Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project

From £795.00

Work on enrichment with captive orangutans and sun bears at the world renowned Samboja Lestari rescue centre.



Project Description

This project is located at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo and it gives you the chance to work on enrichment ideas for some of the 200+ orangutans that reside at the project site.

The main aim of this project is to assist in orangutan rehabilitation. By helping with enrichment making, husbandry and small construction projects it means a lot of the staff can be used in areas such as forest school and nursery where they can help teach the young orangutans the skills they need to survive in the wild. This means that they can be released quicker and still have a good chance of survival in the wild.

This project has helped to release a large number of orangutans back into the wild and this is due to the success of the rehabilitation process that takes place at Samboja, and the release sites which are secured by BOSF Indonesia, the charity partner of the project.

This project is perfect for anyone who wants to completely understand orangutan conservation and work alongside people who manage every aspect of rescue, rehabilitation and release.

Why This Project Needs Volunteers

Volunteers on this project help to work towards the rehabilitation and eventual release of the Orangutans and Sun Bears living at the project site. As there are always new animals being bought into the site, it is crucial that there is a steady stream of volunteers to help with enrichment, husbandry, and general sanctuary upkeep.

Due to the volume of animals needing to be looked after at this site, and the limited space available, unfortunately a number of Samboja's animals have to be kept in cages. This is far from ideal, and the project continues to develop and build as many outdoor areas for the animals as possible, but this does require a lot of man power and funding – which is why your participation is so crucial!


Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
Arrival at Balikpapan Airport in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. A lodge representative will meet you at the airport arrivals and will transfer you to the eco lodge at Samboja Lestari. Once settled in you will be given a briefing by Kate your project facilitator.
Day 2 - Induction Day:
After a breakfast buffet at the lodge you will start your induction day which consists of a tour of the entirety of the facility site. Not only will you meet the resident orangutans but you will also meet the facilities' sun bears.
Day 3 - Orangutan Enrichment and Husbandry:
Today you will begin your project work at Samboja Lestari. The group is usually split in two with half spending a whole day working on creating enrichment items for the orangutans and assisting with husbandry and the other half doing the same for the sun bears.
Day 4 - Project Work with the Sun Bears:
After breakfast the group will reverse role with those who helped with the orangutans, now working with the sun bears and vice versa. There is also the opportunity to help feed the orangutans on the islands for some(everyone will get this opportunity during the project).
Day 5 - Forest Walk:
For a change of pace and an education, on this morning you will take part in a forest walk with members of the orangutan release team and a botanist. During this walk, you will learn about the flora and fauna resident here as well as the food that the orangutans like best! ?The afternoon is spent working on enrichment for the orangutans, after all there are 250 at the centre and enrichment is something the project tries to provide to each of them every day.
Day 6 - Orangutan Enrichment and the Night Market:
Today will be another orangutan day, where you will continue to create enrichment but of a different type for the orangutans and you may also help with leaf collection. These leaves are given to the orangutans so that they may make their nests. Tonight you will have the opportunity to visit the local vibrant night market.
Day 7 - Morning to Relax & then a Boat Trip:
Today you will have a relaxed morning off – doing as you like (a lie-in may be needed)! In the afternoon, you will be able to go on a fantastic boat trip along the black river. This boat trip is a fantastic chance to see the iconic proboscis monkey and a typical Indonesian fishing village.
Day 8 - Tour the City of Balikpapan:
Today you will be able to spend a full day in the city of Balikpapan. You will be able to visit the local craft market, have a delicious lunch and buy anything you want or need from the local shopping mall.
Day 9 - Another Orangutan Day:
After a little break, today, you will be back working with the orangutans, assisting with making enrichment and bamboo and leaf collection. You will also have the possibility of helping out with minor construction tasks and site maintenance.
Day 10 - Canopy Walk in the Rainforest:
Today is your time for adventure by means of a canopy walk in the rainforest. You will have the opportunity to walk high up in the forest canopy, keeping your eyes peeled for gibbons and native flora and fauna.
Day 11 - 12 - Project Work with the Orangutans:
This will be the final day for 2 week volunteers and the last chance to work alongside the orangutans assisting with anything that needs to be done. In the evening you will have time to speak to the facilitators, view a slide show from your stay and if you fancy enjoy a few drinks as a group before transferring to the airport the next day.
Day 13 - Final day or continuing with Project Work:
Departure day for those volunteers on the two-week project. After a fond farewell you will be transferred to Balikipapan Airport for your flight home or onward travel plans. If you are staying for a month you will be engaged in an afternoon activity before having the opportunity to once again visit the fantastic night market.
Day 14 - Project Work or rest:
All 4 week volunteers will either continue with project work at the centre or have a rest day.
Day 15 - 26 - Project Work and Final Day:
For those volunteers staying for a month, project activities will continue in the style as for the two week itinerary with new volunteers arriving on Day 15 to join you.
Day 27 - Final Day:
This will unfortunately be the final day for all volunteers with transfers arranged to Balikpapan Airport for your onward travel plans.

What will I be doing?

Your main activities whilst volunteering with orangutans at Samboja include husbandry, enrichment, forest plantation, maintenance and construction work for both the orangutans and the sun bears resident here. You will be treated as pseudo-staff whilst on the project, meaning full participation in all of the centre's work.



