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Travellers offers the only opportunity in the world to work at this remarkable, world-renowned orang-utan Rehabilitation and Conservation Center at Sepilok, which conducts genuine, highly successful, conservation of orang-utans.

During your placement you'll learn about managing juvenile Orang-Utans by working at the Outdoor Nursery, learn about managing baby Orang-Utans by working at the Indoor Nursery. The Orang-Utan is found only in Borneo and Sumatra and their survival is constantly threatened by forest fires, tree felling, poaching and illegal hunting. Work hands-on to help their survival.


Price: £3,195 for 8 weeks
Excludes flights. Please see Full Price List & Other Currencies
Duration: 8 weeks, fixed length. Shorter/longer placements are not possible.
Start Dates: Every two months, please see Project Start Dates under "Work Content". This is a very popular project, so we advise you book very early.
Requirements: No qualifications needed, just lots of enthusiasm.
You should be physically fit and able to trek up to 5 kilometres on uneven terrain in humid conditions.
Minimum age 17.
What's included: Arranging your Programme
Full pre-departure support and assistance
Payment Protection insurance
Accommodation and Food
Meeting you at the nearest Airport
Transfer to the placement site
Return transfer to the airport at the end of your programme
Sandakan Tour (subject to change)
Wildlife viewing day trip on the Kinabatangan River
Trip to a Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Local in-country team support and backup
24-hr emergency support
2 free T-Shirts
Adoption of an orang-utan
Certificate of Completion
What's not included: Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas.
Who can do this Project? All projects are open to all nationalities and all ages over 17.
Suitable for gap years or those taking a year out, grown-up gappers, career breakers, anyone interested in conservation and caring for animals and working with wildlife overseas.
Suitable if you want to learn about nurturing, rehabilitation and conservation of orang-utans, plus animal care with orang-utans, voluntary work with primates, projects abroad or study abroad.
May also be suitable for university credit or requirement


  • An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten overseas volunteering holiday into Asia and the fascinating Malaysian culture.
  • The enormous satisfaction of helping to improve the quality of life of orang-utans by working hands-on with them, and knowing that you made a difference to them.
  • New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
  • An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market.
  • And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!



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Life is wonderful and job satisfaction immense!! My first 9 day rotation is in the outdoor nursery, looking after the 3-7yr olds, equivalent to truculent teenagers - full of hormones, who really don't want to do as they are told. These teenagers are being prepared for release, and so it's rather 'tough love', we are discouraged from contact and are actively encouraging independence. It was dry enough to take them to the jungle gym today. It was incredible to see them climbing to great heights with not a backward glance or trace of fear. It's all the more amazing as these youngsters have been orphaned at ages of no more than a few months and have not benefited from their mothers tuition.

It's amazing how quickly you become accustomed to being surrounded by orang-utans! It is so magical, they are amazing creatures, so intelligent and such different characters. It quite takes my breath away when these little 'people' put their hand in yours and just study you intently. Debbie Mayne on her placement at Sepilok

Specific duties may vary depending on what is required at the time, so a degree of flexibility is required. During your placement it is likely that you will:

  • Learn about managing juvenile Orang-Utans by working at the Outdoor Nursery.
  • Learn about managing baby Orang-Utans by working at the Indoor Nursery.
  • Conduct a Field Survey on the Orang-Utan population and small mammals witin Sepilok reserve.

Please note that in order to ensure the health and safety of our orang-utans, you won't start working with them until one week after your arrival. This is to ensure that any human ailments, such as colds, that you may be harbouring can be monitored closely and to ensure you are fully fit before your introduction to the Orang-utans.

Work will be done on a rotational basis, with different groups of volunteers working within each of the different departments outlined above. The tasks that you are asked to do, no matter how small, will help to improve the day-to-day life for these Orang-Utans - you will gain great satisfaction knowing that you have contributed to this. This is a serious placement where you are doing meaningful conservation work. You will be required to work very hard and should have a high level of fitness in order to take part.

At times you will be supervised by staff at the centre, at other times you will be required to work independently.

Indoor Nursery:
This area looks after the infants, from just a few months to around four years old. Possible duties include:

  • Transfer of the Infant Orang-Utan from the sleeping cages to the playing cages.
  • Cleaning the sleeping area
  • Preparation of food for the infants (peeling bananas, making formula milk)
  • Feeding the babies bottled formula drink
  • Distributing fruit to the infant Orang-Utans
  • Caring for the sick infants
  • Transferring Orang-Utans back to the sleeping cages
  • Cleaning the Indoor nursery area
  • Taking the babies for daily climbing practice

Outdoor Nursery:
This area is home to the juveniles, generally aged between five and eight years old. During the evening the Orang-Utans spend the night in the cages, but during the daytime they are left outdoors to fend for themselves. These Orang-Utans are fed twice daily, at five different platforms. Platform one is for new graduates, whilst platforms 2-5 are for the seniors of the class! The feeding platform varies daily, at the Rangers discretion, to teach the Orang-Utan to search for their own food. This ensures the Orang-Utan do not become reliant on food being at a particular platform each day. Possible duties include:

  • Preparation of fruit
  • Assisting the rangers by carrying fruit to the platform
  • Cleaning out and disinfecting the sleeping enclosures
  • Observation of the juvenile Orang-Utans.

Field Survey within Sepilok Reserve:
With the assistance of a ranger, you will be required to undertake an observation of the Orang-Utan population within the 4500 Hectare reserve. You will receive a lecture on the methodology of observation and data recording prior to the commencement of the task. You will be required to count and record the number of individual Orang-Utan sightings as well as the number of nests throughout the Sepilok forest area.

Similar duties will also be carried out for individual platforms, where you will be required to note the number of Orang-Utans, sex ratios and where possible, identify individual Orang-Utan from their ID number or name.

In order to apply for a place on this project you should be able to meet the following criteria:

  • You should be physically fit and able to trek up to 5 kilometres on uneven terrain. You'll be working as part of a team that will be conducting physical work in hot and humid conditions, so every member of the team needs to be equally fit.
  • Be able to cope in a tropical environment where there are large insects, snakes, bugs and leeches. If you are squeamish about insects then this is NOT the placement for you.
  • Have a genuine interest in Wildlife and the rehabilitation process and respect that Orang-Utans are an endangered species whose eventual release into the wild is the ultimate goal of the programme.
  • Have the right attitude regarding wildlife conservation and foreign culture.

There are a maximum of twelve places per two month expedition.
All volunteers must arrive in time for the Induction with Travellers Organiser (dates will be specified by Travellers). Unfortunately late arrivals cannot be accepted onto the project.
Please be aware that you will not be allowed to take any photos of yourself with the Orang-utans behind the scenes at Sepilok. All cameras are banned behind the scenes - the photos on this page are merely to show the type of activities that you'll be doing.

Please note that the project dates below are start dates and not availability dates, so please contact us regarding current availability. Spaces go quickly, so please enquire early!

2016 Project Dates:
4th January - 28th February 2016
7th March - 1st May 2016
2nd May - 26th June 2016
4th July - 28th August 2016
5th September - 30th October 2016
7th November 2016 - 1st January 2017

2017 Project Dates:
2nd January - 26th February 2017
6th March – 30th April 2017
1st May – 25th June 2017
3rd July - 27th August 2017
4th September - 29th October 2017
6th November - 31st December 2017

2018 Project Dates:
1st January – 25th February 2018
5th March – 29th April 2018
7th May – 1st July 2018
2nd July – 26th August 2018
3rd September - 28th October 2018
5th November - 30th December 2018


Accommodation at Sepilok will be in the nearby Sepilok Rest House. This is a privately run Bed and Breakfast which comprises basic but clean facilities. The Sepilok Rest House is located at the entrance to the Orang-Utan centre and just a few minutes walk from here takes you to the edge of the tropical virgin rainforest and a wide expanse of lush jungle.

Volunteers share rooms (usually two or three to a room) and food will be provided at the Rest House.

The owner and his staff are very friendly and will ensure that you are made to feel at home!

