Duration: 28 Days
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Discover the secrets of the orang-utan as you explore Malaysia and experience the country’s stunning wildlife, work behind the scenes at Melaka Zoo, meet the inviting local people from the rural rainforest communities of Borneo, and understand the motivations behind the people at the heart of Malaysia’s key orang-utan conservation efforts.
Your Orang-utan Encounters Experience
Throughout this incredible programme you will have the opportunity to work closely with zookeepers and local conservationists to work with and help protect orang-utans and other primate and animal species across Malaysia. Through developing dedicated enrichment programmes for a range of animals, helping to protect Borneo’s rainforest habitats and learning about orang-utan rehabilitation, over the course of your experience in Malaysia you will build up a greater understanding of the pressures and threats that impact conservation programmes across the country.
You will start your programme in the bustling capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. After being met by our driver at the airport you will be taken back to your city centre guesthouse to settle in. You will have you arrival day free to explore the city, before meeting your project coordinator for a welcome dinner and project briefing. The following morning you will transfer from Kuala Lumpur to your first project location at Malaysia’s second largest zoo in Melaka. Spread across a 54 acre site and containing over 100 different species, this will be your first site where you will begin your Orang-utan Encounters experience.
The focus of your project at the zoo will be to assist the local zookeepers in developing the zoo site, by up scaling animal welfare and living standards, with the end goal of developing Melaka Zoo & Night Safari into a zoo that meets with international animal welfare standards. You will work for 5 days per week at the zoo, with 2 days per week free for you to explore the historical town of Melaka, take trips back to Kuala Lumpur, or even further afield to Singapore or to some of Malaysia’s stunning islands.
After spending time at the zoo, getting to know the orang-utans, primates and other animals at close quarters, you will fly from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan in Borneo where you will meet your new programme coordinator who, over dinner, will give you an induction session into the Corridor of Life and the importance of the conservation efforts in the area. Following your welcome and induction you will begin the second phase of your experience in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah where you will work closely with conservation programmes in Sukau village and wildlife sanctuary. The wildlife sanctuary is home to a range of animals including orang-utans, singing gibbons, sun bears, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants.
Your Zoo Volunteer Role
Whilst working as a volunteer at Melaka Zoo & Night Safari you will undertake a wide range of activities focussing on improving the living conditions and welfare of the captive animals at the zoo, whilst increasing the awareness of animal rights on the zoo site.
By working closely with zookeepers and your programme coordinator you will gain an insight into life behind the scenes at the zoo, whilst getting to know more about the behaviour and personalities of the orang-utans and other animals living on the zoo site. You will assist the keepers with a range of jobs including, cleaning enclosures, feeding the animals, maintenance around the zoo, and preparing enrichment activities for the orang-utans and other animals. The specific activities will be split into 4 key areas: (See Extra Info Tab for further details)
Your Borneo Conservation Role
During the second phase of your programme, you will be working alongside dedicated conservation projects in the village and wildlife sanctuary of Sukau, situated along the Kinabatangan River in the heart of the Corridor of Life. Working under the guidance of your programme coordinator, you will be tasked with restoring specific plots of land in order to create corridors of greenery for the wild orang-utans, pygmy elephants and other animals to travel easily between fragmented areas of rainforest.
Your role will include, orang-utan and other wildlife population observation and data collection in the local area, tree planting, seedling generation, and sapling maintenance and more!
As well as helping to restore and conserve the natural habitat in the rainforest around Sukau, you will also be tasked with working closely with the “Orang Sungai”, simply translated as “People of the River”, to implement sustainable projects to engage locals in the conservation efforts of the rainforest. This will include developing conservation programmes in the village school, encouraging the children to take responsibility for the protection and conservation of the environment that they live in. (See Extra Info tab for a detailed description of your role)
Following your amazing experience living in the Kinabatangan Rainforest, on your final day of the programme, you will visit the world famous Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre as a tourist, where you will learn more about the protection and rehabilitation of orang-utans in preparation for their release back into the wild. At Sepilok you will have the opportunity to observe feeding of the resident orang-utans, and find out more about their care.
• Assist local zookeepers in their daily jobs: cleaning cages and zoo compounds, feeding the animals and preparing enrichment activities for the animals at the zoo.
• Learn about orang-utans in the stage of rehabilitation and process of releasing them back to the wild.
• Learn about the personalities of various animals and their role in the web of life.
• Work closely with local Malaysian zookeepers and understand the conditions they work in.
• Help to improve living conditions of captive orang-utans and other animals at Melaka zoo.
• Assist with up-scaling animal welfare, and developing enrichment programmes.
• Build an understanding of the comparisons between protected animals in captivity and animals living in threatened habitats in the wild.
• Plant trees and maintain planting sites important for orang-utans and pygmy elephants.
• Understand the threats to habitat and wildlife and have the unique chance to make a personal impact in the conservation efforts.
• Live in the same village as the Orang Sungai ‘people of the river’ and collaborate with them through sustainable community projects.
• Trek through and learn about the mysterious rainforests of Sabah.
• Raise awareness on responsible living and travelling amongst tourists, local community and students.
• Interact with students at local schools in an education programme focused on conservation activities.
• Spot macaques, deer, elephants and birds in the trees that were planted by past volunteers!
- Trip Name
- Orang-utan Encounters
- Trip Code
- Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Airport code: KUL)
- Minimum Duration
- 28 Day
- Minimum Age
- Trip Type
- Volunteering, Group Tours
- Wildlife & Conservation, Adventure
- From £1495 for 28 Days
- £ 195.00
- Preferred Duration
- This is a 28 day programme only. You will receive 27 nights of accommodation and your departure will need to be on the 28th day.
