Volunteer in Borneo with Orangutan Foundation in 2018

We are looking for a few more adventurous individuals to join our volunteer team in Borneo. This year's project is the renovation of a forest guard post in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.  Volunteers will be working and living on the site, which is a beautiful remote location in the middle of the forest. You will wake up and go to sleep to the sounds of the forest.

Last November, The Guardian ran an article featuring a first-hand account from one of our volunteer. It is well worth a read if you are interested in volunteering.  https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/nov/01/borneo-voluntourism-holiday-orangutan-foundation 

Orangutan Foundation does not allow any of its volunteers to have direct contact with orangutans and this is for the benefit of the apes. Most people understand this and can see the bigger picture of what they are doing.  Watch Orangutan Foundation’s Cathy Smith talking at Compass Ethical Travel Conference about ethical volunteering.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=213&v=3KM4ZBLvo38

If you want to spend a unique 3 weeks doing something worthwhile for orangutan conservation and see orangutans in the wild, then why not make this the year to join us? To find out more please click here or contact us.

An Adventure in the Bornean Rainforest

Long standing supporter, volunteer and 2016 volunteer coordinator, Joanne Cotton, shares her experience of voluntary work in Borneo gained from taking part in the Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme.

2016 Volunteers pose for a photograph, coconuts in hand.

“I had trawled the internet for hours reading up about potential volunteer programmes, many of which offered fun and adventure in far off lands but somehow there was something lacking. As soon as I read the information about the Orangutan Foundation programme, I knew that I had found the right adventure for me. It was really important to me that whatever project I joined, it had genuine heart and soul for a worthwhile cause, a real opportunity to help make a much needed difference. The Orangutan Foundation offered this by the bucket load! This was an opportunity to live and work in the rainforest in Indonesian Borneo with a local team doing building work that ultimately was to facilitate the release of orangutans in the area.

I applied for the programme straight away and was very glad I had done so as places were limited. The Orangutan Foundation arranged for a telephone interview with me, this was just an informal chat but was a great opportunity for them to check that I was suitable for such an experience and also for me to ask all of the many questions I had been thinking about.

That’s how my adventure started and six months later I found myself at an airport, on the other side of the planet, all by myself. I had never done anything like this before and it felt amazing, I felt so liberated, yet it had only just begun!


Volunteers get to grips with basic construction work, 2016.

When I signed up to do this project, this was well outside of my comfort zone but the staff at Orangutan Foundation were extremely helpful and supportive and provided me with lots of useful information so that I could be as prepared as possible for what lay ahead. If you are thinking of joining an Orangutan Foundation programme in the future, I cannot recommend it enough, just do it! It will open your eyes and it is likely that you will never look at our planet and life the same way again."

Applications for this year’s Volunteer Programme are now OPEN. Email info@orangutan.org.uk to receive an application form. Please join us for an unforgettable experience!

Orangutan Foundation: 2016 in pictures and numbers. A huge thank you for your support.

6,000 wild Bornean orangutans live in the Belantikan region. The largest population outside of a protected area. Orangutan Foundation actively engages key stakeholders to conserve this critical tropical forest ecosystem.

The Belantikan Forest.

33 wild orangutans rescued. One particularly poignant rescue was Narti, who was found completely stranded, clinging to the burnt remnants of a tree surrounded by oil palms.

Narti was found completely stranded.

36 rescues of other wildlife species. All released into the safety of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

A Brahminy Kite rescued by the Foundation.


A sunbear pictured shortly after release.


A slow loris rescued by Foundation staff.


16,000 Ubar tree seedlings nurtured and planted to restore areas of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve damaged by forest fires in 2015.

A nursery worker tending to seedlings.

One new patron. Patrick Aryee and Offspring Films visited our work in Borneo to film for “Monkeys: An Amazing Animal Family”, a three-part series which first aired on Sky 1, on Christmas day. Star of the show, was Okto who was charmed by Patrick’s presenting skills!

Okto, our adoption star!