Food is provided on this project. Three meals per day are provided on this project – food is mainly Malaysian style. Most dietary requirements can be catered for.


Got any questions? Please email us:

Orang-Utans (in Malay "man of the forest") are protected under the Fauna Conservation Ordinance which, among other things, prohibits hunting, trading or keeping them as pets.

The Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre is situated on the east coast of Sabah, 23 km from Sandakan. A twenty-minute drive from Sandakan brings you to Kabili-Sepilok Forest, an enormous area of virgin rainforest. The Wildlife Reserve contains the Orang-Utan rehabilitation centre.

Sepilok centre was established in 1964 to return orphaned apes back to the wild. The objectives of the project have expanded in recent years and, while Orang-Utan rehabilitation is still the primary goal at Sepilok, present aims include public education on conservation and research with other endangered species. The centre now has more than 37 staff looking after the welfare of the Orang-Utans.

When the rescued Orang-Utans first arrive at the centre, they are often in a sorry state and riddled with diseases. They are put into cages while they're treated for their ailments and nursed back to health. The wardens then teach them how to forage for fruit, climb trees and generally fend for themselves. When they are mid-way through the rehabilitation process they are released into the surrounding forest reserve. The animals then spend most of their time in the forest but often return to one of the centre's five feeding platforms for a “free” meal. When the wardens feel that that an Orang-Utan is fully rehabilitated, it is caught and returned to the wild - usually deep in the forest or to one of the National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The Mangrove Forest Trail - This is the most famous trail in the Sepilok Centre and takes about 2-3 hours walking one way. Interesting features include a scenic stream, water-holes, transitional forest, pristine lowland rain forest, boardwalks into the mangrove forest and wildlife tracks.

YOUR ADOPTED orang-utan:
We adopt an orang-utan for each volunteer through the Orang-Utan Appeal, a charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of these wonderful animals.

Please note that this project is extremely popular, so very early booking is strongly advised.

Travellers have worked closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department for many, many years. In the past, several volunteers from the Travellers Orang-Utan project have been invited by the Sabah Wildlife Department to help with various projects to set up the Wildlife Park. One assisted in the design of the sun bear enclosure and another designed and produced the Wildlife Parks information pamphlet.

Travellers also donated £5,140.00 from the Bridge The Gap Foundation (The Phil Perkes Trust) to sponsor the Children’s Zoo. The Children’s Zoo is first and foremost an educational facility with an information centre currently under construction that will boast live exhibits. Brightly painted murals engage attention and the petting zoo allows children to have hands on contact with domestic animals and wildlife to encourage learning about conservation. In the petting area there are Rabbits, Tortoise, Miniature Ponies and Goats. Travellers' donation reflects their commitment in education and raising awareness about conservation.

2010 saw the start of a Conservation Awareness Programme at Lok Kawi, funded by Travellers and involving over 1000 local school children in its' first year. The purpose of the awareness programme is to teach the importance of nature and wildlife conservation to younger generations through exposure to Borneo's native wildlife. This and many other initiatives have been very successful.


Once you have applied for a placement, we'll contact you and send you our Welcome Pack. You'll also receive Log-on details and password for our Volunteer Extranet where you'll have access to all the documentation and information which we've put together to facilitate preparations for your adventure! Your Project Co-ordinator for your country will liaise with you throughout the arrangements process, as well as while you're on your placement and on your return home.

The documents you'll have access to also include a Country Factfile, Safety Guide and any manuals that may assist you on your particular programme (e.g. Teaching Guide, Sports Manuals, Enrichment Suggestions for Animal Care, etc.). We do all we can to make your stay one that you'll never forget. This is a truly awesome, elegant and beautiful country.

As with all our destinations, the culture and heritage is different to what you're used to ... which, although one of the most exciting aspects of travelling, should be borne in mind. Self-reliance and independence are highly appreciated in all our destinations and will help you to make the most of this wonderful opportunity!

On Arrival, your Introduction to the Country:
When you arrive, you will be welcomed by Ronn. She is the Volunteer Co-ordinator, assisting Albert, our Malaysia Manager. Ronn will take you to your accommodation at Sepilok. She'll show you the nearby facilities such as banks, pharmacy, food and beverage outlets etc.

The next day, you will be given an induction briefing. This covers details about your role and responsibilities as a conservation volunteer, so that you can make the most of this project. During the first week, you’ll travel by boat to a jungle camp in a remote part of the forest, where you’ll stay overnight. Here you’ll have the chance to view wildlife in the forest and along the river, as well as plant trees to contribute towards the reforestation of the area. At the end of your first week, you’ll receive training from Sabah Wildlife Department Rangers, who run the Sepilok Orang-Utan centre. This induction will include a briefing on the project in detail, ready for you to start work with the Orang-Utans at the beginning of week 2.

Our projects in Malaysia (particularly the Orang-Utan Centre) are very popular and you are sure to have a wonderful time during your stay in Sabah. Your adventure has begun :-)



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Make the most of your time there! To help you do that, we've put together some exciting activities, courses and tours that you can add to your itinerary. These are designed to be fun, but also to enable you to learn, and expand your personal and professional development enjoyment ... but mostly for your enjoyment! :-)

Please note that all add-on activities in Malaysia depart from Kota Kinabalu. If you are doing the Orang-utan Conservation project, this is a 30 minute flight away.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo

Kinabalu Park is Borneo's botanical paradise and home to the majestic Mount Kinabalu (4095.2 metres), the highest peak in South East Asia. On this three-day excursion you'll trek for about 5-6 hours for 2 days and will experience sunrise from the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

LEVEL: Moderate Trekking. No experience needed but see medical notes below
LOCATION: Departs from Kota Kinabalu
DURATION: 3 days and 2 nights
PRICE: £505

This excursion must be booked and paid for at least 3 months in advance in order to secure the necessary permits. A super peak season surcharge (approx 150RM (£30 or US$45) per night) is also sometimes applied to bookings between June and September. You'll need to pay this locally.

Day 1: You’ll be picked up from Kota Kinabalu and make a scenic drive to Kinabalu Park, arriving late afternoon. You’ll meet up with our representative and then proceed to Sabah Park’s HQ, at 1,563 meters, where you’ll register for the climb, check into your hostel and have some free time to explore the park at your leisure Then dinner and return to the hostel for a much-needed early night!

Day 2: The hard work starts today! After a wake- up call at 7am, you’ll ‘gear-up’ and have breakfast. You’ll meet with your assigned Mountain Guide and proceed to Timpohon Gate for the start of the climb. You'll have a packed lunch and plenty of rest stops! You'll climb for 5-6 hours before reaching Laban Rata. You'll have the afternoon free to relax and recuperate. Dinner will be at the Rest House restaurant and you'll stay in the mountain hut (which has dormitory bunk beds).

Day 3: Very very early wake up call - at 1am! It will be worth it though. You’ll trek for 3-4 hours to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu to witness the glorious sunrise. You'll then trek down to Laban Rata for breakfast, after which you'll trek down to the Timpohon Gate, then transferred back to the Kinabalu Park HQ to pick up your Certificate of Achievement!

MEDICAL NOTES: A high level of fitness is required and we strongly advise that you have a medical check before attempting the climb. If you suffer from any of the following, you are advised not to do this climb: hypertension, diabetes, palpitations, arthritis, heart disease, severe anaemia, peptic ulcers, epilepsy, obesity (overweight), chronic asthma, muscular cramps, hepatitis (jaundice) or any other condition/disease which may impact on your ability to complete the climb comfortably. If in any doubt, please consult your doctor. If you are an inexperienced climber you should seek further advice before participating.

Book Now

Padas River Rafting

Spectacular scenery and thrilling rafting experience.

