Volunteering Solutions offers an amazing Short-Term Volunteering opportunity in Malaysia, where you'll get to spend 2 weeks at a Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
The Sun Bear Conservation Center is based approximately 19 km from Sandakan town. The center currently has 2 bear houses that are housing 28 bears as well as 1.14 hectares of natural forest enclosure where the bears can roam free during the day (and night). As a volunteer for this program, you will need to get down and dirty taking care of the smallest bears in the world, working to clean their dens and creating environmental and food enrichment. In addition to enriching the sun bears living condition, you will learn about sun bears in the stages of rehabilitation and the process of releasing them back into the wild.
Working alongside local people will enable you to experience and understand our Malaysian culture. You will also have time off to explore the beautiful surroundings of Sepilok and nearby towns and wildlife sanctuaries.
Perfect for students and backpackers, this project will give you first-hand international work experience and let you gain an insight about how these animals are conserved and taken care of. It'll be an incredible opportunity for you to understand and compare the situation of captive/rehab sun bears and those with threatened habitats as well as raise awareness on responsible living and traveling among tourists, local community, and students.
Volunteers must be 18 years or older at the time of joining the project. You need to have an open mind and a flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment. The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. Participants must be fit and healthy at the time of joining the program. Every volunteer is required to show proof of vaccination of Hepatitis A & B
And doctor’s letter stating that the volunteer is free from Tuberculosis (results have to be dated less than 1 year from project date) prior to joining the program. There will be a Skype interview, and only after selection, your application will be confirmed. In case you are not selected to be a part of the concerned program, a full refund will be provided.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
As a volunteer at the Conservation Centre, you'll have to carry out the following tasks:
Animal Husbandry - This involves cleaning the cages and feeding the bears. You will rotate working with different sun bears depending on the needs of the bears. You may not work with sun bears on a daily basis. Some daily maintenance work such as general maintenance (eg: painting) may be included.
Enrichment - The idea of enrichment is to stimulate the animals and improve their living conditions as much as possible, in order to provide them with something closer to their natural habitat. Volunteers will be involved in designing & preparing the enrichment procedures. The effectiveness of the enrichment items on animal's behavior will then be observed.
Construction - As a volunteer, you may be asked to design and work on small construction projects to improve the night dens/enclosures of selected animals. This may include assisting in building new exhibits and extensions to improve the conservation center facilities or improving existing exhibits by adding furniture/painting.
Education - There is an education centre and library at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Volunteers may be asked to talk to school children and visitors at the centre about sun bears, and how to conserve them. You may also be asked to prepare displays and update the blogs or do data entry of the Bear Behaviour Record & the Weekly Record.
Note: Not all activities will be included on your itinerary. Changes to the activities will occur subject to weather conditions, school calendar, community and project requirements.
Day 1 - Arrival at Sandakan Airport and transfer to accommodation. Meet all your fellow volunteers during the Welcome dinner. A short Briefing Session will be held on this day.
Day 2 - Transfer to Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Orientation Session, details about the place, safety tour of the center.
Day 3 to Day 13 - Project work at the Center. Work hours: From 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (with a lunch break in between).
You’ll be free on the weekends, to explore by yourself!
Day 14 - Check out and transfer to Sandakan Airport.
The nearest airport to the project is Sandakan Airport (SDK), which is a domestic airport. Hence, you'll have to book your flights to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA/KLIA2) or Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and then take another flight to Sandakan Airport.
Accurate flight details (flight number, airline, departure city, time of departure and arrival) are crucial to ensure pick up at the correct time.
Make sure that your flight arrives before 4:00 PM on the arrival date, and on the departure date, book a flight that departs after 11:00 AM from Sandakan Airport.
You'll be provided with dorm-style accommodation, where you need to share a room with 2 others, mostly based on the same-gender basis. There are shared warm water showers and toilets. A communal kitchen and basic cooking facilities are available. The washing machine is also available.
Note: Single Room subject to availability - please let us know beforehand, in case you want a private room for yourself.
Meal allowances will be provided to all the volunteers working for this project.
There will be a detailed Program Orientation, that’ll enable you to know more about the conservation center and what kind of work is carried out there. You’ll also be guided and instructed on the ways in which you need to act and how you can provide your best services while being a part of this project. Our coordinators will be available 24/7, to offer any sort of assistance that you may require.
During your Free Time
During your free time, you can head out and explore Borneo’s wilderness and spend some time hiking through the jungles. Over the weekends, you can plan a trek to Kota Kinabalu and feel the eeriness of the rainforests.
Please Note: -An application fee of £149 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. Please Note: -An application fee of €169 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment.
What are you Paying for?