- You do not need any specific experience to take part in this programme, however a passion and interest in wildlife and animal welfare is required. It is also essential that you have a good work ethic and enthusiastic attitude towards the programme.
- Ideal for
- Gap Year and Career Break Volunteering in Malaysia; Wildlife Conservation in Malaysia; Work with Orang-utans; Orangutan Conservation Project; Rainforest Conservation in Borneo; Zoo Volunteering Overseas.
Arrival DatesArrival / Start dates are on the 5th of every month. Please contact our Travel Team to check availability.
Note: Arrivals should be on the 5th, please aim to arrive early in the day as you will receive a welcome dinner and project briefing on the evening of the 5th. Your programme will end after exactly 27 nights.
British nationals visiting Malaysia do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days. To read more about your visa requirements you can click here.
- Project Activities
- All conservation activities and equipment will be provided, so that you can make a direct contribution to the volunteer projects.
- Accommodation is provided for the duration of your programme, with guesthouse accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, and in a shared volunteer house on the project site at Melaka Zoo. You will be staying in a longhouse style guesthouse on arrival in Sepilok, a basic but comfortable lodge in Sukau and a shared hotel room on your last night in Sandakan. All accommodation will have communal areas, kitchen and bathroom facilities.
- Airport Transfers
- An arrival transfer from Kuala Lumpur Airport to your city centre accommodation is provided, as well as a return transfer back to Kuala Lumpur Airport at the end of the first half of your programme. An arrival transfer from Sandakan Airport (SDK) to your accommodation is also provided, as well as a return transfer back to Sandakan Airport at the end of your programme.
- Welcome Dinner
- Welcome dinner will be provided on your arrival day for each phase of your programme, in Kuala Lumpur and in Sandakan.
- A comprehensive induction and orientation will be provided by our team at the start of each phase of your programme, including safety, zoo / wildlife sancturay and village orientation, and project briefing.
- Bilingual Coordinator
- An English speaking programme coordinator will be on hand to support you throughout your placement.
- A meal allowance will be provided for all project activity days at the zoo, and you will be cooked 3 meals per day at the homes of the locals during your time in Sukau.
- Project related transport is provided, including a transfer from your city centre accommodation to project site at Melaka Zoo, transfer back to KL airport, transfer from Sandakan to Sukau, and a retrun transfer back to Sandakan airport.
- Entrance Fees
- Entrance fees to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
- All pre-departure advice and support will be provided, as well as 24 hour support from our dedicated teams in Malaysia and the UK.
- Equipment & Medical Discounts
- Changing Worlds customers will receive 10% off Travel Equipment, Medical Supplies and Vaccinations from Nomad Travel Store.
- A small donation is made to help support the continued conservation work of the project.
Before You Arrive
To make sure you are up-to-speed before your placement there is a range of things that you can do to ensure you have the best experience possible in Melaka Zoo and in the Kinabantagan Rainforest. As a way to gain a better understanding of the Malaysian wildlife, we recommend doing some research into Malaysia’s animals and their behaviour in the wild. You may wish to visit a zoo before you travel to study the activities undertaken by the staff, and the behaviour of the various animal species.
You may also be interested in introducing new enrichment activities for the animals in zoo and conservation programmes in the rainforest, therefore we advise looking into possible enrichment conservation programme ideas that you could implement during your trip, as any ideas you may have during your placement will be gratefully received!
At The Zoo
Melaka Zoo & Night Safari is located approx. 130km (1hr 30mins) from Kuala Lumpur city centre in a town called Ayer Keroh, Melaka and is Malaysia’s second largest zoo, spread across a 54 acre site containing over 1000 individual animals with more than 100 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Melaka Zoo has been in operation since 1963. We are in the early stages of development, with a focus on improving the enclosures and living conditions of the animals at the zoo, for example building platforms and swings for the orang-utans, climbing structures for the sun bears, and structures to provide shade for the mandrills.
Enrichment Programmes / Education Trips
As part of the overall conservation efforts throughout Malaysia, our in-country teams have been developing enrichment programmes in a range of other zoos and wildlife centres throughout the country. Volunteers may therefore be asked to travel to different zoos as part of the enrichment programmes that are being implemented around Malaysia. Enrichment based trips to other zoos may occur during your programme, acting as training and education opportunities over a 1 – 4 day period. Our volunteers may be invited to attend these trips (depending on the local needs and time of year).
Enrichment programmes and educational trips will give our volunteers the opportunity to actively contribute towards enriching the lives and improving animal welfare of the captive animals in zoos throughout Malaysia. The overall aim of these programmes is to build dedicated enrichment centres at zoos across the country and to aid the development of the on-going enrichment programmes for the animals at the zoos.
Please be aware that costs for travel, meals and accommodation for these additional education trips will need to be shared by our in-country team and the volunteers.
Husbandry – This activity involves the feeding of animals and the cleaning of cages. You will rotate between working in different areas of the zoo depending on the needs of the zoo, the zookeepers and the animals, with work required in the ape and primate sections as well as in other areas of the zoo. Cleaning is vital for the control of hygiene and the prevention of disease in the zoo. (Please be aware this can be a smelly job and you must be willing to clean up animal faeces!)
Enrichment – The main idea behind the enrichment activities in the zoo is to provide stimulation to the animals, by mimicking their natural environment and improving their living conditions and welfare. Activities may include:
• Encourage foraging by hiding food around the animal cages.
• Provide the animal with special fruit and foodstuff to give a more varied diet.
• Provide the animal with leaves to encourage bedding and nesting.
• Observe behaviour of animals after introducing different new food and branches.
Construction – As a volunteer in Melaka zoo you may be asked to design and work on construction based projects to help improve the various enclosures around the zoo. Construction projects can include building new exhibits to improve the zoo’s facilities, and extensions to current enclosures to help improve the living conditions and welfare of the animals.