LEVEL: Moderate. No experience needed.
LOCATION: Depart from Kota Kinabalu. Located on the Padas River, near Tenom, Sabah
PRICE: £75 (Based on a minimum of 2 people)

The Padas River is situated in the interior of the south-western part of Kota Kinabalu. You’ll journey by bus for approximately 3½ hours through the countryside to Tenom Town, where you’ll have lunch in a local restaurant. The rafting start point is only accessible by train, so included in the price is a unique journey in an antique train on the North Borneo Railway. You'll journey through the heart of Borneo to the start of your rafting adventure - a brilliant chance to see the spectacular, untouched scenery of this beautiful country and glimpse the Murut tribes who live there. Upon arrival, you’ll receive a full safety briefing before starting your 9km rafting adventure.

The river holds eight thrilling rapids to negotiate - you’ll work as a team and will have an experienced guide with you. The journey will undoubtedly be an awesome adrenalin rush, as you experience the ultimate white water class III and IV rapids. The route takes about 1.5 hours to complete. You’ll then have the chance to change out of your wet clothes and enjoy some light refreshment at the station, ready for your return train journey to Tenom Town and bus trip back to Kota Kinabalu.

This excursion includes transfers to and from your accommodation in Kota Kinabalu, full safety briefing and equipment. Please note, this is a full day’s excursion and you won’t return to your hotel until at least 7.30pm.

Excluded: Drinks/extra meals and anything not included above.

Book Now

Scuba Diving at Tunku Rahman Park in Borneo

A chance to scuba dive and observe the beautiful coral life.

LEVEL: Beginner. No experience needed.
LOCATION: Depart from Kota Kinabalu.
DURATION: 5 hours
PRICE: £85 (Based on a minimum of 2 people)

ITINERARY: The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a stunning marine park, that comprises of a cluster of islands including Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. All of the islands have gorgeous white sandy beaches, shallow waters and fantastic coral gardens - and they are all only a 10 - 20 minute boat ride from the city of Kota Kinabalu!

This trip offers a perfect package for those who have never dived before but are eager to experience beautiful coral reefs and colourful marine life. You'll be given a step-by-step guide to scuba diving, from learning how to suit up, to how to use your diving equipment properly.

The package includes 1 beach dive and 1 boat dive, however it does not include the Park Dive Permit which is RM50 (approximately £10 at time of writing.)

Book Now

Cultural Village Tour in Malaysia

An opportunity to experience the fantastic culture of rural Malaysia.

LEVEL: Gentle
LOCATION: Depart from Kota Kinabalu, 3 hours journey to northern Sabah.
DURATION: Full day
PRICE: £95 (Based on a minimum of 2 people)

ITINERARY: You'll journey through scenic countryside to the north of Kudat. You'll pass some spectacular scenery including paddy fields, traditional villages, plantations and local stalls selling handicraft and food items. On arrival at Bavanggazo village (where the Rungus community live) you'll have a traditional lunch, before visiting the community and their cottage industries - Seeing the Rungus Tribe still living in their longhouses is a fantastic once in a lifetime experience! The community is very enterprising - the main economic activities include producing honey and making gongs.

Before returning to Kota Kinabalu, you'll visit Simpang Mengayau, the northern most tip of Borneo, where the Sulu and South China Seas meet. On a clear day, you'll be able to see the outlying islands of the Philippines from this point! Spectacular!

If you take this tour on a Sunday, you'll get the chance to visit the Tamu Besar (a bustling open air market in Kota Belud)

Book Now

Terms and Conditions apply for Add-Ons, please see here.




The nearest town to Sepilok is Sandakan where you can find internet cafes, banks, shops and markets. There are also many historical sights in Sandakan, some of which you will have the opportunity to visit during the first week of your placement. One of these is the Australian War Memorial, built in memory of those who sacrificed their lives during World War II.

Sukau and the region of the Lower Kinabatangan River is unrivalled in terms of wildlife. It stretches for 560 km and is estimated to have the highest concentration of wildlife in all of Malaysia. Taking a river cruise gives you the opportunity to see a variety of animals in their natural environment; birds, reptiles and monkeys of which the most unusual is the Proboscis Monkey. Famous for its long nose and round belly, the proboscis monkey is sociable and active, which means that you are sure to see many of them swinging through the trees along the river bank.

If you are lucky, you many even see a herd of pygmy elephants grazing and drinking water by the river bank. This unique environment is a fascinating place to visit and is only about 2 hours drive from Sepilok. If you are even lucker, you may see wild boar crossing the river. This unique environment is a fascinating place to visit and is not far away from Sandakan. Other attractions are the Puh Jih Syh Temple, the biggest and most expensive temple in Sabah that overlooks Sandakan Bay, the Sim Sim Water Village and the Rotary Observation Pavilion which contains a birds-eye view of Sandakan town.

Kota Kinabalu, or "KK" (as it is locally known), is the capital of Sabah. KK is a 30 minute flight from Sandakan, and is a great place to visit while you’re in Borneo.

Although Kota Kinabalu is far less developed than Kuala Lumpur (its counterpart on the Peninsular), the people are very friendly and the atmosphere here is more relaxed. KK also boasts impressive markets, restaurants and nightlife and is a fun introduction to the wide variety of attractions that Sabah has to offer.

Just off the coast it is possible to see an array of beautiful islands which make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Exploring the coral reefs and marine life in this underwater world is fascinating and day trips here can be easily arranged - most islands are less than 45 minutes away by boat. Once you arrive you will be amazed at how clear the water is and just how many different fish you can see. There are also many wonderful beaches to be explored on the islands!

Facing inland, it’s possible to see the peaks of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. This is another of Sabah’s main attractions and the views from the top at sunrise more than make up for the two day climb. Afterwards you can soak your aching muscles at Poring where the sulphur hot springs provide a therapeutic bath.

Throughout the whole of Sabah you will find many local "Tamu", meaning market - the variety of fruit, vegetables, plants and handcrafted items on sale at cheap prices has to be seen to be believed!


Read about Travel arrangements and what happens when you arrive in your new country.


Orang-Utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Sepilok was the most magical and incredible 2 months of my life. I've always wanted to volunteer with orangutans since I was a young girl and it was everything I'd wanted and more. Every day was a new adventure, waking up each morning and wondering what mischief those funny apes would get up to!

It was amazing getting to know each individual orangutan and their personalities and it was a privilege working along side them. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

My Most Memorable Moment: The first time an orangutan held my hand. Beautiful Nonong grabbed my hand and just gazed up at me while I was putting branches into the outdoor cage for nest building. I felt such an attachment to Nonong from there on in and always said hello to her whenever I saw her. She's so beautiful.

My Biggest Achievement: Every single day was rewarding! It is so hard to choose one. Knowing that you're making an impact on an endangered species every day was very rewarding even by making up their bottles, to helping them climb. We also planted some mango trees in the rainforest for the orangutans to enjoy one day whenever they grow. This also felt very rewarding!

What was your biggest Positive Impact on the Project? Probably the tree planting. Just knowing that your planting future homes for the beautiful orangutans to live in one day, felt like we really were making such a difference and helping them.

Orang-Utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Good Luck to everyone that's due to volunteer at Sepilok. I'm here at the moment, just going into my last week at the clinic with the babies. I remember being so nervous before I came but it's so incredible here, you will all have the most amazing time here! I'm jealous of you all because I'd love to be starting another 2 months here! I don't want to leave!

I've also kept a blog whilst I've been here:

Have the most amazing time at Sepilok! 🐒

Orang-Utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

The two months at Sepilok with Travellers Worldwide were the best of my life. Many people want to go here because it's the only place you can get hands on with orang-utans, but it's so much more than this. At this centre you get to experience the incredible wilderness of Malaysia - which holds some extremely healthy natural habitats. We saw a wild elephant, proboscis monkeys and many other species of monkey, slow loris, tarsier, flying squirrels and lemurs, gibbons, and some absolutely crazy (and big!) insects.

I fell in love with the jungle, and actually what I miss most is not having the jungle at my doorstep, and being able to see, and hear the jungle every day and night.

It was the treks (where we surveyed wild orang-utan nests) which allowed me to understand just how incredible the jungle is. You also get two weeks of trekking during the whole placement, including some night treks.

