There are just so many reasons to fall in love with Orangutans. Observing their caring nature and human-like characteristics, I knew we needed to volunteer with them the moment I found out that Go Eco had a project specialising with Orangutans in Java, Indonesia.
Home to over 50% of the Indonesian population, this island in Southeast Asia is so large that the area is split into four provinces containing Banten, West, Central and East Java. This luscious island contains an ecoregion of moist forests, a tropical wet climate and a few risen volcanoes, offering quite the diverse Asian landscape.
The centre where the project lies is in the special region of Yogyakarta in central Java.
The Orangutan & Wildlife Rescue Center
We were very shocked when our orientation commenced and our project leader informed us that there are well over 100 species at the centre. With the project being so heavily marketed as an orangutan centre and our failure to do research prior to our arrival lead us to be pleasantly surprised to hear that Orangutans would not be the only animals we would be caring for.
Many injured and illegally traded wildlife find refuge at the centre which is set in one of the most beautiful parts of Indonesia. Expect dense rainforest views as you hear the sounds of the animals wake you up in the morning – it’s certainly something special.
The majority of the volunteer projects that we have attended find additional funding via guests and visitors to the centres. However, here in Yogyakarta the centre is very strict against outside visitors coming during the day. So if you aren’t actively caring for the animals or volunteering at the centre you will not be able to visit.
Daily & Rotational Tasks
Most of the work is rotational with a focus being on either the Orangutans & primates or the birds & reptiles. Our week was split up with the first half being birds and the second half caring for the orangutans.
On top of the rotational tasks between the animals there are also morning and afternoon tasks. Cleaning the enclosures & feeding the animals take place prior to lunch with enrichment tasks happening in the afternoon. At all times during the week you shadow an animal keeper who will explain and assist you with your daily activities.
Orangutan & Primate Work
Cleaning the enclosures
First on the agenda is to clean up the enclosures from the previous night’s mess.
Upon completion of the enclosure cleaning you head into the kitchen to prepare food for the various animals. Cutting up and preparing fruits as well as weighing and ensuring each animal has the perfect recipe suitable for their diets.
There was something about doing enrichment for the Orangutans which truly made the trip feel special. Watching the primates work out how to break into our crafted makeshift toys filled with fruit and berries was so fun to watch.
Feeding the animals
Does this picture really need a caption? Certainly the highlight of the morning tasks is being able to feed each and every animal.
Birds & Reptiles
Working with the birds and reptiles is no different, with the same tasks as the Orangutan’s given to you.
Cleaning the Enclosures
Feeding the Animals
Enrichment – yes that is a baby sun bear checking out what we are up to!
Teaching English At A Local Village
Every Wednesday volunteers head out of the rescue center and into a neighbouring village. The walk over is quite beautiful and memorable as you see the local Javan people live out their lives around you. The kids here have little to no english skills so your 90 minutes involve simple vocabulary games, arts and crafts and worksheets.
A worker from the project joins you as a translator to assist in teaching and don’t worry it is very informal and not something that needs previous experience or planning.
Interaction at the Project
We thought we would put a quick note about interaction at the project as this can be a key motivator for volunteers seeking which choice to make. This wildlife center is a rehabilitation centre with release of the animals integrated into the long term goals of the project.
This means that there is no handling, touching or interacting with the animals due to the need to keep human interaction very low. The majority of the animals could potentially do harm to volunteers if placed inside the enclosure of the animals so all feeding of orangutans/primates is conducted with this in mind.
Organising Volunteering Abroad
If you are interested in volunteering abroad we feel the best way to do this is with an organisation that can set you up with a project of your choice. We teamed up with GoEco who help people that want to volunteer abroad do just that. You simply tell them what kind of volunteering you are interested in experiencing and what country you would like to travel to and they will help find you your perfect project.
If you are interested in the volunteer project we experienced check out the Orangutan & Wildlife Rescue Center with GoEco.
- There are non-negotiable vaccinations that are required prior to arriving, some of these would need to be organized at least 4 weeks in advanced – get your jabs early!
- Non-negotiable vaccinations required are: Hepatitis A & B.
- There is no Hep C vaccination but they did ask for a blood test to prove that you are free from it. This was on the list but was negotiable due to time constraints – just speak to your volunteer representative prior to leaving to see if you can skip this.
- There is a required Tuberculosis (TB) X-ray to see if you are free from it that can be done in Java. However – we DO NOT recommend you do this as we did not receive our results till our third day which meant we could only do Orangutan and Primate work on 2 of the 5 days of our project. Get your TB results before you leave and within a 3 month period of the project.
- When we went in May 2016 WiFi was average and phone signal even worse – just take the time to switch off and use WhatsApp and Facebook to keep in touch with family/friends.
- There is a washing machine for laundry on site.
- You have 3 meals a day and all dietary requirements should be catered for – just check with your volunteer organisation first.
As always, we filmed our entire experience here at the project. If you want to see exactly what it’s like to volunteer with Orangutan’s in Java you can watch our experience below.
Day 1: Let’s Go to Java
Day 2: Medical Checks in Developing Countries
Day 3: We Found a Real Life Pokemon
Day 4: Warning: This Video Contains Way Too Much Cuteness
Day 5: Monkey Attack in Indonesia
You can book your volunteer experience in Java for $1,450USD per person, for two weeks.
Have you ever volunteered abroad? We would love to read about your experience below.
Thank you to Go Eco for allowing us to experience this volunteer project in Java. Our opinion is, as always, our own.
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