Education – As a volunteer working in the zoo, you will have the opportunity to learn as much as possible about each of the animals you work with during your placement. As part of your programme you may be tasked with preparing displays and information about the animals, as well as guiding and running talks for school groups visiting the zoo.
In Borneo’s Rainforest
Borneo’s rainforests have been under threat for many years and have been severely affected by deforestation caused by logging and plantations. This has had a devastating effect on the local wildlife, leaving many endangered animals vulnerable and without a safe habitat. Furthermore this puts huge strains on the local communities that have lived off the rainforests and rivers for many generations. The Kinabatangan Floodplain rainforest in Borneo is particularly at risk and it is imperative that urgent conservation work is undertaken to restore the habitat of over 250 bird, 50 mammal, 20 reptile species and many more.
There are a number of endangered species that inhabit the rainforest that you may encounter during your project, including the orang-utan, sun bear, pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey, sun bear, bear cat and the clouded leopard.
Corridor of Life
Your project will be based in a small village called Sukau along the stunning Kinabatangan River. Kinabatangan River is the longest in Sabah, Malaysia stretching 560km from the centre of Borneo through to the Sulu-Sulawesi sea. Home to a wide range of unique flora and fauna, the river is at the epicentre of an amazing biodiversity and subsequently requires long term conservation efforts to ensure that the wildlife has a protected habitat for many years to come.
Through the cooperation of the government, WWF, NGO’s, private companies and individuals, a section of land surrounding the river has been designated as a high priority conservation area which has been named the ‘Corridor of Life’. The ‘Corridor of Life’ is home to over 250 bird, 50 mammal, and 20 reptile species, along with 1060 plant species and much more. This habitat remains under threat due to deforestation and this initiative aims to provide sustainable solutions to protect their habitats, where people, wildlife, nature-based tourism and local forest industries thrive and support each other in a positive way.
Sukau village is approximately 2 hours from Sandakan airport and is located within the ‘Corridor of Life’, along the Kinabatangan River. There are approximately 1,000 people living in the village, who are affectionately referred to as the Orang Sungai or ‘people of the river’. This tribe has lived off the river and rainforest for many generations, relying on the environment to provide their food and drinks, medicine, hunting tools, building materials, clothing, carrier bags and even cosmetics, however today many of the local people make a living through tourism, plantations and related village businesses.
You will have the chance to immerse yourself in the local community as your work is predominantly based in and around the village, so you will get to know the friendly locals, become accustomed to their way of life and even have the unique opportunity to join them in their homes for meals.
One of your main roles in Sukau will be vital habitat restoration to ensure that Orangutans, Pygmy Elephants and many more of Borneo’s diverse species of wildlife have a safe and sustainable home for years to come. You will be involved in planting trees as well as maintaining other plots of land that have been planted by previous volunteers to ensure that the trees have a maximum survival rate. Restoring plots of land is extremely important as it creates corridors of greenery allowing wildlife to travel easily between fragmented areas of forests, particularly encouraging healthy orang-utan and pygmy elephant populations.
This will include tree-planting, nursery care and seedling generation, sapling maintenance, mulching and composting, clearing invasive species and also tree growth data recording.
You will also be involved in wildlife population observations which are vital to gather information for the future success of conservation efforts in the area. These are conducted from a boat travelling down the river in which you will observe endangered wildlife roaming along the river banks.
Working with the Community
You will also have the unique chance to work with the local community that live along the Kinabatangan River throughout the project. This tribe are called the “Orang Sungai” which translates to “people of the river”, who have lived and depended on the rainforest and river for many generations. Working with the community is an integral part of the project and the aim is to implement sustainable projects to engage locals in the conservation efforts of the rainforest so they have the knowledge to protect the land for years to come.
This begins in the local school, which all the children aged between 6-12 from the village attend. These children are ultimately the future guardians of the rainforest and it is important that they understand the risks and vulnerability of their environment so that they can proactively protect it. You will therefore spend time developing conservation education programmes at the school that will encourage them to take responsibility of and cherish the environment they live in.
There will be many opportunities for cultural and community interaction throughout this programme as you learn local skills required for their daily livelihood and assisting them on projects. Most lunch and dinners will be served in the private homes of the villagers, where you will get a chance to chat to the locals and learn all about daily village life and their fascinating relationship with the rainforest. Learning some Malay prior to coming would greatly help in conversing with the shy Orang Sungai.
On your final day you will learn all about Orang-utans as you visit the world famous Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, as you watch them being fed and learn all about the challenges that the centre faces. You will also visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre which will reinforce all that you have learnt about the rainforest over the past week.
On your first night on the programme you will be accommodated in a city guesthouse in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle, sharing a twin/ triple room with other volunteers. The accommodation is located close to a range of gigantic malls as well as traditional shops and provided you arrive early on your arrival day, you will have the opportunity to explore the local area. Welcome dinner will usually be at 18:00 on your first day. Please check with reception for the latest time.
For the remaining duration of your stay on the first half of the programme you will be staying in a basic but comfortable volunteer house located in the grounds of the zoo. The volunteer house has 2 bedrooms shared between 7 volunteers at any one time. Facilities include 2 shared bathrooms, cold water showers, a kitchen for volunteers use and shared communal areas. There are a range of shops, restaurants and food stalls within walking distance of the volunteer house.
Arrival Night in Sepilok:
Your first night in Sepilok is based in a shared dormitory style room in a traditional style longhouse overlooking the beautiful Malaysian landscape. There will be shared hot water showers and toilets.
During the project you will be based at a basic but comfortable bed and breakfast in the heart of the village. There are dormitory style rooms with shared toilets and showers. Breakfast will be served in common area overlooking the river. The bed and breakfast is within walking distance to the village and the jetty.