The orang-utans are amazing. Whilst doing the jobs at hand (cleaning cages, feeding them and making sure they stay on their climbing ropes) you come to understand all the individual personalities of not just the babies you're working with, but the semi-wild and wild ones that visit the centre, roaming freely. They're all so unique, funny, and curious. It's great to see these orang-utans because they're the ones who have graduated from climbing school—which is why we are there—to help orang-utans become independent adults.

Bathing the tiny baby orang-utans, and trying (so hard) to make them climb (when all they want is a cuddle and their baby blanket!) was great too!

Life really won't ever be the same! Life doesn't get better than it was during these two months. Me and my partner, Mike, didn't have a single day 'off' as we chose to work on all our free days - either at the orang-utan centre or the neighbouring sun bear centre.

Orang-Utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

1) What experience do you feel you are gaining? A lot of knowledge that can't be taught in a classroom. Watching the orangutans play, learn and interact is an unforgettable experience that shapes the way o think about orangutans and conservation in general. Seeing how a rehabilitation centre is run and how much care and dedication is needed is an incredibly valuable experience.

2) What is the best thing about your placement so far? Being able to see each orangutan's progress whilst we've been here which is particularly prevalent in the indoor nursery. Seeing the young babies climbing further and with more confidences, seeing the others in the nursery learning to build nests etc. Being able to see the individual personalities of all the orangutans and seeing how strong and independent and ready to face life on their own some of them are.

3) Would you recommend this placement to anyone else? Definitely!

4) What type of person do you think this placement would suit? Someone with a strong, caring nature who is willing to pull their weight. They need to be willing to clean cages and trek through forests, not just coming to cuddle the orangutans. It's also important that they are willing to be tough with the orangutans, someone coming just to cuddle orangutans all day will be sorely disappointed.

5) What, if any, improvements could be made to the placement? More time working! We have a lot of days off which we would have preferred to work on, in fact we did ask to work on some four days off. During trekking week it would be good to have more work, treks may be only an hour long in some cases, or cancelled due to rain, and in the afternoon we only work about an hour, cleaning the cage and then making ice lollies and kongs. We'd love to help more, creating more enrichment activities for the orangutans or even cleaning more. There sees to be a lot of down time during trekking week.

6) Was there anything that you weren’t told before your departure that you think future volunteers should know? That the surrounding area has a cafe and resorts. They are directly across the road so it was a nice surprise that we weren't in the middle of nowhere! On the other hand some of the information give was unnecessary, the manual on enrichment, for example, and needing waterproofs- the rain is so unpredictable and its so hot that we don't really use them.

7) Can you describe a typical day? (e.g Start time, morning duties, lunch hours, afternoon duties, any other duties…. ) There are three rotations:

Outdoor Nursery: Start work at 8:10am, carry food to Outdoor, rake old food from the platforms/prepare food, take the orangutans out, clean sleeping cages and room, watch orangutans to make sure they're not on the ground/roof, feed on the platforms, take orangutans in, clean their hands and feet, give milk. Lunch is from about 11:20am until 2:10pm. The morning routine is repeated in the afternoon but minus cage cleaning and food preparation/raking. Work is finished by bout 4:20pm.

Indoor Nursery: Start work at 8:10am, prepare food and milk, feed the orangutans and give milk, take the bigger orangutans to the large outside cage and the babies to a separate cage, clean cages and room, take the bigger orangutans out on the ropes and observe, babies come out also if the weather is okay and there aren't too many wild ones around, take the bigger ones to the large cage, babies inside, give ice lollies. Lunch from 11:10am to 2:10pm. Morning routine repeated but minus cage cleaning. Orangutans are all put back in sleeping cages and fed and given milk. Work is finished by about 4:15pm.

Trekking: Start work at 8:30, collect leaves/sugar cane for large cage, trek through the forest with ranger (length of trek varies greatly depending on weather conditions and ranger). Lunch until 2:30pm. Clean the large outside cage, make ice lollies and Kong toys for the next day. Work is finished by about 3:30pm.

8) Any other relevant comments? (This will help us to maintain the standard of our placements or make any improvements which become apparent from your input). This project is an invaluable experience that I will treasure. It can be hard work when the orangutans are being uncooperative, expect to get bruises and maybe the odd bite, but it is all 100% worth it. The hands on experience and the chance to witness these beautiful creatures so close up is truly incredible.

Orang-Utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Travellers Worlwide attracted my attention because it is the only Orangutan volunteer programme that offers hands-on experience with orangutans. From my initial interest shown to Travellers, up until the day of travel the UK office was helpful, friendly and professional. They provided me with all the information I needed both on-line and on the telephone. I was particularly happy with being able to pay for the project in any amount I wished at any time through their payment scheme.

Once on the project I was greeted by Travellers representatives in Borneo. A representative ensured the whole group settled in and were always available by phone if anyone had any questions or problems. Someone was available to come to the guest house if it was necessary and we were also kept in touch with local problems via email or in person by a Travellers representative.

Within the first week whilst we were in quarantine a representative escorted us on the excursions and we were given some in house training so as we were ready for starting work.

The project was the most amazing experience of my life. Borneo is a beautiful country and the people are friendly.

Sepilok orangutan sanctuary is amazing and helping them to care for the orangutans was above my expectations. The staff who work there are dedicated to the orangutans and the forest. I learnt an incredible amount about orangutans, the forest and conservation.

The guest house was again above my expectations of living in a jungle and offered a good service although you have to be aware that the people in Malaysia are a lot more laid back than Westerners; meaning that you will learn to be patient.

Meeting new people and learning to live amongst a diverse bunch was interesting, fun and rewarding. I have met people who I now class as friends. Sharing my passion of orangutans was brilliant and being amongst the peace loving, beautiful, funny orangutans was the most amazing experience I have ever had and will never forget. There is no doubt in my mind that Travellers Worlwide contributed not only in making my journey to Borneo an exciting one but also allowed me to feel safe and content whilst I was there.

Thank you to everyone who works for Travellers Worldwide.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I can't believe I've nearly finished my second week of work, it is going way to fast! The new enrichment programme is brilliant. I never realised how intelligent the orang-utans are. We've made a collection box for the tourists that visit the centre to donate empty water bottles which we give to the orang-utans with a little bit of honey in the bottom, we then give them a stick and they've learnt to scoop out the honey! Sometimes we also fill the bottles with bits of fruit, beans leaves and sticks, flatten the bottles and watch the orang-utans find a way to get the fruit out.

During the afternoons of our jungle trekking week, we've just helped make a new play area for the younger orang-utans with a platform up and ropes connecting to all the surrounding trees. The orang-utans love it and it is a great way to get the orang-utans like Rosalinda, which are normally frightened of climbing into the trees. The other jobs we have been doing includes feeding and bathing the orang-utans, comfort and care sessions (basically cuddle time), cleaning and sweeping, and jungle trekking where we survey the orang-utan's nests in the forest.

So far It's all been amazing!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

This project has been worth every penny I spent, but at the same time, the experiences I have gained here cannot be bought with any amount of money. Just spending time with these amazing creatures, from the tiny 1-year-olds in the clinic to seeing the 38-year-old dominant male swing by in the trees is incredible! I have enjoyed every minute and am going to miss the orang-utans, staff, fellow volunteers and the centre so incredibly much!

It is nice to feel that we are actually needed at the centre and our help contributes toward the orang-utans welfare and rehabilitation. I had an absolutely fantastic time and miss the orang-utans like crazy!!!

What is the best thing about your placement so far?
I enjoyed all three of the orang-utan placements during this project. Rasa Ria was brilliant because you could really get to know each of the 7 orangutans individual personalities. The clinic was just incredible...working with the tiny babies, giving them baths and then seeing just how good they are at climbing despite being pint sized orphans. Also watching the bigger babies during enrichment is fantastic as they are far more adept at climbing and some even begin to build nests and forage for food. It really shows that the rehabilitation scheme is working.

Outdoor nursery was also extremely enjoyable. It is brilliant when we take the orang-utans to Platform 4 deep in the jungle and none follow us back after. It shows that they are getting used to being independent and relying less on the human care they were once so dependent on.

