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>  Volunteer Projects Asia  >  Family Borneo Safari

See orangutans, restore the rainforest and meet the local tribes in Borneo from £595 per person

The Family Borneo Wildlife Safari is a chance for you and the whole family to immerse yourselves in the wildlife and local community of the lush Borneo rainforest. Families 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 at the local school. 

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.


Project Summary

Focus: Orangutans, pygmy elephants and the local community

Location: Sukau village , Sabah, Malaysia
Duration : 7 Days

Arrival and starting point: Sandakan Airport

Start date:  21st April 2014

Day 1: 
Arrive Sandakan 
Upon your arrival in Sandakan, you will be met and transferred to the lovely longhouse style accommodation in Sepilok. Here, you will spend a night understanding the Corridor of Life and the project. The programme facilitator will meet you at 1800 hours for the welcome dinner and briefing. 

Days 2 – 5: 
Project days
After breakfast, transfer to the project site at Sukau. 
After showing you to your accommodation, you will be given a health & safety briefing as well as an orientation around the village. 
The project at Sukau involves wildlife observation and habitat restoration work tat involves tree-planting and maintenance activities at high priority areas. These are crucial in connecting fragmented forest in the area to encourage healthy orangutan and pygmy elephant populations. The group will also get involved with community and education programmes, interacting with the villagers and the students of the village school. 

Day 6: 
Depart Sukau after breakfast for Sepilok
You will first visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre before travelling to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to see the orangutans. In Sandakan you will be able to see the local township and savour the local lifestyle. 
The last evening is at leisure, spending a night at a relatively comfortable city hotel in the heart of Sandakan. 

Day 7: 
Check out and transfer to Sandakan Airport. 

Note: Changes to the activities will occur subject to weather conditions, school calendar, community and project requirements. Some or all of the above activities may or may not be included on your itinerary. Other activities not mentioned above may also be included on your itinerary subject to weather conditions, community and project requirements.


Project days will see families contribute towards conservation via habitat restoration and community development. During the week, volunteers will have the chance to participate in some of the following activities:

Wildlife population observation: This entails cruising on a boat along the river and its tributaries within the wildlife sanctuary to observe the endangered wildlife roaming the forest along the river banks such as pygmy elephants and orangutans. 

Habitat restoration: The most crucial activity ensuring the survival of wildlife. You will take part in tree-planting, nursery care and seedling generation, sapling maintenance, mulching & composting, clearing invasive species and also tree growth data recording. The planting of trees will be in sections identified as high priority and will build towards the creation of corridors for wildlife to move from one section of a sanctuary to another.

Guided jungle trek: The mysterious tropical rainforest of Borneo has a lot to offer beyond a jungle trek. As an introduction to the flora and fauna of the rainforest, you will go for a trek to understand what the rainforest traditionally offers the inhabitants in terms of medication, food and survival.

School interaction: Volunteers will spend half a day with school children of the community to get to know them and share your life back home with them. A focus on what you do at home in relation to conservation and how you deal with them on a daily basis would be a positive element. You will be provided with a framework and the facilitator will guide you in the planning of this session.

Cultural and community interaction: Living and contributing back to the community is a big part of this programme. Lunch and dinners will be in the private homes of individual villagers. Take time for them to warm up to you and you will get to hear about their daily lives, chat with the children, learn about their family structure and see how the Orang Sungai have been living off the rivers and jungles for centuries. 

Community development: This involves the development of a continuous project with the community of the local village. Volunteers will interact with the community on various levels while working on this project. You will learn some local skills required for their daily livelihood and maybe assist them as well. 

This tour is our only project that caters for families in Borneo and a unique chance for children to volunteer for the benefit of orangutans. This family orientated project will not only make a positive impact on the jungle environment and the wildlife found there through habitat restoration, but it will also see interaction with local communities and a visit to the renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

The aim of this project is to maintain and develop an area known as the ‘Corridor of Life’ that sits alongside the Kinabatangan River, a 560km long river in Sabah. The river runs from the heart of Borneo through tropical rainforests, floodplain forests and mangroves forming an epicentre of biodiversity. Where volunteers will be based has been deemed a high priority conservation area that requires concerted effort to ensure the wildlife has a protected habitat to continue surviving the onslaught of man and development. 

The area has been severely damaged by logging and plantations and requires urgent need for replanting to restore the habitat of over 250 birds, 50 mammals, 20 reptile species, 1060 plant species, countless insects and many, many others that have yet to be identified. 

Habitat restoration is hard work as you will not only be planting trees but also maintaining other plots of land that have been planted by previous volunteers to ensure that the trees have the maximum survival rate. These plots of land that you will be helping to restore will create corridors of greenery for the orangutan, elephants and other wildlife to move between the remaining fragments of forests. The project has sighted macaques, deer, elephants and birds within the very trees that were planted by previous volunteers. 

Volunteers will live along the ever-smiling Orang Sungai or ‘People of the River’ during this project, where you will respect their ways of life and join them in their homes for meals. They depend on the rainforest and river for daily resources such as food, medicine, poison, hunting tools and traps, building materials, clothing, carrier bags and even cosmetics! Working with the local tribe is an integral part of conservation and the most successful ones are those that bring the community into the conservation projects itself.

What should I pack? 
Bring clothes that are light and dry easily. For the jungle, bring clothes in colours that blend with the environment so as not to scare the wildlife. Heavy downpours in Malaysia are really buckets emptying themselves over you, so be prepared to get soaked to the skin when you least expect it! Light material long sleeves and long pants are advisable for tree planting activity due to the weeds, undergrowth and insects that may be encountered, also as protection against very early morning cool weather in the jungles. 

Bring several changes of clothes that you don’t mind getting really mucky and dirty in as habitat restoration work in Borneo involves clearing of undegrowth and clearing weeds, mulching and tree planting. Other work in the community may involve painting, building or maintenance work. 
Taking into consideration community sensitivities, clothes that cover the shoulders & cleavage and longer than the knees are a must when working in the village and when visiting local homes and schools.


What’s the weather like? 
Throughout November rainfall increases across Sabah and there is a strong chance of thunderstorms, particularly on the north and east coasts. However there will also still be a number of dry days, most likely to occur in the south. 
(avg daily temp: 27°C, avg monthly rainfall: 310mm)
April sees fine weather across Sabah making it another great month to visit. Conditions for trekking are excellent, although due to the odd tropical storm, suitable clothing is always advisable. 
(avg daily temp:29°C, avg monthly rainfall:168mm).

What can I bring for the children? 
Participants will meet children in their daily lives living on site. The project is currently working on setting up a library for rural schools and its community. Good English/Malay books to stock their newly set up library would be welcomed. The students are aged between six and twelve years old, so we would appreciate donations of any books suitable for primary school aged children. Particularly useful would be story books and books about animals and wildlife! 

The school project involves interaction with children. Previous participants have left crayons, paints and coloured papers under the care of the project for use during the education session. These supplies are used up very quickly and we encourage you to complement these to ensure long term positive outcomes for the education programme! 

Please let us know if you are unsure of what kind of books/stationery to bring.

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