27-Day Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project

Balikpapan, Indonesia, South-Eastern Asia, Asia

From $2,309 for 26 nights
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How is it eco?
The detail

“Get your hands dirty helping to protect the endangered orangutan of Samboja Lestari and working with local communities”

Samboja Lestari is an area of restored rainforest in East Kalimantan, Borneo, and is home to nine primate species – including iconic orangutans. Malay for “person of the forest”, the orangutan is a highly intelligent, gentle giant that calls Borneo, Indonesia home. Established by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, this project offers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on the enrichment of captive orangutans and sun bears at a rescue centre. Spend your time observing orangutans on the centre’s six 'orangutan islands', natural areas established for orangutans unable to return to the wild. You’ll also help with husbandry, enclosure maintenance, and go foraging in the jungle to collect leaves. In your spare time you can clamber through the forest canopy to catch a glimpse of the wildlife and enjoy a relaxing cruise before watching the sun set over the Black River.

If this sounds great but you don't quite have enough time, check out the shorter version of this project here!

The endangered orangutan’s survival depends on the preservation of its forest habitat; the Bornean orangutan population has halved over the past sixty years with 55% of its rainforest home being destroyed. However, this project provides a safe haven for incredible animals by helping sustain and enrich the wildlife population. Samboja Lestari is a safe area of rainforest in Borneo and is home to the most renowned rehabilitation centres for orangutans. The project has effectively aided the rescue and rehabilitation of many orangutans whose lives have been threatened by both deforestation and poaching.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation’s mission is to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans whilst ensuring they maintain their natural instinct and forest skills, so they can be reintroduced to the wild safely. This project aims to spread understanding about the conservation of Bornean orangutans to encourage the protection of the ever-reducing population of these magnificent animals. The sanctuary is also aiding the local people not only financially (by providing salaries for those working in the rehabilitation areas) but also by increasing income through land and fruit sales. On this project, you'll be helping to support and protect all the people of the forest!

Day 1
day 1

After landing in Indonesia, you will be met be a project representative at the Balikpapan Airport in Kalimantan, Borneo, before being transferred to Samboja Lestari Eco Lodge. Relax and settle in, before receiving your project briefing.

Day 2
day 2

Dedicated to your induction, this day gives you the chance to get acquainted with the entire facility site. There is no hard labour today, but the introduction to the moment you have been waiting for - the chance to meet the resident orangutans and sun bears!

Day 3
day 3

Now you have met the animals you can make a start on your project work. Begin the day with a breakfast buffet before getting stuck in with some enrichment and husbandry work with the orangutans.

Day 4
day 4

A role reversal day, you will swap with the other group and those who worked with the orangutans on day three will have their opportunity to assist with the husbandry and enrichment of the sun bears.

Day 5
day 5

To mix things up, this morning is the opportunity to participate in a forest walk in which you will meet the orangutan release team and a botanist to learn about the orangutan’s rainforest home. This provides an opportunity to further understand the other wildlife that inhabit Samboja Lestari and discover the favourite food of the orangutans (a far cry from your doughnut predisposition). The afternoon consists of working on enrichment, something the project aims to provide on a daily basis.

Day 6
day 6

This day consists of a different type of enrichment; this time you will be able to volunteer with the leaf collection for the orangutans to create their nests. The evening offers the opportunity to get to know the locals with a visit to the vivacious night market.

Day 7
day 7

After a week of activity, a morning off allows you to remain horizontal for a few extra hours. The afternoon will consist of an unmissable boat trip along the Black River, allowing you to search for more wildlife and also get an insight into the Indonesian culture as you pass through a typical fishing village.

Day 8
day 8

Another break day, which you may choose to spend in the city of Balikpapan: visit the local craft market to do some shopping, and enjoy a delightful lunch.

Day 9
day 9

Time to get back to the reason you are here, and jump straight back into your project work! As well as assisting with enrichment and the collection of leaves and bamboo, there might also be the chance for you to get involved with construction tasks at the main site.

Day 10
day 10

Spend an adventurous day clambering through the rainforest in the canopy walk to get a glimpse of the forest from the perspective of its inhabitants. This gives you the prime opportunity to catch sight of the forest's resident primates and other native wildlife.

Day 11-12
day 11-12

It's the final working day for the two-week volunteers (but not for you!) Reminisce with your new friends about your shared experience, with some farewell drinks of course!

Day 13
day 13

Say farewell to the volunteers that will be returning home today. Your time isn’t quite up yet though – lucky you! Those of you staying for the month will be able to enjoy some afternoon project activities before taking a trip down to the night market.

Day 14
day 14

Either continue your project activities at the centre, or enjoy a day’s rest.

Day 15-26
day 15-26

Volunteering activities will continue as usual for the rest of your time on the project, and you’ll get to meet a fresh bunch of volunteers joining you on Day 15! Be sure to show them the ropes as you’ll be a pro by now…

Day 27
day 27

Say a sad ‘goodbye’ to the centre and all its inhabitants (animal and human!) as you travel back to Balikpapan Airport to begin your onward travel plans.

Rate Conditions

  • The rate shown is a 'from' price per person
  • Click 'Ask a Question' up above to enquire about full project dates, availability and costs (and remember, shorter stays are available!)
  • To secure a place on this project a 20% deposit is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.


  • Airport transfers to and from Balikpapan (Sultan Aji Muhamad Sulaiman Airport)
  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Tea, coffee and drinking water at the lodge
  • All volunteer activities at the project site
  • Conservation donation to Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary


  • All flights
  • Any vaccinations
  • Visa Fees and travel insurance (click 'Ask a Question' to chat to the operator about this)
  • Soft or alcoholic drinks and extra snacks
  • Laundry service (washing and tumble drying – this can be purchased on site and the cost is per item. Costs are roughly: 75p for trousers, 50p for t-shirts, 25p for underwear.)
  • Anything else not mentioned in inclusions - if in doubt, 'Ask a Question' to the operator!

Area & Location

Balikpapan, Indonesia
Local currencies:
Time Change:
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We will keep all your information confidential and only contact you in relation to your enquiry. We respond to all enquiries within 24 hours.

Check availability & pricing

We will keep all your information confidential and only contact you in relation to your enquiry. We respond to all enquiries within 24 hours.

Get in touch!
enquiry form
We will keep all your information confidential and only contact you in relation to your enquiry. We respond to all enquiries within 24 hours.