It is also brilliant to be sitting in the jungle surrounded by little orange bodies swinging in the trees. And the best part is knowing they are in protected jungle, so can roam happily and safely. This experience has been the best of my life so far and I can think of many people who would enjoy it as much as I did (but maybe not more than I did...that's impossible! hehe)

What type of person do you think this placement would suit??
I would recommend this project to anyone who is passionate about the conservation of orangutans. You need to be relatively fit due to the hot and humid weather, especially when you are cleaning, working in outdoor and trekking. You also need to be fine with getting dirty as cleaning quarantine can be a less than pleasant experience!

You must also be someone who is willing to let the orang-utans be independent and push them away if they are too clingy. This is for their benefit as becoming too dependent on humans will inevitably be their downfall of their rehabilitation.

Can you describe a typical day?
Clinic/Indoor Nursery: Start work at 8am. Check if any orang-utans have diarrhoea...those who do, write their names on the whiteboard. Prepared their morning milk. Those with diarrhoea have electrolytes instead. Then prepare the food, usually banana for everyone, but apple/orange/bread for those with diarrhoea. Feed all the orang-utans, then give them their drinks afterwards.

Take the big ones to the outdoor cage, except for those who are going to enrichment that day. Clean quarantine and the indoor nursery by sweeping away the food and poo. Then hose it down, dettol it and hose it down again. Put the babies into the outdoor cage and then give a couple of them a bath. Take the big babies out for enrichment where they can explore and climb. Give all orang-utans a snack and water if its especially hot.

After lunch prepare milk for the little babies and electrolyte for the big ones. Clean quarantine and indoor nursery again and then take the little babies out for enrichment. Bring all orang-utans in, clean outdoor cages and give all orang-utans their goodnight feed Day over around 4:30!

Outdoor Nursery: Slightly less predictable. Start at 8:15. But usually start by taking orang-utans to platform to feed them. Then go and sweep Platform A (the visitors viewing platform). Then come back and clean outdoor nursery area. In afternoon take all orang-utans to platform 4 and feed them there. Leave them there overnight so they can learn to live in the jungle on their own. Finish anytime between 4 and 5.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Hey! I’m in love. My heart is beating like a jun-gle drum... Like nervous but excited kids on their first day of school, Sophie, Lucy and I slipped on our wellies, bid farewell to the other volunteers and made our way to the Sepilok Rehab Centre (2 minute walk from the Resthouse where we live) for the first of our nine days of ‘work’ in the Clinic.

After a brief induction from Ibrie, one of the Centre’s nurses, we attempt to feed the little ginger bundles of fun their breakfast (bananas and milk). This is a challenge in itself. It is like running the gauntlet through the night sleeping area as there are hands/feet grabbing at us from every direction. The cheeky things act all innocent while you are feeding them and look at you with their big brown eyes but all of a sudden a hand from above, below or from the side quickly grabs the milk, your shirt, or anything they can and before you know it you are having a tug of war with an Orang-Utan. Twice now I have had big chunks of hair ripped from my head and my knuckles have bite marks from one certain little feisty fella. There is squawking, squeaking and snorting noises coming from every direction. It really is a sight to see.

One by one we move the bigger Orang-Utans to their day play areas. The wee babies (each about one year old and about 30cm long) stay and swing in their hammocks. I cannot stop looking at the three babies, they are just so adorable. They cry out for cuddles all the time and just want to be loved. I am the right person for this job but it is not encouraged too often.

As you know, with animals comes poo, wee and vomit. I am now used to the joyous task of cleaning the night sleeping areas and outdoor play areas but I may have dry wretched just a little on the first day when hosing down some vomit. We have mastered this task and think nothing of it now.

Every day at 10.00am we select three older Orang-Utans to take out to the jungle play area by the lake. Each Orang-Utan has its own personality and they all interact with each other in different ways so we normally take out one naughty Orang-Utan and two ‘well behaved’ Orang-Utans. They are supposed to climb on the ropes and trees, practice building nests in the trees (Orang-Utans build a new nest every night to sleep in from tree branches), play and explore. Some Orang-Utans do this, some sit on the ground which is not encouraged as they are in danger of snake bites etc, some just want to wrestle each other (and us), some climb so high and don’t come back down when they are supposed to so we have to try and coax them down with bribes, but this does not always work, and some are perfect angels.

In the afternoon we take the three toddlers out to play in the small climbing area. My adopted Orang-Utan, Sen, looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, well, he is a menace. Half of the bruises and scratches I have on my body are from Sen. He is very active but loves to bite. The younger they are, the sharper the teeth. He knows how to play us but he behaves for the nurses and rangers.

Each Orang-Utan has their own story, some were kept as pets, some were rescued from the palm oil plantations, some are orphans, some are released into the wild but keep coming back to the Centre. I love their individuality, the way they look at you and their similarity to humans is amazing. I often wonder what is going through their minds. They mimic what you do and they are so intelligent. We try to keep their minds and bodies active by giving them coconuts, iceblocks, toys, branches etc with the hope that one day they can amuse themselves out in the jungle.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I had the most amazing experience of my life and my dreams came true. The whole 2 and a half months were more rewarding and incredible than I had expected. Working with the orang-utans at Sepilok was very emotional; we were right in the middle of the drama. We saw baby orang-utans come into the clinic, after being rescued by the team at Sepilok.

The stories were always similar about how these little creatures had come to being rescued - The mother would panic, run away from the threat (humans, fire, machinery used when creating a palm oil plantation etc.) and in the process she would loose her little baby and yet another orphan would began it's rehabilitation program at Sepilok.

I felt so lucky to be there and to be contributing. Although we as the volunteers are only there to help for 2 months, and in the big picture we are tiny pieces....being there and knowing we did help is indescribable. The bond I formed with a certain orang-utan was amazing. Every morning I would be so excited to see his little face and hold his hand. They are so like humans! All with different personalities and characteristics. The way they look at you with their deep brown eyes it's like they're looking straight into your heart and soul...perhaps making sure you were pure and not there to hurt them.

I will never forget this volunteer program! The country, its culture, the friends I made, and especially the orang-utans will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks Travellers for making it possible.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

The best thing about the placement was simply watching the orang-utans interacting with each other, it was so special. They are so human like and their behaviour is so similar to ours!

I also really enjoyed the paediatric work as you always had something to be getting on with and it was the best feeling feeding the babies and then taking them down to the lake.

I feel I have acquired a lot of experience from this placement, especially working with people who do not speak English. I have learnt how to communicate with people better and managed to work as part of a team. It is really character building and helps you to appreciate what you have.

I would definitely recommend this placement to other people. This is such a mind broadening experience and you learn so much about the local culture and also the dangers and issues that are currently going on with the Orang-utans.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

After her placement, Karen joined Travellers as a Project Co-Ordinator and Volunteer Liaison. She is currently based in India and takes wonderful care of our volunteers there! [Update: After a few years in India, she is now in Brazil, looking after volunteers and loving the location !!]

It has been a totally amazing and life changing experience. From our arrival at Sepilok Rest House, all the staff made us feel so welcome straight away it felt like it was our home. Living in a different culture, sampling the local cuisine and seeing the happy smiling faces of all the people was a humbling experience. I've made so many friends and I've learnt so much from the rangers about the orang-utans and the staff never tire of our endless stream of questions.

Watching the orang-utans in the trees was breathtaking, an experience I will never ever forget. I thought I would freak out when I got a leech but I quite liked them and loved going to sleep each night listening to the sounds of the jungle. It was so calming. Also, I didn't think I had a maternal instinct in my body but I fell in love with the babies especially Acutboy. I've come away a much calmer, patient, tolerant person with clear objectives for the future and know that I want to become involved in conservation projects.

This project has been a totally wonderful experience. I really can't fault it at all. Excellently run, wonderful and friendly staff who trusted us with the orang-utans 100%. Thanks for making it is special and for giving me the opportunity to work with such fantastic people and wonderful orang-utans. It surpassed all of my expectations. I was taught how to be confident in front of them, never to show that you're afraid (even when they're sinking their teeth into your leg - ouch!) and to be able to identify them all was amazing.

