A Voluntourism Trip With a Difference

As news of the discovery of a new species of orangutan shines a spotlight on the threat to these great apes, our writer joins a voluntourism project in Indonesian Borneo aimed at saving them.


"I’ve got a hammer in my hand when the cry goes up: “Orangutan in the camp.” Nine people down tools and grab their cameras and a chance to snap one of the critically endangered primates that we are here to help on our three-week stay in Indonesian Borneo. Rimba, a 17-year-old male orangutan, doesn’t disappoint: he circles the camp, going from tree to tree just a few metres above our heads for almost 30 minutes, hooting gruffly if anyone comes too close."

"It’s a well-earned reward for our group, which has spent a week sawing, hammering, chiselling, drilling and painting in the 32C heat and almost 100% humidity of the jungle. The Pondok Ambung research post, operated by the UK-based Orangutan Foundation, is little more than a handful of single-storey wooden and concrete buildings. We got here by driving from the regional capital, Pangkalan Bun, then taking a four-hour boat ride from the port of Kumai, along the Buluh Kecil river in central Kalimantan (the Indonesian name for Borneo). We’re surrounded by towering ironwood trees, which form a canopy 50 metres above our heads, blocking out sunshine but trapping moisture and heat. Below it the thick tropical rainforest is alive with small things that crawl and fly."


Read the full first-hand account of our Orangutan Conservation Volunteer Programme on The Guardian website here...

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