Orang-Utans are astonishingly gentle, highly intelligent and they gaze at you

with almost disconcerting frankness!

At Sepilok you will have the opportunity to work with these gentle and highly intelligent red apes in their natural environment. Interaction with these remarkable creatures, man’s closest relative, will be an unforgettable experience!

Live and work in MALAYSIA

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Orang Utan Project
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My Orang Utan Experience
We adopt an Orang Utan for each volunteer through the Orangutan Appeal, a charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of these wonderful animals. To read about the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/

The Orang-Utan is one of the most endangered of Malaysian wildlife species. Found only in Borneo and Sumatra, the Orang-Utans’ survival is constantly threatened by forest fires, felling of trees, poaching and illegal hunting.

The Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre is located near Sandakan, in Malaysian Borneo. This centre was set up as a means of housing injured or orphaned Orang-Utans, caring for them and nursing them back to health before they can be released into the forest. Many Orang-Utans that end up here have strayed into logging camps or been rescued from captivity. Many are orphaned babies that cannot survive in the forest alone.

“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 had been at Sepilok for 8 years, taking 8 month old orang utans to play at the lake, teaching them to climb ropes, watching the rehabilitated orang utans swing through trees in the forest. It has been too amazing to put into words.”

Travellers volunteer working with an orphaned orang-utan at Sepilok in Malaysia


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 wealth of indigenous and rare plants, animals and birds that have found sanctuary here must be seen to be believed. The Wildlife Reserve contains the Orang-Utan rehabilitation centre.

The 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 such as captive breeding of the rare and endangered rhinoceros. 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 centers 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.

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.
Photos and more information about Sepilok (plus photos)
Facilities for Tourists at Sepilok (plus photos)
Click for MAP

Specific duties may vary depending on what is required at the time. During your placement it is likely that you will;

Working with an orphaned orang-utan at Sepilok in Malaysia

Travellers volunteer working with an orphaned orang-utan at Sepilok in Malaysia

Travellers volunteer wheeling baby orang-utans to be fed at Sepilok in Malaysia

Learn about Orang-Utan Husbandry Management by working in both the Indoor and Outdoor Nursery.
Learn about Orang-Utan Paediatric and Veterinary Care.
Conduct a Field Survey on the Orang-Utan population in Sepilok reserve.
Conduct a Nocturnal Animal survey.
Conduct an Extended Orang-Utan and Nocturnal Animal Survey in areas deeper into the forest reserve (will involve a two night stay in the jungle).
Work will be done on a rotational basis, with different groups of volunteers working within each of the different departments outlined above. You will spend about 50% of your time working in direct hands on contact with the Orang-Utans and about 50% of your time will involve helping support the conservation efforts of the centre (e.g conducting surveys, trekking in the jungle etc). 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.

“We worked so hard there and tried to make such a difference and have an impact on all their lives, which we obviously achieved. We bought towels to make hammocks for the Orang-Utans in their cages as they had nothing. Just to go in each morning and see them curled up in them was rewarding!”

Orang Utan Husbandry:
The Indoor Nursery: This area looks after the infants, from just a few months to around four years old. It consists of three outdoor cages, one for each age group. The babies stay in the sleeping area. About five staff work in the Indoor nursery.
Possible duties include;
bullet Transfer of the Infant Orang-Utan from the Sleeping cages to the playing cages.
bullet Cleaning the Sleeping area
bullet Preparation of food for the infants (peeling bananas, making formula milk)
bullet Feeding the babies bottled formula drink
bullet Distributing bananas to the infant Orang-Utans
bullet Caring for the sick infants (One Orang-Utan, Amoi, suffers from chronic depression and requires special attention)
bullet Transferring Orang-Utans back to the Sleeping cages
bullet Cleaning the Indoor nursery area
The 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 its food. This ensures the Orang-Utan do not become reliant on food being at a particular platform each day. There are two members of staff in the Outdoor nursery.
Possible duties include:
Preparation of milk
Assisting the rangers by carrying the milk and bananas to the platform (done twice daily)
Cleaning out the cages once every two days.
Observation of the Juvenile Orang-Utans.
Orang-Utan Paediatric and Veterinary care:
Here you will be required to assist the veterinarian in the treatment of sick Orang-Utans. You will help assess the daily health status of any sick Orang-Utans as well as recording data on the treatments given.

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-Utans from their ID number or name. This survey may also cover identification of small mammals in the reserve.