I loved the time I spent with the orang-utans and I loved the trekking (just make them longer as 2.5 hours isn't enough!

What is the best thing about your placement?
Working in the outdoor nursery and seeing the orang-utans in their natural environment, the forest. This was what I came here to see and I could spend hours just sitting on the platform observing them in the trees; watching them interact with the other orang-utans and seeing the difference in their characters. I think Dusain got fed up of me as I never wanted to go home!!!

There was also the time when Mimi came into the outdoor nursery with her baby Rooney. I really wasn't sure whether to hold the bananas out to her or throw them as the baby is only 7 months old and she is protective towards him. But I needn't have worried, I just held them out for her and stood there in awe as she took them from me.

And finally, one morning when we walked up to the outdoor nursery to collect the wheelbarrow we arrived to find the cage (office) in chaos as the clever orangs had broken the padlock, stole the bananas, drank the milk and literally ran riot! Oh, and in my final week I placed Acutboy on the grass by the lake and let go - and he didn't scream and try to cling onto me. He's finally claiming some independence and I felt really emotional.

What type of person do you think this placement would suit?
Someone with a love of orang-utans, who wants to learn more about why they are so endangered and have a hands-on experience with them and who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty as there is a lot of cleaning. Also someone who doesn't mind spending 2 weeks of the project trekking and drenched in sweat!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I have gained an experience of a life time! One I won't ever forget! It was an experience in itself just going out there and not knowing anyone. I feel I have learnt how to be more independent and how to work with such amazing animals, - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

All I can say is that these 2 months were the best 2 months of my life, and I don't think anything will ever top that in the future. What made the placement even better was the fact that everyone was so lovely - we all got on so well. I was so happy to be sharing the experience with such great friends - we all had such a laugh! The staff at the Rest House made us all feel so welcome - it really did feel like our second home! I miss them all so much!

There was never a day that went by when I didn't realise how lucky I was to be there! It really was a dream come true for me. I won't ever forget all the amazing memories I had out there. Thank you, Travellers, for helping me make my dream come true!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I did have the most AMAZING time. Absolutely loved every moment and am so sad to be back. I feel like I have left half of my heart there, so struggling a little bit now I am back to reality!

I cannot say a bad word about anything and have recommended it to absolutely everyone I have managed to talk to so far. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

The work gave us amazing responsibilities and the hands on nature of the work was more than I had expected. It is very hard to pick one thing as my favourite highlight, as working with the babies in the indoor nursery was magical, but it was a wonderful feeling to watch the older ones on their way to "freedom" at the outdoor nursery, because this is what the project is for.

The most amazing moment was standing in the forest with one of the rehabilitated mothers swinging with her baby right over my head.

I would recommend this placement to anyone with an interest in conservation and primates. I couldn't speak highly enough about how enjoyable the experience was for me. I gained invaluable experience in all aspects of orang-utan conservation, behaviour and care. I learnt a lot about the species and the threats to their survival. I also gained an insight into the care of Sumatran Rhino's.

As well as the conservation side, I experienced a new country and culture where I tried new foods and came home knowing how to speak a little Malay.

Volunteers need to be reasonably fit; enjoy working as part of a team; enjoy experiencing new cultures and meeting people; but above all, have an interest in orang-utans and enthusiasm for working towards their conservation. They should be up for getting "stuck in", no matter how hot, dirty or tired they get!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Sepilok is the most fantastic place I have ever had the privilege of visiting. Each day brought new and exciting challenges. One of the most rewarding jobs was teaching the baby Orang-utans to climb. My favourite baby was Chiquita, who, when we arrived, was very scared and timid, and she spent most of her time clinging onto a towel for comfort. By the end of our two months' placement, it was amazing to see her transformation. With the help of all the staff and volunteers, Chiquita became a confident climber and very independent!

It was wonderful to know that all the work we had done made a real difference to the Orang-utans and that we played an important part in their rehabilitation. It is an experience I will never forget!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I've got so many fantastic memories that I will cherish forever. I just hope one day to go back and see all of the staff and orang-utans. It would be brilliant to go and see Joey and Rosalinda (the two babies) in 5 or 6 years time to see how they are getting on.

I think that the work happening at the centre is fantastic and it is so encouraging seeing people that genuinely care about the animals. The staff were all great and very welcoming. We couldn't have hoped for a better time.

Being in close contact with the orang-utans was just incredible and feeling that we were doing something good towards helping their cause was also vital to our enjoyment. I felt devastated having to leave, but I feel so grateful to have had such an amazing experience whilst hopefully at the same being of good use to the Centre.

Thank you again for all your and the rest of the Travellers team have done in making a dream come true. I really did have an experience of a lifetime and if I could, I would go back tomorrow. It's bizarre to think it was a year ago that we were in Sepilok, but the memories are as vivid and special as ever. The experience made me seriously think about taking up a course in Animal Care after I finish my Art and English degree. I had been searching to do something like the orang-utan project for years and had always come to a dead end - this completely made up for that - I only wish I was still there!!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

This has been a life changing experience. One that has allowed me to see some fantastic things - the release of the 23 year old male who has been at Sepilok for 8 years, to take 8 month old Orang-Utans to play at the lake, to teach them to climb ropes, to watch the rehabilitated Orang-Utans swing through trees in the forest. It has been too amazing to put into words. I have also learnt so much about orang-utans. I bought a book on them whilst out here but the facts I have learnt from the staff at Sepilok have made me even more passionate about them and their current plight. I have become more sure of who I am as a person and what I want to do with my life. This placement has given me the perspective I needed.

I honestly cannot praise this placement enough so anything else I can do for you, please just yell. Thank you so much for letting me do this, I have loved every second of it. I started crying about a week ago about leaving so I can't imagine what I am going to be like tomorrow on my last day.

What was the best thing about your placement?
I could not narrow it down to one experience. I just think of certain moments such as bathing Toby who is 5 after one of the others pooed on his head - when am I ever going to get to do that again?!! Or when we met the minister for Tourism at the handing over of the Land Rover that was bought by the UK Appeal and aided by Land Rover Malaysia. Or when I got to take the babies onto the ropes and teach them to climb them. Or just hanging out at Sepilok Jungle Resort with the rest of the volunteers talking about what we had all done that day and what funny things our favourite orang-utans had done.

Would you recommend this placement to anyone else?
I would definitely recommend this placement. I have never had one regret about coming here - only wishing that I could have done it sooner and that it lasted for longer than 2 months!

What type of person do you think this placement would suit?
I have really felt this placement has tested my character in many ways so I believe it has to be someone with a strong will and determination. At times this placement isn't just physically tiring but emotionally tiring as well. There are days when you are very tired and you must be strong minded enough to work through these days. There were times when I felt suffocated by the environment and the people you are working with but the excitement of working at Sepilok overweighs that enormously.

Obviously, they must love orang-utans and be fully committed to their rehabilitation. Someone who wants to know more about the conservation efforts and is determined to help in whatever way, even if it is whole days just cleaning buildings. On this placement you cannot help but become attached to certain orang-utans and it is incredibly hard to leave and say goodbye - so someone who is emotionally stronger than me as I cried for a week before leaving!!!

Can you think of any improvements that could be made to the placement?
I honestly cannot think of any improvements that can be made. Everything was wonderful. The accommodation was a lot better than I had expected it to be, I was so happy to see that we had our own bathroom and air con and to get a TV as well was such a bonus!!

There were times when I was jungle trekking where I wished I could have been working with the Orang-Utans but that was only because I was tired and then I realised that the work we were doing in the jungle, searching for nests, was aiding the rehabilitation of the orang-utans and evaluating the success of the Centre, so very important work.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

I feel that this placement has been the most wonderful and rewarding experience ever! From start to finish we were looked after extremely well by Travellers and the staff at Sepilok.