Sandakan (last night):
Your last night is in a hotel in Sandakan where you will share a room with other volunteers. The hotel is within walking distance from of the town promenade, which has all the amenities you need, including cafes, shops and restaurants.
Day 1: Arrival and Welcome
You will be met at Kuala Lumpur airport by our friendly driver who will take you back to your accommodation in Kuala Lumpur city centre. You will have the day free to explore the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur before your welcome dinner and programme briefing in the early evening, where you will learn more about the zoo and your role as a volunteer.
Arrive earlier in the day to ensure you have the time to explore Kuala Lumpur.
Day 2: Orientation
After breakfast you will depart your accommodation in Kuala Lumpur and travel 130km (approx. 1hr 30mins) out to Melaka Zoo.
When you arrive at the zoo you will be met by your dedicated programme coordinator, who will show you your on-site accommodation at the zoo and take you on a short orientation. Your orientation will consist of a thorough health and safety talk, a tour of the zoo area, followed by a trip to purchase food, additional equipment, etc.
Day 3 - 16: Project Days
During your project work days you will assist with the general running of the zoo, working closely with the dedicated zookeepers. Working hours are from 08:30 – 18:00. The specific activities will be split into 4 key areas:
You will receive 2 days off per week, which can be used to explore the historical area of Melaka, take a trip back to Kuala Lumpur to do some sight-seeing, or explore other areas of Malaysia at your own expense.
Day 17 (21st of the month): Departure day
Check out of your volunteer accommodation, say your goodbyes, and receive a transfer back to the airport for your flight out to Sandakan, Sabah in Borneo. (Note: Airfare is not included in your programme price)
You will be met at Sandakan airport by our friendly driver who will take you to your longhouse style accommodation to settle in for the night. In the evening you will meet for a welcome dinner and introduction to the programme, where you will learn all about the Corridor of Life and your role on the project.
Day 18 - 26 Project Days
After breakfast you will receive a transfer to the project site in Sukau.
After settling in to your accommodation, you will be given a thorough health and safety briefing followed by an orientation around the village. During your project days you will get stuck in to your habitat restoration and community development roles as outlined on the trip details tab.
After breakfast you will head to Sepilok. Here you will visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre and Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre where you will learn all about the challenges of Orang-utan rehabilitation and the wonderful conservation efforts of those that work there.
On the last evening you will spend a night in a hotel in the heart of Sandakan. This evening will be free for you to explore the local area, soaking up the buzz of the town. Dinner is not included on your last night allowing you to make the most of the variety of delicious restaurants nearby, there is a lovely rooftop restaurant where you can watch the sun-set, chill out and reminisce on your time on the programme!
Departure day - check out of the hotel and receive transfer to the airport.
Note: Please note this is an example itinerary and all activities are subject to weather conditions, school calendars and community requirements.
CRB/DBS (Criminal Records Bureau) Check
For some of our placements we require participants to use the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Disclosure service, or as it is now referred to as - the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Completing a Criminal Records Check is an important way for us to check your suitability for the placement, esspecially those wokring with children or vunerable people in a position of trust.
Changing Worlds has a partnership with a third party organisation that processes all CRB / DBS checks and disclosures on behalf of the Changing Worlds team so that we can make an application on your behalf. This process is extremely straight forward, making all aspects of the check as easy for you as possible! For more information on the application process you can follow this link:
You can check to see if your placement requires a CRB check on the Trip Details section of the website, in which case you should choose 'CRB Check' as an Add On whilst filling out your booking form and we will sort out the rest for you!
If you have completed a CRB check within the past 6 months and can provide a valid certificate then you will not be required to make a new application.
Like two countries rolled into one, Malaysia is divided into two stunning areas, the western peninsular and Borneo in the east! The peninsular, flaunting a concoction of Malay, Indian and Chinese cultural influences, and the third largest island in the world Borneo, home to seemingly never ending jungles that are teeming with life, remote tribal groups and some of the most unique landscapes in the world!
From the dazzling highrise buildings of the capital Kuala Lumpur, to the beautiful rural villages made up of traditional longhouses across Borneo's magical regions. Malaysia is world renowned for the vast array of wildlife that has blessed this diverse nation, with the great Orang-utans commanding the treetops of Sarawak, to some of the worlds best diving spots off the East coast of Sabah, be prepared for a truly unique and captivating Malaysian experience!
- South East Asia
- Bordering Countries
- Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand
- Capital City
- Kuala Lumpur
- Federal constitutional monarchy
- approx. 30 million
- Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), English
- Malaysian Ringgit (RM) (MYR)
- Main Exports
- Refined Petroleum, Petroleum Gas, Palm Oil, Integrated Circuits, and Computers.
- The climate of Malaysia is driven by its equatorial position, extensive coastlines on tropical seas and monsoonal winds. Malaysia has uniformly high temperatures throughout the year, alomng with high himudity and high ranifall.
- Time Zone
- UTC +8
• Malaysia has it's own Loch Ness Monster. The Jakun Orang Asli people believe their is a dragon that inhabits Tasik Chini lake called the Naga Seri Gumum.
• Malaysia has 9 different royal families, all reigning at one time, the highest number in the world.
• Malaysia is home ot he largest citrus friut in the world, the Pomelo. It can reach the size of a football and can weigh between 1-3 kg.
• Visit the stunning Perhertian Islands of the coast of peninsular Malaysia; voted some of the most beautiful islands in the world!
• Lose yourself (not literally) in the epic rainforests of Borneo, and discover amazing wildlife along the way, such as the majestic Orang-utan.
• Scale all 4000m+ of the Malaysia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, located in the stunning Sabah region of Borneo.