Foundation Director Ashley Leiman with Orangutan Foundation Patron Patrick Aryee.

Eight volunteers and one new guard post. In July, the construction of Guard Post 25 began. Now up and running, this guard post is critical for the protection of the new 8,000 hectare extension of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

2016 Volunteers.

The newly completed guard post 25.

Our 25th anniversary year saw the opening of Tanjung Harapan’s Information Centre, in Tanjung Tanjung Puting National Park. Renovated by our 2015 volunteers and designed by the Cube in Residence Programme.

Cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the Information Centre.


Orangutan Foundation Director Ashley Leiman with the administrative head of Tanjung Puting National Park.


Visitors taking in the exhibits in the Information Centre

104 air rifle pellets were found in lodged in orangutan Aan, 32 of which in her head left her blind, in 2012. In October 2016, ophthalmic surgeon, Claudia Hartley, visited Aan to assess the permanence of her blindness. 

Aan, found blinded by air rifle pellets.

What a wonderful start to 2017 to have the chance to restore Aan's sight. Claudia Hartley will be returning the to field with her team and specialist equipment in February to remove a cataract, currently affecting Aan's vision in her one remaining eye.
DONATE NOW to help us to raise £2000 to fund this vital operation to give Aan a second chance in the wild.

The wonders of life – help save forests and orangutans!

Needed: 12 adventurous individuals for 6 weeks volunteer work in Borneo. Your mission: to build a guard post that will strengthen the protection of a wildlife reserve that’s home to the endangered Bornean orangutan, gibbon, clouded leopard and thousands of other amazing species.

You must be healthy, fit and ready for a challenge. A sense of humour is a must and, unlike orangutans, you must be able to work and live in a group!

Find out more: email cat@orangutan.org.uk or call 020 7724 2912



Volunteer with Orangutan Foundation in Borneo!

I have been running the Orangutan Foundation’s Volunteer Programme for 4 years now, and remain proud to be doing so. I have visited the Programme a couple of times since my first participation in 2001 and I am as blown away by the experience now as I was then! Originally set up as a method of bolstering our field operations whilst offering individuals the opportunity to actively help and experience a unique lifestyle in Borneo, it continues to be an unbridled success. Its achievements to-date include; a number of guard and patrol posts in Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve; an orangutan release camp; provision of clean drinking water to villages in the Belantikan Hulu region; and the Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station , to name but a few!

Volunteer Team 1 - 2009

2009 Volunteer Team with Orangutan Foundation staff

One of the things I love most about the Programme is its transparency – all money paid by volunteers goes into their project that year, paying not only for the volunteer food and accommodation but also for the Indonesian staff, work tools and materials. Oh, and it is brilliant fun for everyone who takes part! The fact that we have had the same staff involved for years and that a significant number of volunteers return to Borneo speaks for itself.

2010 sees the Volunteer Programme enter its 11th year and we continue with our winning formula – teams of 12 people go out for a 6 week period and live a basic lifestyle, helping with manual labour and construction work to aid our field operations.

Camp Mangkung orangutan release site

Camp Mangkung, built and painted by volunteers in 2008 

In 2008, the Volunteer Programme built the Lamandau reserve’s 6th orangutan release camp, called Camp Mangkung. It consists of a kitchen and storeroom, accommodation rooms, office and orangutan holding cage. Mangkung was recently designated as an official site for the release of translocated orangutans - meaning that wild healthy orangutans directly threaten by habitat destruction (eg from a palm oil plantation, like female orangutan Memes), can be moved and will be released at Camp Mangkung.

During the dry season or times of low rain, river access to Camp Mangkung is impossible and so we need to build a boardwalk so that we have reliable access to the site. This will be the focus of the 2010 project - thus there will be high levels of chiselling, sawing and hammering….plus some digging!

Volunteer from Team 2 2009 with a little helping paw!

John a volunteer from Team 2 in 2009 with a little helping paw!

If you want to spend a unique 6 weeks doing something worthwhile for orangutan conservation, make friends for life and see orangutans in the wild, then why not make this the year to join us?