New volunteers should start the placement with an open-mind and be able to accept that some cultures can be very different from their own. Anyone doing this placement needs a good sense of humour, patience and a willingness to get involved without worrying about getting their hands dirty! Some of the highlights of my placement were: meeting people with the same interests as myself, seeing a wild elephant (on the Sukau excursion), drinking tea and playing croquet at the English Tea house in Sandakan and visiting Malaysian Karaoke bars!

I knew my time here would be amazing but I think that is an understatement! I will never forget my time spent in Malaysia and all of the new friends that I have made. Thank you to everyone at Travellers for making a life-time's ambition come true!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

It all seemed to happen so quickly – I booked the placement and then suddenly found myself approaching two worried looking strangers at the airport. I was really glad that I had elected for Travellers to book my flights and that I was able to travel with other volunteers. It wasn’t long before we were sharing “fun” packing stories and concerns over the possible side-effects of malaria tablets. We chatted constantly during the 20 hours + that we were travelling – we all came from different backgrounds and I guess with different motivations, but we all had the same trepidation and aspirations.

We were greeted at KK Airport by a very friendly, smiling Albert who seemed to know all about each of us and who was happy to answer our barrage of questions. KK seemed to be like any other city, except for the heat and humidity.

On stepping out of the Airport building, it felt like taking in a breath of warm water. I hoped that I would get used to it soon, and I did! Our first few days were great – we needed time to get over jet lag, get to know each other and start developing our sun-tans. However, we were all eager to start work. It didn’t take long before we felt at home in Malaysia. Everyone that we met was so friendly and helpful.

For some of us, our first week at work was tougher than expected - we were carrying out a small mammal survey in the jungle. However, it was a great opportunity to get to know some of the staff who accompanied us. They were all eager to share their knowledge and stories, to develop their English and to laugh at us when we attracted lots of lovely leeches. However, it wasn’t long before we learnt the secret of jungle trekking – Wellies and Gabili’s famous ‘leech repellent’. I spent most of the rest of my time working in the Indoor Nursery, which for me comprised cleaning, interspersed with many “magical” moments. The Orang-Utans immediately recognised us and new exactly what we signalled – our skin colour meant lots of fun and plenty of cuddles!

Everyone did their best to convince us that we would soon know exactly where to go, what to do and be able to identify most of the orang-utans individually - I wasn’t quite convinced. However, soon we knew them by name – they all have different features and distinctive personalities. It’s also hard to ignore their remarkable intelligence and their loving nature. Most of them were more than happy to have as much TLC as you were prepared to give. It’s hard to resist those piercing eyes and outstretched arms!

Working for several weeks in one part of the centre also gave us the opportunity to get to know and to learn from the rangers. They seemed genuinely pleased to have us around and were happy to help and encourage us wherever possible. They were patient and kind, offering support when required and letting us work more independently when we felt confident to do so.

Generally, the staff were very relaxed and easy going – we were often told that we worked too hard and that we should take a break. However, although our first week in the jungle was physically demanding and cleaning cages can be tiring, it was just great to be there every day and very different from the stress of working life at home.

For me, the relationships we developed with the orang-utans made each day a special one – whether it was giving Anne a bath; watching Rosalinda sleeping in her hammock; giving Joey a cuddle; trying to stop Amoi from running underneath the buildings; taking the babies out on the ropes; watching those orang-utans who have already been rehabilitated swinging in the trees; or hundreds of other experiences we had each day that made us realise how lucky we were to be there.

Certainly there were difficult times – it can be hard living and working in each others pockets 24 hours a day; some volunteers found it hard to see the orang-utans in cages; others felt homesick at times, but we all learnt a great deal while we were in Sabah and shared some experiences that were truly amazing.

The hardest thing we had to do was to leave! I feel privileged to have been part of this project and would like to thank all of those people who helped to make a dream of mine come true. At times I took some of the babies outside to show them where their home would be eventually - the jungle. I hope that I may return one day to see some of “my babies” free and swinging happily in the rainforest canopy.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

My placement in Malaysia was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was extremely nervous in the run up to my departure, but from the moment I stepped off the plane, to the day I left the place I now called home, everyone was nothing but friendly and welcoming. You arrive in a place where everything and everyone is alien, but within a couple of weeks you feel like you belong there.

We were all so excited about meeting the Orang-Utans and starting work, but the actual experience was far greater than anything any of us could have imagined. We got to know the Orang-Utans by name and understand all the little characteristics which made them so individual. Their gentleness and intelligence astounded me every day. It is the sort of work you never grow tired of, I think I could quite happily have stayed forever.

We also got to know the local people who work at the Centre and at the jungle resort where we stayed. I made many friends who will always have a special place in my heart. Being invited to local parties and going to the numerous karaoke bars with these friends added to my experience even more, making it the happiest two months of my life.

I would advise everyone to do a placement. There are times when it’s difficult and you have to be prepared to work hard. But if you go there with a willingness to learn and a want to help, you will find it the most enjoyable experience of your life (you will also return never wanting to look at another pack of cards again!).

I learnt to rely on myself and came back a more confident and mature person. It helped me gain focus and I am ready to carry on in my life with more enthusiasm and purpose.

I could talk for pages about my experiences, but I’ll stop here and end by saying a huge thank you to everyone who made this once in a lifetime chance possible and who made me feel so welcome while I was there. Hopefully this wont be the last I see of you all.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

A typical day in orang-utan husbandry or the outdoor nursery starts at 8 to 8.15 when you meet the allotted ranger at the centre. You load a wheelbarrow with bananas and walk up with the ranger to the outdoor nursery. The area is normally very quiet with only a couple of teenage orang-utans about but as word gets out that the bananas have arrived more and more descend from the trees. We spend about fifteen minutes at the start of the morning with us locked in the cage which serves as an impromptu office and the orang-utans outside reaching through to us - a strange reverse of the normal situation.

After catching up with the ranger for this time we go and feed some of the teenage orang-utans on a close by feeding platform. We normally give them a few slices of bread each to encourage them to move away from the outdoor nursery and into the forest and leave us able to sweep the nursery area. At this point it is not unusual for one of the larger adolescent males to turn up to steal all the bread and we have to make a fast exit form the platform.

We are not supposed to touch or comfort the orang-utans at this stage of their rehabilitation as they are close to returning to the wild and are meant to be as independent as possible, however if one of the more boisterous young males tries to wrestle with you then you are allowed to wrestle him back!

Feeding and fighting time is followed by about half an hour of sweeping the leaves from the nursery - which is strangely enjoyable as you get to watch the orang-utans around you playing with each other. At about 10.00 am we head back to the indoor nursery area and the younger orang-utans for play time. On the way we collect leaves and branches to place in the younger orang-utans cages to encourage them to build nests.

We take out 6 orang-utans between six volunteers and have two hours with them. We spend time giving then leaves and branches and encouraging them to interact with each other.

For the younger babies a lot of cuddles and comforting is the order of the day. Some of the time is also spent encouraging the orang-utans to climb on the ropes and trees around the nursery. This is done by hiding fruit in the trees or putting your orang-utan on the ropes and making a dash for it before they grab you again, in the case of the more clingy ones. At 11.45 we put the orang-utans back in their cages with some food and drink for their efforts and return to the rest house for a much needed 2 hour lunch break.

We return to the Centre at 2pm and it is our group's job to clean cages. We each clean one of the indoor cages with dettol and scrubbing brushes and then help another group clean and tidy under the outdoor cages. We have a few minutes to prepare for outdoor play time so we may cut up fruit and place it in bottles, hide bananas, or even once tried to make honey lolly pops, which got very messy!

Then we have an hour of play with the older orang-utans (about 5 years old). They are let out of their cage in one orange rush and are into everything - it is not unlike babysitting an extremely energetic and strong toddler. There is lots of running around and play fighting and again we try to encourage some climbing. Then all too soon for the orang-utans and just about as we are ready to collapse, it is bed time.

At 3.45 we put all the orang-utans to bed in their indoor cages and feed them one last time. As we give them their last bits of bread or fruit we all rush out the door whilst they are distracted and unable to scream for us to come back and play some more. It is time to go back to the rest house and have a much needed shower and, of course, tackle the dreaded hand-washing.