• Take a river cruise through the Kinabatangan Rainforest and try to spot the mysterious Pygmy Elephant.
• Shop till you drop in the lively metropolis of Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
Where is Malaysia?
Malaysia is a stunning nation located in the travel hot-spot of South East Asia. To the north of Malaysia you will find Thailand, to the south you will find Singapore and Indonesia, and to the east is the Phillipines. The Malaysian nation consists of some 13 states, 11 of which can be found on the main Malay Peninsular (known widely as West Malaysia), and the other 2 will be found dividing East Malaysia on the magical island of Borneo.
This enchanting nation is split in two by the South China Sea, stretching for over 400 miles (640 km) between East and West Malaysia. Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, is found in the heart of the West Malay peninsular.
What is the climate like in Malaysia?
Malaysia is situated in the heart of the equatorial region, and therefore is blessed with a tropical climate, combining high temperatures, high humidity and high rainfall throughout the year. There is a reason why Malaysia has some of the highest density of rainforest in the world, and quite simply it is the rain!
Being hot and humid throughout the year means that there is not really a best time to visit, it is just best to avoid the Monsoon which affects the Eastern regions in Borneo. Between October and March the eastern climate is cast into heavy rainy periods, and due to the rough weather during these months it is advised to avoid travel to Borneo during this period.
The average temperature in Malaysia throughout the year is 35 °C (95 °F), and the average rainfall throughout the year is high at 250 cm (98in) per year.
What languages are spoken in Malaysia?
The main language spoken throughout Malaysia is Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), however English is also widely spoken in most developed areas, and where English is not spoken our team will provide you with a bilingual guide (so don't worry!). Some of the other languages spoken throughout Malaysia are Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Hindi, and wide range of local tribal dialects.
Who are the People of Malaysia?
The largest ethnic group in Malaysia are the domestic group of people known as the Malay. The Malay account for more than half of Malaysia's total population, and are a mainly Muslin, meaning that all people visiting Malaysia are expected to abide by Muslim law and be respectful of the local customs. The other key ethnic groups in Malaysia consist of the Chinese and Indians, who have been emigrating to Malaysia since the 15th century, and who's religious beliefs tend to be Christian, Buddhist (Chinese) and Hindu (Indian).
Malaysia also have a wide range of tribal groups within the country, including some of the world's most notorious groups including The Iban, who became known for practising head-hunting of other tribesmen in their native Sarawak river regions. They are generous and placid peoples, however are sticklers for etiquette, and abide by many rules that govern their communities. Tip: Never enter an Iban longhouse without being invited in!
The Kadazun Dusun are the largest ethnic group found in the region of Sabah, Borneo. They are an ancient group of people who believe that everything has life, including rocks, trees and rivers, however in recent times some of this group have been converted to Christianity or Islam.
Finally, the Orang Sungai (meaning River People) are a group of indigenous people native to the rivers in Sabah, Borneo. They make their homes along the rives and benefit from the corridor of life that the rivers bring, making their livings from fishing and generally follow the Islam religion.
Wildlife in Malaysia
The wildlife in Malaysia are among some of the most diverse in the world. As Malaysia is a tropical nation, with the majority covered by dense rainforest, which plays host to an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna. With over 210 recognised species of mammal, over 620 species of bird, upwards of 250 species of reptile and a staggering 150+ species of frog found in Malaysia, it is not shock that Malaysia attracts a huge range of wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists each year.
Malaysia's Borneo regions are renowned for its array of rainforest wildlife, including the Orang-utans (meaning People of the Trees), Pygmy Elephants, the worlds smallest bear – the Sun Bear, and so much more! As well as the rainforest, Malaysia's marine life does not disappoint, with the country's coastal regions comprising an area that is known as the Coral Triangle, which is known widely for it's vast array of marine and coral species.
Gap Year and Career Break Travel in Malaysia
There is simply no better destination for those who are looking to get away from the beaten backpacker routes and explore a country that will take you back to the roots of travel. The relaxed and welcoming nature of Malaysia's people will make any gap year or career break visit to this spectacular country well worth the time. Experience the beauty of Malaysia's stunning islands, such as the Perhertian Islands and the Langkawi Islands off the coast of peninsular Malaysia, or delve deep into the exotic rainforests and discover am whole new world of incredible wild-life and indigenous people!
Before you see a placement on our website, a lot of background work has gone on. We have met with local organisations, vetted in-country staff, conducted rigorous safety assessments and thoroughly evaluated the benefits of the placement, both for you and the community. Only then do you get to see the placement on our website and book your place, safe in the knowledge that it is well-structured and beneficial to the local community.
Help Choosing Your Placement
If you are not sure which placement or country to choose, our hugely informative Travel Advisors are here to help. They are a friendly bunch, have all travelled extensively and can offer lots of advice on choosing the right placement for you. This makes the task of deciding to volunteer in a foreign country much less intimidating, and far more exciting.
Once you have booked your placement, you will be assigned a dedicated Travel Advisor to offer essential pre-departure advice on vaccinations, visas, kit lists and more. They will also be on call to answer those important last minute questions like “how many pairs of socks do I need?” and “can I take my mobile phone with me?”
Help with Flights and Insurance
We do not include flights and travel insurance in our placement fee. This avoids us having to pass on unnecessary admin charges to you. It also gives you flexibility to plan any further travel before or after your volunteer placement. We do, however, offer lots of help on this through our leading flights and insurance partners, providing you with an easy booking facility and the best prices around.
Landing in a foreign country for the first time can be daunting. This is why we ensure our in-country staff are there to meet you on arrival. There’s nothing like seeing a friendly face when you walk out of a new airport. And once we have given you a warm welcome, the in-country staff will take you back to your accommodation where you can meet the rest of the team and other volunteers.