Nocturnal Animal Survey:
Volunteers will take part in a Nocturnal Animal Survey along pre-determined transects within the reserve. This survey will be supervised, and volunteers will be required to observe and collect data on nocturnal animals within the reserve through direct sightings.
Extended Orang-Utan and Nocturnal Survey:
Volunteers will also undertake an extended Orang-Utan survey (in the daylight hours) and an Overnight Orang-Utan survey in areas further into the Sepilok forest reserve. Rangers will conduct basic jungle survival skills and volunteers will camp out in the forest for at least two nights. Camping equipment is provided by Sepilok.

Accommodation 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

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 are required to share rooms (usually two or three to a room) and food will be provided at the rest house. The owner (Mr Chong) and his staff are very friendly and will ensure that you are made to feel at home!
Malaysia has lovely weather all year round with lots of sunshine and you will have some time during your free days to explore the local region and visit some of the tourist attractions.
When you arrive you will be welcomed at the airport by Albert our Malaysia Manager. He will take you to your accommodation in Kota Kinabalu where you will spend the first few days of your trip. Albert will give you an induction during this time, so that you can learn about the country and its culture, as well as useful information like how to use the phones, transport system etc. During the first few days of your stay you will also receive an induction with the Sabah Wildlife Department, who run the Sepilok Orang-Utan centre. This induction will include a briefing on the project, some team-building activities, and an official welcome dinner hosted by the department.

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.

This projects is for a fixed period of two months and group departures leave every two months or thereabouts. There are a maximum of nine 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.
In order to apply for a place on this project you should be able to meet the following criteria:

bullet Have a high level of fitness and be able to work as part of a team conducting physical work in hot and humid conditions.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
The following are planned to take place during your placement at Sepilok, but are subject to confirmation and individual elements may change:

An Excursion to Guamatong Cave and Sukau river including guided tour and overnight stay
Sepilok Laut Excursion including overnight camping trip
Sandakan Tour around places of local interest.
2 Travellers T – Shirts to be worn as a work uniform
Adoption of one of the baby Orang-Utan’s at Sepilok for one year, including photos and a certificate. Details of the Orang-Utan that has been adopted for you will be sent to you prior to your departure.
Travellers volunteer working with an orphaned orang-utan at Sepilok in Malaysia

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.
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. From the harbour area boat trips to Selingan (turtle) island and Langakayan can be arranged, although most trips are not possible in a day and instead visitors are required to stay overnight.

You have the option to arrange your own flights or we can assist you with your flight arrangements. If you would like us to do this for you, we will liaise with you regarding available flights and dates to suit you. All arrangements for your flight bookings/payments will be fulfilled by Roger Murray Travel Ltd, who act as agents for ATOL protected operators. Where possible, we arrange for two or more people to travel on the same flight and we will let you have the names and telephone numbers of other volunteers on your flight, so that you can chat to each other or even meet up before leaving for your placement.
We can also arrange your flight dates to give you additional time at the end of your project for travelling around and sightseeing – this is a fascinating and wondrous country!

You will fly into Kota Kinabalu International Airport where you will be welcomed by Albert, our Travellers Organiser and Malaysia Manager. Albert will settle you into your accommodation in KK for the first few nights of your stay. You will then have an induction with the Sabah Wildlife Department, before commencing your project at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre.

As there is so much to do in Sabah and the surrounding region, we recommend that you do some travelling around the country once your placement has finished. If this is the case, we can arrange your flights accordingly.

Travellers volunteer bottle-feeding an orphaned orang-utan at Sepilok in Malaysia

Where possible, all flights we arrange for you have changeable return tickets because many of our volunteers choose to extend their stay once they are in their destination country. Changeable return tickets enable you to do so, within the limits of your visa and the level of your air ticket, of course. If you choose to book your own flights, you should endeavour to get a changeable ticket. We meet you at the airport regardless of whether you make your own travel arrangements or not.

VISAS:. Visas are not required for stay of up to 90 days if you are a British Passport Holder. If you want to stay longer in Malaysia, or if you are not a British Passport Holder, please speak to us about specific visa requirements, if any. We will make the Visa process very easy for you!

To see what support we provide in our countries, please click on Support and Backup

Prices include all your food and accommodation, as well as being met at the nearest airport and transferred to your project. The price excludes international travel.

Ł2,595, for two months
Flight cost guide: approximately Ł650 to Ł750. Currency Converter
We adopt an Orang Utan for each volunteer through the Orangutan Appeal, a charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of these wonderful animals. To read about the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/