Orangutan island observation to collect vital behavioural data and monitor the health and behaviour of the orangutans. This is done by doing a circuit of the orangutan islands on a small boat, offering great chances for some beautiful photographs.



Creating enrichment to stimulate and benefit those orangutans resident within enclosures, whilst also helping to encourage natural behaviour. You will also be preparing the food and delivering this to the orangutan islands.



Cleaning the orangutan cages and the fruit store where food for the orangutans and sun bears is prepared. Leaf collection (for the orangutans to build their nests). This will involve regular treks out into the jungle - make sure you have packed your walking boots!

Construction and Maintenance

Construction and Maintenance

Any construction or repair work which may need to be done depending on the needs of the sanctuary. Please note that maintenance and construction are on-going tasks at the centre, and always require volunteers to help out. You may be involved with the building/maintenance of orangutan cages, the maintenance of the rainforest environment and the upkeep of the sunbear enclosures. Maintenance is a continuous task of painting, cleaning, varnishing and gardening - there is always work to be done and you will be helping wherever it is needed!

Working with the Sun Bears

Working with the Sun Bears

You will also be able to work within the sunbear area during your time here, where around 50 sunbears reside. Helping with enrichment and general enclosure maintenance will be the main activities you will be involved with whilst working alongside these magnificent bears - one of the world's rarest bear species.

Canopy Walk

Canopy Walk

A popular excursion from the centre. You will have the opportunity to walk high up in the forest canopy, keeping your eyes peeled for all kinds of fauna and flora. There may even be the chance to spot a pair of singing gibbons!

River cruise

River cruise

A wonderfully relaxing afternoon is spent on the black river. You will board a local boat and travel along the winding river in search of the endangered proboscis monkey famous for its oversized nose. During your journey you will travel through a local fishing village, which will offer you the chance to see how local people lived and then we will travel briefly out to sea where we will watch the sunset.

Additional Information

Group Size Up to 12 People
Meals All Meals Included
Duration 7 - 26 Nights
Start Dates Set dates - enquire for details
Minimum Age Minimum Age 18
Getting There

You need to arrive into Balikpapan Airport on your project start date between 9am - 5pm or you can be collected from a hotel close to the airport. Jakarta International Airport offers a large number of flights to Balikpapan. Once in Balikpapan, you will be met by a project representative who will then transfer you to Samboja Lestari.

Visa Requirements

You will need a tourist visa to join this project. You will be able to get one of these on arrival in Indonesia, but please note that you may have to pay for it. The fee is currently $25 for a 30-day visa.

Currency and Exchange Rates

The currency of Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). As of June 2015, the exchange rate was £1 to IDR20,958.

What's included?
  • Airport transfers to and from Balikpapan
  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Tea, coffee and drinking water
  • All volunteer activities
  • A Conservation Donation
What's not included?
  • All flights
  • Any vaccinations
  • Visa Fee
  • Airport taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Soft or alcoholic drinks and extra snacks


Alex Coode - 2016

I loved the whole week and wanted to stay (I think we all did). Possibly my favourite moment was clearing weeds from the moat around one of the islands, fully clothed, up to our chins in muddy water, throwing handfuls of weed on to the island and having them thrown back at us by the orangutans - wonderful! I would not change a thing. This was the most amazing experience, hard work and so rewarding. I really felt that the volunteers made a difference. Being close to such wonderful creatures was humbling and it was good to meet such lovely people, both those who worked for the project and the other volunteers. Really amazing, I can't think of a better word.

Sarah Thomas - 2016

The beautiful and unique individual personalities of the orangutans; the new friendships made; and the camaraderie in trying to make a difference - and not forgetting all the wonderful team at Samboja Lestari. So knowledgeable, informative, helpful and accommodating. Lot of work behind the scenes gave an air of complete professional competence - thank you Guys!

Graeme Bluett - 2016

This was a truly fantastic experience. It was well organised with a superb efficient site facilitator. We got to take part in close observation of the Orangutans and Sun Bears and help with their daily needs which was just so rewarding.

Sagar Sadarangani - 2016

Everything was excellent and I really enjoyed my time there. I wish there was a two-month program instead of one :D . Kate who coordinated the program was excellent and very approachable - so that made it even more fun and relaxed.

Holly Dibden - 2016

My favourite memory was going on the boat around the orangutan islands at feeding time. I also got to see off five orangutans who were being released from Samboja Lestari.

kate stewart - 2016

My best memory from the trip was accidentally "happening" upon 3 released orang-utans in the nearby forest, and the release we were lucky enough to be around for on the 18th October 2016.

Philip Mason - 2016

Straightforward, prolonged observation of the orangutans -- this throws up so many far-reaching questions about orangutans and us in a very direct and visceral way. That's not just me being pretentious: I think all of the volunteers experience something similar when they look into the eyes of an orangutan from a short distance away. Awesome, in the old-fashioned sense of the word -- not a term I use lightly.

Angela Wardle - 2016

The minute you saw the orangutans, and when we were there they were doing an orangutan release! The excitement there was incredible.