- All facilities and equipment for work at the zoo
- English speaking programme facilitator
- 24/7 In-country coordinators
- Work T-shirts
- Airport Pickup from Sandakan Airport (SDK) and transfer to accommodation
- Meet & Greet at Sandakan Airport
- Departure transfer to Sandakan Airport (SDK)
- Program Orientation at Sun Bear Conservation Centre
- Transfer from dormitory to project site accommodation
- All overland transfers as per itinerary
- 13 nights shared accommodation & Food allowance
- Welcome dinner on arrival day in Sepilok
- 100% Financial Protection
- UK Based Support
- Certificate Of Completion (Upon Request)
What's NOT included?
- International Airfare
- Visa Fees
- Camera fees or any other extra costs involved
- Medical & Travel Insurance
- Individual transfers (if outside the itinerary)
- Any personal expenses
FAQ's Application and Program Details
- The minimum age requirement for the programs in Malaysia is 18 years.
- No previous experience is required, but one must have the zeal to work hard in the outdoors.
- Volunteers need to have an open mind and flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment. They should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.
- The participant must be in good health.
- There will be a Skype interview, and only after selection your application will be confirmed. In case you are not selected to be a part of the concerned program, a full refund will be provided.
We encourage our participants to volunteer in a group. We take special care in providing you a placement and also customize your itinerary to make sure you get exactly what you are looking for. Also, we can design special group programs for groups of 5 or more. Our programs are designed to be safe, affordable and offer a great group volunteering experience to the volunteers.
In our experience of more than 12+ years, we have enabled and facilitated volunteer program placements for college groups, university groups, high school groups, group of families, group of couples as well as groups of colleagues.
You can surely join the program with your friends and family. We would love to host you and your friend(s) at our program locations in Malaysia.
Yes, it would be great if you choose to be a volunteer for more than one program in Malaysia. Since all the programs are related to nature and wildlife, you'll be able to gain a more meaningful insight about the entire work and be able to contribute more effectively if you are staying for longer.
If you are planning to come for multiple programs in your trip, you will have to pay the application fees just once. Your application fee is valid for a year's time (from the date of application). You will not have to pay the application fees again if you come within the mentioned time frame.
For our returning volunteers, $50 discount is provided for the application fee for their next VolSol program.
Yes, we will provide you with the Certificate after successful completion of your program. The certificate is provided on request.
As a part of the organization's safety policy, volunteers are not allowed to have direct contact with the animals, however, you'll have ample scope to see the animals in the wild and observe them closely. Know that the animals' behavior cannot be predicted, and thus, we avoid and warm you to get physically closer to them.
Flights and Visa
All travelers need to acquire a visa from a Malaysian Diplomatic Mission in their respective countries unless they are nationals of the visa exempt countries. Nationals of a few countries are eligible to apply for e-Visa. A Malaysian e-Visa is valid for up to 3 months and an e-Visa holder is entitled to stay up to a maximum of 15 or 30 days for each visit in Malaysia.
Health and Safety
We recommend you to consult your physician or travel doctor before traveling to Malaysia. However, we recommend you take general vaccinations such as:
Note: Copy of doctor's letter / vaccination record required prior to start of project. Original to be sighted on 1st day of project.
Yes, for all volunteers it is mandatory to have a travel medical insurance. To provide the best option to our participants, we offer comprehensive insurance coverage in collaboration with a leading insurance provider.
Like all of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is also very safe and forward-thinking country with travelers from around the world paying a visit throughout the year. The volunteers are, however, advised to travel in groups, not venture alone at nights and take the basic safety precautions. All volunteers must consult the coordinators (available 24/7) before planning a night out.
Accommodation and Living
Your coordinator will meet you at the airport and will take you to your accommodation and introduce you to our team and other volunteers. You will then be provided with a detailed Program Orientation. We shall provide you with all the guidance to reach the program location.
Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of GMT (GMT +8).
The country experiences a tropical climate, hence you should be prepared for the rains in Malaysia. With an annual rainfall in excess of 2500mm in many areas, getting wet is inevitable. The wet season (monsoon) lasts from November to March, with November being the wettest month of all. May to September are the summer months and the best time to volunteer. However, you can plan your trip at any time of the year, and experience the beauty of nature!
You will need to carry extra money for personal expenses, add-on tours, eating out while traveling in Malaysia. For basic personal expenses, a budget of 25-35 USD per week is more than sufficient barring the extra costs of add-on activities. If you’re planning on using credit/debit card in Malaysia, it is advised to let your bank know about your travels beforehand so that they don’t suspicious of your account activity. We also advise all our participants to keep an emergency fund of 200 USD only to be used in case of any emergencies, if one arises.