We will take you through a local orientation and placement induction on arrival. This will introduce you to any useful amenities and local customs, and it will also show you how to stay safe while volunteering abroad. Our team also have lots of handy travel tips and advice if you are thinking of exploring the country in your spare time.
Accommodation and Food
Accommodation is included in all of our placements. Our volunteer houses, family home-stays and shared residences are comfortable and very sociable places to live while overseas. In some destinations, you may be able to upgrade to alternative accommodation. Just contact us for details. We endeavour to supply food on all of our placements, however in some cases this is not always possible. In many cases you will receive at least 1 meal a day, please see the project summary for further details.
Your safety and enjoyment is extremely important to us. That’s why we have dedicated in-country teams to look after you throughout your placement. Our staff live nearby, can be reached 24-hours a day and will check-in with you throughout your placement to ensure everything is running smoothly, and you are happy in your new environment.
24-Hour Emergency Support
In addition to our in-country staff, you will benefit from our international support network. You will be given emergency contact details before you leave which you can call in the event of a crisis. We are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ongoing Project Support
For every volunteer who travels with us, we make a donation to support the work you do in-country. This donation funds future initiatives in the countries and supports the local community, ensuring that those living in disadvantaged communities also have opportunities to develop.
Recruiting More Volunteers
In order to provide a reliable flow of volunteers to our placements overseas, we have to spend a chunk of money on recruiting people like you. Our projects simply wouldn’t survive if we didn’t. It costs to maintain a website, an office, phone lines and a team of dedicated Travel Advisors to answer all your questions!
Flights and Insurance
Flights and insurance are not included on your placement which means you will have to arrange them before you leave. But don't panic, this is simpler than you may think! To make life much easier for you, we offer a free, personal booking service through our chosen flights and insurance partner – StudentUniverse, part of Flight Centre. They will guide you every step of the way.
Please only use this service here and do not go into one of their branches as this can complicate things for us.
Browse or book flights using our search engine. Click here to access it.
Alternatively you can call them on 03300 585032 and mention you are considering or are going away with Changing Worlds and let them do the hard work. They will also be able to provide you with adequate travel insurance.
Travelling after your trip with us? Need a round-the-world ticket? Not a problem... just discuss this with them too.
Why are flights not included?
By not including flights in our trips and tours, it avoids us having to pass on unnecessary admin charges to you. This keeps the cost of your trip lower and also means you have the freedom to search around for the lowest fares and most flexible tickets that fit your travel plans. It also means you can benefit from the expertise of our preferred partner.
What happens when flights and insurance are booked?
When you book any trip with us, you will gain access to our online Travel Centre, personalised for you. In here you will have all the information about your trip and how to plan for it, including the contact details for our in-country team and address you will be staying at.
There are also some forms we need you to complete before you depart, covering areas like your dietary requirements, next-of-kin, medical information, flight arrivals details and more.
Do I really need travel insurance?
We take the safety of our travellers very seriously. You must therefore book adequate travel insurance before you come away with us – you simply won’t be able to participate in your trip or tour if you don’t. Although policies vary, your insurance must include emergency medical expenses, personal accident cover, and repatriation. We also recommend that you book baggage, personal liability and cancellation cover.
Some of the countries where we work will require you to have a visa. We provide guidance for this against the Trip Summary tab so you can check whether your nationality requires it. If a visa is required we will provide a letter of invitation, if the embassy requests this, as well as all the relevant information you will need to complete the visa application process. This information is provided after you book with us. With all visa applications it is important that you have sufficient space available in your passport for the relevant visas required for your travels, and that your passport is valid for at least six months after your planned date of return.
Please note we have no control over the issuing of visas and this is at the embassies discretion. We will help wherever possible though.
At least 6 – 8 weeks before your chosen travel date you should visit your local GP or Nomad Travel Clinic to discuss your vaccination and medication requirements. Your medical professional will be able to advise you of any recommended and required vaccinations for your chosen destination(s).You should inform your doctor of all of your destination countries, and what activities you plan on doing, and in which regions you plan to stay while you are there, as different regions and activities have different health risks in some countries.
Some destination countries will require you to produce a certificate of vaccination in order to enter the country, so be sure that you understand any vaccination requirements for your chosen destination, so that you do not have any issues when passing through customs.
Above all you should make sure you are well prepared for your travels, so that you have the best experience possible whilst overseas!
If you have any questions or would like some more information, simply contact one of our friendly Travel Advisors. You can give us a call, request a call back or drop us an email and they will be able to answer any questions you might have.
Book Your Place
Once you have decided to travel with us, you can secure your place by paying a small deposit. You will then be able to pay the rest of your placement fee in easy-to-manage instalments.
Once we have received your deposit, we will send you a welcome email confirming your booking. This will contain your personal login details for your Travel Centre – an online account full of useful information about your destination, you chosen project and all the things you need to do before you depart.
We will ask you to provide some key information to help us create the best overseas experience for you, such as medical and dietary requirements, any previous language lessons you have done, and what you’re hoping to get out of your time abroad. We may also ask you to complete a police background check.
Flights and Insurance
You will need to book your flights and travel insurance before you leave, and then provide us with these details. We do not include flights and insurance in the project fee (to avoid passing on extra admin costs to you) but our partners will help you find the best options around.
Next you will need to get your visa for your trip. British citizens do not require visas unless they are planning to work before or after the course, in which case a Working Holiday Visa will be required. We will also provide you with lots of information to make obtaining your visa very straightforward.
We will ask you for your final payment 90 days before your scheduled departure date. Once paid, you will be ready to pack your bags, grab your passport and get on the plane!
Minimum age for this project is 18 years old. For children aged 8 - 17 years old who are accompanied by adults, we can arrange family programmes, so please contact our team for more information.