Bornean orangutan in tree

What all the hard work is for!

Dates for the 2010 Programme are:

Team 1 – 1st May to 12th June

Team 2 – 26th June to 7th August

Please note that it is extremely likely that we will be running a 3rd team from, 21st August. This will be confirmed within the next couple of weeks on our website.

Further information may be found in the 2010 Volunteer Programme Brochure on our website.

Elly - Orangutan Foundation Development and Volunteer Co-ordinator

Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

You're probably aware that the Orangutan Foundation runs a Volunteer Programme (see Categories for past posts)  This year's programme has been different in that we are working closely with our partners Yayorin on a water purification project in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan. Belantikan is home to the largest remaning population of orangutans in an unprotected area and is a biodiversity hotspot. 

Our strategy involves community empowerment, education and agricultural management to help villagers protect their forests. This year’s Volunteer Programme fits in by working with the local communities and further improving our relationship with them, whilst gaining their respect and providing villagers with a cleaner, safer water-source.  Each team will work in a different village. At each village, a natural spring has been identified as an alternative source to the river which is currently used for transport, bathing, washing and as a toilet. The teams build a dam to harness the spring water and then a pipe system takes it down to the village.

Volunteers return to camp after a hard days work

Climbing back up to the jetty after a hard days work 

Team 1 ended on 13th June and the village of Nanga Matu (home to Yayorin’s basecamp) now has taps providing clean water from a natural hillside spring on the other side of the river. The construction was no mean feat and massive thanks go to the hardworking volunteers and Volunteer Co-ordinators who made the project succeed.   Team 2 is already well into their work in the village of Bintang Mengalih and I was there to see the project commence. The team are living in a small community house where personal space is non- existent, and the movements and activities of us visitors is of most interest to the locals.

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party at one of the villages 

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party by a local village 

Whilst there, I encountered leeches, a scorpion, poisonous millipedes and lots of peat. Bathing is in a nearby river and we dug a long-drop toilet behind the accommodation. Before work began we had to go the village hall and formally meet the village head and some local villagers.

Village children keen to “hang out” with volunteers 

Local children were keen to "hang out" with the volunteers. 

The village were so appreciative of our work that they provided us with four local people to help on the project. They really were very excited and grateful about the work of Orangutan Foundation.  By 8th August Bintang Mengalih will have clean water to drink at the turn of a tap!!


Elly (UK Volunteer Co-ordinator)

Volunteer for orangutans

Recently we've received a few comments enquiring about volunteer work with orangutans or other great apes. The Orangutan Foundation's Volunteer Programme offers individuals the chance to become involved in conservation fieldwork and see ex-captive and, hopefully, wild orangutans. The work is of manual construction/ labouring nature but it is vital to our conservation work and carried out in orangutan habitat. There are still a couple of places remaining for this year's programme, which will be based in the Belantikan Arut region of Indonesian Borneo. The duration of the programme is six weeks. All participants must be a member of the Orangutan Foundation, at least 18 years of age, in good health and prepared to undertake manual work. Living conditions are basic and very remote. The cost of taking part in the programme is £730. This payment covers all accommodation, food, and materials for the duration of the programme but does not include international and internal travel to the project site. It should be noted that particpants will not have direct contact with orangutans. For more information on the programme please see our 2009 Volunteer Programme brochure on our website. If you have any further questions or would like to apply then please contact ELLY at the Orangutan Foundation office (elly@orangutan.org.uk or 0044 (0)207 724 2912) for more detailed information.

Megan, as you're 12 years old you are too young for our programme. Don't be disheartened though as there is still a lot you can do to help! Consider organising a fundraising or awareness event at your school, social club, or with your friends. Maybe you could ask a relative to foster an orangutan for you as birthday present. Become involved with a local conservation or wildlife charity who may have volunteer days you can become involved with. As we discovered with our Orange for Orangutan Day - every little act helps to make a difference. (For your diary: the next Orange for Orangutan Day is Thursday 12th November 2009 and information will be available on our website soon)