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

A typical day in the Indoor Nursery or Clinic is starting at 8am we would first make up the milk for the babies and toddlers - they have different types depending on the age and there are two orang-utans, Ampal and Osama, who have special milk to build them up. Ampal quickly turned into my favourite as he is so gorgeous!

We would then feed them some fruit, usually bananas in the morning and bread for those with stomach problems! After they are all fed an watered we start the cleaning, this involves sweeping up all of the poo and fruit peel etc and then hose it all down with Ajax - we do the same in the Quarantine area also. After that it is bath time for some of the babies, we do different ones every day and this is great fun as they love it, especially when they can play with their green rubber turtle and splash us as much as possible! We then take out an orang-utan each to the play areas, either the Jungle Gym or the big area in the trees, depending on the age of the orang-utans that are due to go out on the Rota. They play for about half an hour and then we have to coax them back in - this is easy with the babies but some of the older ones refuse to come down from the trees and we have to bribe them with some fruit or bread, which usually works but not always!!

Once we have them back in we feed them a snack of Papaya or apple or some other fruit and we head off to lunch, leaving them to eat it. In the afternoon it starts all over again with feeding, cleaning and playing before they are put to bed around 4:30pm and we go back to the Rest House and collapse. It is a very tiring day as you never stop but it is fantastic to see the orang-utans as happy as they are.

They all have their own personalities, some have tantrums often and others are laid back, but they are all gorgeous in their own way, even smelly Poogal who likes to wear his food rather than eat it! I love it!!!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

Throughout my experience I gained so much knowledge about orang-utans, especially working in the outdoor nursery with the orang-utans that were mainly 6+. It was amazing to see them getting more independent and learning about their daily behaviour patterns that cannot be experienced anywhere else.

I was then able to use this knowledge when visitors to the centre asked me questions and I was surprised at how much I knew when they asked me.

Working with the babies taught me how much they depend on their mothers for such a long time - which I hadn't realised before I started. I gained experience with getting on with a varied group of people and I managed to get on well with everyone for the whole placement.

Overall the best thing was working in the clinic doing the medical checks with Dr Cecelia. Her knowledge about orang-utans amazed me. It was really interesting to see how similar orang-utan babies are to human babies as well.

Everything was amazing especially the amount of trips we got to take part in (e.g. Sipadan and climbing Mount Kinabalu) which made the trip so much better!!

If you want to work with orang-utans it's really hands on but making sure that you get to see the rehabilitation process at the same time. I would say to anyone considering taking part: It may seem like a lot of money at the time of booking it but as soon as I first held a baby orang-utan I knew it was worth so much more... priceless!!

We seemed to have a mixed type of person on our trip, going from me being the youngest and the oldest person who was in their 60's, and everyone enjoyed it as much as the other I think so I think most people can go. I think I got a lot out of it by having an open mind when I went and this is very important because then you can only be happy at what you get there.

From a personal level having many allergies, I would advise anyone with dietary requirements to talk to Amoy, the chef, as soon as they arrive. She speaks very good English and can basically cook any combination of things off the menu and will do her best to help... she was ace!

Haven't got any improvements to suggest or a bad thing to say about the placement!!! Thank you so much Travellers for making a dream come true and I will definitely do another placement again!

orang-utan Conservation and Rehabilitation Project in Borneo, Malaysia

We were very quickly given responsibility for looking after the orang-utans and we were expected to get on with the job. I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and think it's great that the team at Sepilok trust us to do the work - they are always on hand to help but it teaches you responsibility.

The placement teaches you a lot about yourself and your ability to mix with others and adapt to different environments. It's a fantastic experience to see life within a different culture and to feel so welcomed. People going on this placement need to be open to change and able to act appropriately when maybe something is not as they expect.

What is the best thing about your placement?
Too much to mention! The orang-utans obviously have to be top of the list! It's just so fantastic to be that close to them and to interact with them. I truly hadn't imagined they could be so affectionate, despite all the stories I'd heard and it's an amazing experience to feel you're giving them some of the attention they desperately crave and deserve.

I also loved all the people who are looked after us - the staff at Sepilok, Rasa Ria and at the rest house are all very friendly and welcoming. The rest house itself was far more advanced than I had expected it would be and the food is fantastic! (I miss the food so much!). I also love how laid back and friendly the people of Malaysia are. It really helps you to relax into the placement - they make you feel like you belong. And also it's such a fascinating and beautiful country.

Overall I have to admit it was just fantastic to be away from my desk and doing something that felt so much more worthwhile. It was great to wake up and want to go to work! It also helped living in beautiful sunshine of course!

I'd definitely recommend this placement to anyone who loves animals and are happy to get their hands dirty! It helps to have a reasonable level of fitness to cope with the heat, cleaning, carrying, trekking etc but you don't need to be super fit. You also have to be open and ready to adapt to new people and situations.

If you find it difficult to make friends, like your own way of doing things or don't have any tolerance you shouldn't go. When living in such a close environment it can be difficult and people unwilling to adapt could easily make the living together aspect of the placement unpleasant. What type of person do you think this placement would suit?

Animal/orang-utan lovers who are happy to work hard, get dirty and smelly, (don't mind dealing with excrement!) and can adapt to a different way of life. The care and welfare of the animals has to be the main priority. It is hard work at times so they must be prepared for this. They need to realise it's not a holiday and we are there to work and support the team and treat it like a job. They must have the animal’s best interests at heart and be aware that if they are feeling poorly they won't be able to work with the orang-utans. They should appreciate different cultures, be open to new experiences. Also, it's important they can deal with heat - it can be very hot and you can't wear sun lotion while working with the orang-utans. Some girls in our group were very pale and worried about burning but were told it's just not possible to wear sun cream as it's poisoness to the orang-utans. Also, you wear wellies on all working days - wearing wellies in humidity means you're always sweaty and hot!

Days do vary depending on the section you are working on but generally you get up and have breakfast around 7.30am and either start work at 8am or 8.30am. Lunch is whenever you've finished your morning duties but is generally from around 12.30 - 1.30 or 2pm. It does depend our the section you're working on. Most days start between 8 and 8.30am with lunch around 12-2pm but again this depends on workload - you have to finish duties before going for lunch, and finishing your day around 4-4.30pm.

After breakfast at the rest house if working in clinic you spend the morning providing the orang-utans with breakfast - milk and fruit, then clean the living areas by sweeping and washing the floors. You then bathed a couple of babies before taking orang-utans out for play - depending on their size they will either spend time playing in the jungle gym or in the tree play section. It's a fantastic opportunity to watch them developing the skills they need to live wild again.

The afternoon is pretty much a repetition of the morning with more cleaning, and preparation of food and drinks for afternoon snacks, cleaning the outdoor play areas and taking some orang-utans out to play.

The Outdoor section involves taking up a very large bunch of bananas to the outdoor area and fighting to get them there without having them pinched by hungry orang-utans! Firstly we would do a head count - trying to spot all the orang-utans and marking them off on a sheet. We would then take the bananas out to a feeding platform in the jungle encouraging the orang-utans to follow us for their breakfast. We would then return to the Outdoor area and clean the night quarters before making out way to the viewing platform for the first of the days feeds. We would stand amongst the tourists answering questions and ensuring they remain quiet and also that they stay away from any adventurous orang-utans who occasionally make their way onto the viewing platform!

After lunch we would again take bananas up to the Outdoor area and again take out positions on the viewing platform for the afternoon feed. Later in the afternoon we would help gather the younger orang-utans into the night quarters.

Trekking involved meeting at around 8.30am and going into the jungle with a member of the Sepilok team to look for orang-utan nests and wild orang-utans. We would update a sheet with info on any nests we spotted, noting the type of tree, height of the nest in the tree and how old it appeared to be.

We also did a small mammal survey where we set traps along a certain trail and then each day would check the traps and mark down all findings, including the weight and sex of what ever we caught and then release animal back to the wild.