygmy elephant and orangutan habitat. This is vital to ensure the survival of these wonderful animals.


The Great Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant Project is a chance for volunteers to immerse themselves in the wildlife and local community of the lush Borneo rainforest. Volunteers will be fully engaged in working alongside the local tribe conserving the environment and the wildlife that depends on it such as orangutan and elephant. The breathtakingly beautiful scenery and rare species complement each other to create an experience that you will never forget and it will become clear why this area of the world is known as the ‘Corridor of Life’. 

The main part of the programme will be spent in the beautiful Sukau village with activities conducted in and around the village or along the Kinabatangan River. You will live among the gentle, ever-smiling Orang Sungai or “People of the River”, joining them in their homes for meals, experiencing their culture and assisting in community projects. 

Volunteers help the environment by restoring destroyed habitat around the village to contribute towards the reforestation of the Corridor of Life by planting trees to preserve the remaining wildlife and biodiversity in these sanctuaries. The wildlife sanctuary you will be living in is home to singing gibbons, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, hornbills and the pygmy elephant. You and your family will get a chance to spot and survey the incredible wildlife around the village and on river cruises along the river during your stay on the project. 

To round off the tour, after the project work, volunteers will be taken to visit the world famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to see the endangered apes up close in their natural habitat.

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