2) Are meals included in this trip?
Your welcome dinners in Kuala Lumpur and Sandakan are included, when you arrive at your guesthouse, please check with reception what time you are due to meet your programme coordinator for dinner.
During your orientation at the zoo you will be provided with a meal allowance to cover your working days at the zoo. You will have the option to cook meals at your self-catered accommodation with the other volunteers, or purchase meals at the local restaurants or food stalls. Full meals will costs 5RM - 12RM per meal - excluding drinks.
You will need to bring money for drinks and additional snacks. Filtered water will be provided at the accommodation and throughout the zoo so you can fill up your water bottle(s).
In Sukau all meals will be provided for you during your stay in the village. This is part of the project’s commitment to bring alternative and sustainable income sources to the local community. Dinner on the last evening in Sandakan is not included as this will give you the chance to eat out at one of the amazing local restaurants. Home cooked meals can be tailored to suit dietary requirements, however please note that meals may be basic for those with specific dietary requirements. Please let us know a month before you travel so that the villagers have time to prepare.
You will need to bring money for bottled water however boiled/ purified water will be provided on site. You will also need extra money if you wish to purchase snacks.
3) What accommodation is provided?
On your first night on the programme you will be accommodated in a city guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur, sharing a twin/ triple room with another volunteer. The accommodation is located close to a range of modern malls and traditional shops and provided you arrive early on your arrival day, you will have the opportunity to explore the local area. Welcome dinner will usually be at 18:00 on your first day. Please check with reception for the latest time.
For the remaining duration of your stay on the programme you will be staying in a basic but comfortable volunteer house located in the grounds of the zoo. The volunteer house has 2 bedrooms shared between 7 volunteers at any one time. Facilities include 2 shared bathrooms, cold water showers, a kitchen for volunteers use, shared communal areas. There are a range of shops, restaurants and food stalls within walking distance of the volunteer house.
Arrival Night in Sepilok:
Your first night in Sepilok is based in a shared dormitory style room in a traditional style longhouse overlooking the beautiful Malaysian rainforest landscapes. Shared hot water showers and toilets.
During the project you will be based at a basic but comfortable bed and breakfast in the heart of the village. There are dormitory style rooms with shared toilets and showers. Breakfast will be served in common area overlooking the river. The bed and breakfast is within walking distance to the village and the jetty.
Sandakan (last night):
Your last night is in a hotel in Sandakan where you will share a room with other volunteers. Toilets and showers are ensuite. The hotel is within walking distance from of the town promenade which has all the amenities you need, including cafes, shops and restaurants.
• Are there laundry facilities available at the accommodation?
You will have the option to wash your own clothes in the sinks at the accommodation, or pay for a laundry service in the local town. Make sure you agree a price for laundry before handing over your clothes.
• Can I book a private room?
Unfortunately due to the structure of the accommodation a private room will not be available and you will be staying in the dorm style rooms in the volunteer house at the zoo. A private room may be available in the guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur, however this is subject to additional fees and availability at the time of your trip.
Private rooms are available at the lodge in Sukau at an additional cost. Please note that this is dependent on availability so please ask a travel advisor for further information.
4) How many hours a day will I be volunteering on the project?
Working hours at the zoo are from 08:00 - 18:00, with a long lunch break in the middle of the day. You will work for 5 days per week, and our team will endeavour to provide 2 days free per week for additional travel or relaxing at the volunteer house. This may not always be on a 2 days per week basis, however depending on local needs, you may receive 1 day off in your first week, and 3 days off in your second week, for example.
You will be volunteering for between 5-6 hours a day on the project in Sukau.
5) What Activities take place throughout the day?
A typical day at the zoo will include an 8am start, with the focus of activities being assisting the zookeepers with their daily tasks. From assisting with the enrichment activities throughout the zoo, to cleaning cages and feeding the animals you will gain a new perspective on life in the zoo, with a behind the scenes view of daily activities.
Be prepared to use your own knowledge and understanding of animal behaviour to assist with developing enrichment programmes, producing information presentations and guiding visitors around the zoo.
Your daily activities in Sukau will be a mixture of important habitat restoration and sustainable community projects. The habitat restoration will include tree-planting, nursery care and seedling generation, sapling maintenance, mulching and composting, clearing invasive species and also tree growth data recording. You will also be involved in wildlife population observations which are vital to gather information for the future success of conservation efforts in the area.
You will also have the chance to work with the local school to provide environmental education to children aged between 6-12.
6) Will I be given a responsible role or assist in the activities?
As a volunteer you will be continuously supported by the local staff to ensure that you are always safe during your daily activities at the zoo. You will have the opportunity to interact with the animals under the guidance of the zookeepers and your programme coordinator, however direct contact with the animals is prohibited due to the unpredictability of the wild animals at the zoo.
7) What experience do I need?
You do not need any specific experience to take part in this programme, however please be aware that as a guest and a volunteer at the zoo you need to be prepared to work hard and in some cases get a bit messy. A passion and interest in wildlife and animal welfare is required, and any prior experience of working in a zoo would be hugely beneficial although not a prerequisite. Habitat restoration work can be tough and it is essential that you are prepared to work hard.
Please be aware that the standards of animal welfare in Malaysia are not the same as you may expect at home. Understand that you are there so that a change can be made and certain ethics and behaviours would be expected of you to ensure this positive change can be made.
8) What support will I receive in country?
You will receive constant support from your on-site programme coordinator, along with on-going support from the local zookeepers at the zoo, and the programme coordinators and locals in Sukau. As well as hands on support whilst on the project you will also benefit from a 24 hour support network in Malaysia and the UK in case of any emergencies whilst in-country.
9) What can I do in my free time?
