I have travelled in various ways to many countries around the world which have provided me with amazingly rich travel experiences that will stay with me forever.
This trip was my turn to give back with more than just the tourist dollar.
To roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty for a cause I care about.
I’ve been haunted for years by images of illegal logging and the rise of palm oil plantations in Borneo, leading to the destruction of the orangutan’s habitat.
The World Wildlife Fund says Asia’s only great ape is endangered to critically endangered.
Their numbers have fallen between 30-50 per cent in the last 10 years and could be lost from the wild forever in a few short decades.
These stats were more than enough to make me forget the palm tree laden beach break. To pack the work shorts instead of the bikini for a volunteer program to do my bit to help save the orangutan.
After a bit of research I decided to go with The Great Orangutan Project
The three step program began at Zoo Negara on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
For two weeks my mum and I lived and worked in a zoo. Yes, we lived in a zoo.
Here we were introduced to orangutans in captivity.
We cleaned their cages and compounds and fed them on a daily basis.
We also created enrichment meals for them by hiding food in objects which hopefully took them hours to get to.
During the time we had to interact with them, it took just seconds for us to realise how smart they actually are.
Here’s a short clip of some of those moments:
Getting to know the local residents like Tsunami, Chocky and Maya made me realise what amazing personalities they have.
During our time at the zoo we also helped out with the other exhibits, we did what ever needed doing from building platforms to mending swings.
On our days off we were free to explore the the local attractions like Batu Caves and KL itself.
Saying goodbye to our new friends at Zoo Negara was hard but it was time to fly to Borneo for the second phase of the program.
To see the orangutans in a semi-wild environment at Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Matang Wildlife Centre in Kubah National Park.
It is an amazing sight seeing them swinging between branches after being cooped up in cages in a zoo.
We boarded long boats in the Batang Ai National Park 250km east of Kuching bound for the third phase of the program.
Here we trekked the Bornean jungle in the hope of spotting one in the wild.
Up stream we arrived at our long house, across the river of a local tribe who welcomed us with open arms. Take a look at this part of the journey here:
Although our trekking efforts in incredibly humid conditions didn’t result in any Orangutan sightings, we did hear them which was a great encouragement seeing as though numbers are drastically reducing every year.
If you’re looking for a program where you get to cuddle orangutans this isn’t it.
Orangutans are highly susceptible to human disease and the most sustainable way you can help is from afar.
This program was great because you got a personal experience without feeling like you were responsible for the demise of the species.