During your free time on your zoo placement you are welcome to explore the historical town of Melaka located 30 mins from the zoo. Alternatively you could take a trip back to Kuala Lumpur and explore some of the stunning sights of Malaysia’s capital city, including the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur Aquarium, and the Batu Caves. Singapore is only 2 hours away by bus, and in some cases your programme coordinator may be able to arrange combined off days, giving more time to explore, with past volunteers using the time to explore Malaysia's incredible islands.
Tree planting can be very tiring and you will be getting up early during your project in Sukau so free time is usually used to rest. There are many nature books that you can read in the mini library, lovely walks around the village and in the evenings you can engage the villagers and children in sports and ball games.
10) When can I arrive?
You should aim to arrive into Kuala Lumpur on the 5th of the month. All programmes start on the 5th of the month to assist with the effective management of the programme. The earlier in the day that you arrive the more time you will have to explore Kuala Lumpur before your welcome dinner and orientation.
11) When should I book my Departure?
You should aim to book your departure or onward travel on the 28th day of the programme. You will receive a transfer back to the airport on this day. Please see the detailed itinerary on the Extra Info tab.
12) Is transport included?
All transport related to your programme is included. Any additional transport for individual travel in Malaysia will have to be budgeted for by the volunteer. You will need to purchase your flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan, as this is not included.
13) Will I need a Visa?
No visa is required for volunteers from the UK and most European and Western countries for a stay in Malaysia of up to 90 days. Please check with your local Malaysian embassy for your specific visa requirements for your country.
14) Will I need vaccinations?
Please consult your local GP or Travel Nurse approx. 6 - 8 week prior to travel to check your vaccination history. Please be aware that for the placement a letter signed by your doctor will be required to confirm you are free of diseases such as Tuberculosis and Hepatitis. Please send us a copy of the letter prior to your trip start date so that we can forward this to our in-country team. You will also need to take the original copy of the letter with you and show it during your programme induction.
15) What is the climate like in Malaysia?
Malaysia is situated in the heart of the equatorial region, and therefore is blessed with a tropical climate, combining high temperatures, high humidity and high rainfall throughout the year. The average temperature in Malaysia throughout the year is 26 - 35 °C (95 °F), and the average rainfall throughout the year is high at 250 cm (98in) per year.
Nomad Travel Store
Nomad Travel has been kitting out travellers for a wide range of trips since 1990.
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In addition Nomad have been providing travel health advice to thousands of people to ensure they leave prepared health-wise for their trip. As well as general advice about your destination, vaccinations and information about anti-malaria options, you will also be able to discuss any health issues you might be worried about when travelling abroad.
Changing Worlds have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores to offer great deals on a whole range of equipment and clothing.
By quoting 'CW1000' you will be entitled to a 10% discount on travel gear and vaccinations, both online and in-store.
Visit their website to take advantage of this great offer and service here: www.nomadtravel.co.uk
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"The whole team in Costa Rica were awesome and really helped me make the most our of my time there both on the care work project and showing me the adventures of the country."Tom Smith , Care Work, Costa Rica
"This placement gave me the mix of helping young children and also experiencing a totally different culture. My Spanish has really improved too."Kiki Jones , Care Work, Costa Rica
"I am studying in animal welfare and this placement was perfect in getting real life experience relevant to my career".Gordon Bennell , Wildlife & Conservation, Costa Rica
"The whole experience was fantastic from the staff at the rescue centre, to Andy and his family. Thank you for looking after me so well."Ruth Eales , Wildlife & Conservation, Costa Rica
Fab way to start my week, our guide was awesome and gave us so many tips. Met an amazing group of people and the team in the office really help you sort your time out after you've finished the first week. Would really recommend to solo travellers.Emma Lowton , Adventure, New Zealand
On arrival, I felt as unprepared as can be, knowing no one, having no plans nor ideas of how to get along in New Zealand really. The in-country team did it all for me. Organise my trip. Booking it. Coming from experienced backpackers you know what's going on and getting to know awesome people from all around the world and maybe even some mates to travel with.Sean Neitzel , Adventure, New Zealand
Had the best time travelling around New Zealand. The team made it possible and can sort everything out for you with no problem. I would highly recommend them and will definitely be using them for my next adventure.Annie Frances Pritchard , Adventure, New Zealand
The opportunity to coach and nurture the next generation of sportsmen and women in Costa Rica was an opportunity that I couldn't give up, and I am so glad that I didn't! I had a great time and made some lifelong friends!Jack Johnston , Teaching, Costa Rica
I had a such an inspiring and life changing experience coaching in Costa Rica. The kids had such an appetite for coaching and their enthusiasm was infectious. My fellow coaches and I worked well as a team and I developed some truly great friends as a result.Charlie Blaken , Teaching, Costa Rica
What a Blast! I can honestly say that I could not have had a better time in Costa Rica as I did. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and up for a laugh, all making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Would definitely recommend this trip to anyone, and might even come back at some point in the near future!Danny McVey , Teaching, Costa Rica
I had a really great time in Costa Rica, honing my Spanish linguistic skills, and I really improved over the 2 weeks that I spent out there. I would like to thank all of the in-country staff for all the effort they put in, it was an intense and thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience.Lewis Worthington , Languages, Costa Rica
This has been by far the most rewarding holiday I have been on. I'll be the first to admit that the idea of an educational holiday didn't at first appeal to me, but the improvements I made in the four weeks I spent out there means that my confidence in my Spanish has improved immensely.Charlie Jones , Languages, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is not only a truly stunning country with welcoming, hospitable people, but it is also where I conquered my 'phobia' of speaking Spanish, and for this I am incredibly grateful. Such a rewarding and exhilarating experience in a wonderful country.Max Foster , Languages, Costa Rica