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IAR Ketapang 12 Day Volunteer Tour (via Jakarta)

Travel Type : Volunteer Project
Expedition Grade : Medium to difficult (Manual labour required)
Activities : Volunteer work at a Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre - Construction and maintenance of a rehabilitation and rescue centre for the orangutan of West Kalimantan
Accommodation : IAR volunteer house
Transport : IAR vehicles
Giving Back : This volunteering program asks for participants who do not mind working incredibly hard to literally help build a future for the orangutans of West Kalimantan, both those already resident at the centre and those that need protection in the wild.
Trip Duration (days) : 12 days/11nights - Commencing on the 9th & 20th of every month
Price : $1,675 ex Ketpang, West Borneo Indonesia
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Travel Type :
Volunteer Project

Expedition Grade :
Medium to difficult (Manual labour required)

Activities :
Volunteer work at a Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre - Construction and maintenance of a rehabilitation and rescue centre for the orangutan of West Kalimantan

Accommodation :
IAR volunteer house

Transport :
IAR vehicles

Giving Back :
This volunteering program asks for participants who do not mind working incredibly hard to literally help build a future for the orangutans of West Kalimantan, both those already resident at the centre and those that need protection in the wild.

Trip Duration (days) :
12 days/11nights - Commencing on the 9th & 20th of every month

Price :
$1,675 ex Ketpang, West Borneo Indonesia

Project Summary
Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia (YIARI) was formally established as an Indonesian nonprofitin 2007 and is affiliated to International Animal Rescue. In 2009, YIARI began working in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, to rescue, rehabilitate and reintrodue orangutans in this province. We took over a centre from a local NGO that was functioning as a transit facility for orangutans before they would be passed on to other rescue centres in Central and East Kalimantan. The number of orangutans rescued in Ketapang has increased exponentially in the last 13 years, as the development of oil palm agriculture has expanded, resulting in West Kalimantan being one of the most heavily deforested areas of Borneo. From 2004 to 2009, up to 43 orangutans were rescued in Ketapang and spent time at this transit centre
Due to the high numbers of rescued orangutans, the transit centre was becoming full, as were other centres in Kalimantan, and the animals were spending indefinite amounts of time in this transit centre, which was not suitable for long term care. YIARI immediately began improving the facilities and set the task of building a new rescue and rehabilitation centre for the orangutans, which finally opened in 2013, in the village of Sungai Awan. The centre has provided far more appropriate accommodation to these orangutans and has allowed us to increase our capacity; between 2010 and 2016, more than 160 orangutans were rescued by YIARI. The project that YIARI runs in Ketapang is an ambitious one that requires an immense amount of resources and the tireless work by staff on the ground. Orangutans of all ages and size come to our centre, rescued from degraded forest, fires, conflict situations, or from the illegal pet trade. The rehabilitation and reintroduction process can take up to 7–8 years and requires teaching orangutans behaviours that they would learn from their mothers in the wild, and then releasing them back in to secure areas of forest, where their protection can be assured. Unfortunately we have a number of older orangutans who have faced a lifetime in captivity, either chained or imprisoned in small cages, and will never be able to be released.
This volunteer program is a fantastic opportunity for participants to work hard and physically contribute towards building a better future for the orangutans of West Kalimantan, both those that are already resident at the centre and those that need protection in the wild. The fee paid by the Volunteers covers, not only their living expenses but, also funds building materials, enrichment supplies and contributes towards YAIRI’s efforts in conserving the Borneo orangutan.

Your Role – General Information:
To participate on this project, a reasonable level of fitness is required. The work is physical, and the heat and humidity add a challenging extra layer to this. Volunteers will be involved in construction and maintenance projects that are essential to advancing the construction of the centre. The work schedule is from Monday to Saturday starting at 9am and finishing at 4pm. Saturday is a half day for the volunteers to enjoy any afternoon activities in Ketapang they may be interested in.
Tasks may include:

  • Cleaning out canals that provide a fire break in the forest for the security of the centre and the orangutan. This is hard work with volunteers wading through waist deep water pulling out the long grass that blocks the canal
  • Fixing perimeter fencing or installing electric fencing for all enclosures. This may involve mixing cement, sawing wood, drilling holes and nailing the fence into place
  • Fixing boardwalks that are used daily to move the smaller orangutans to and from “babyschool”
  • The construction of feeding platforms and climbing frames as permanent in situ enrichment for the day areas used by the young orangutans’ resident at the centre.
  • Preparation of accommodation, sometimes at rather last minute notice, for the arrival of a new orangutan to the centre
  • Creation of various enrichment devices, both in situ semi-permanent inclusions to enclosures (hammocks made from old tires and “tire vines”) and disposable, single-use-only items for the orangutan’s immediate enjoyment (hiding nuts in banana tree cut offs, sewing sacks filled with leaves and other yummy treats, washing water bottles that are used to for ice blocks etc.)
  • Planting of trees to reforest new areas of land to prepare them as future pre-release islands sites.
  • Planting and upkeep on the organic farm area where food is being grown for the orangutans, including making organic compost.
  • Painting cages that are prone to rust in the Indonesian climate

Arrival day – the 12 day project
To get from Jakarta to Ketapang, we highly recommend travelling with the Indonesian airline Garuda. This requires two flights, first to Pontianak, and then to Ketapang. You will need to arrive in Ketapang Airport on the start date of your project, between 7am and 5pm.
As long as you have provided your flight information to us and are arriving on the set start date of the project, we will be picking you up at the airport and, failing unforeseen delays, will be awaiting you at the ‘arrivals lounge’. We will then drive you to the volunteer house in Ketapang, where you will be living for the duration of your trip.

  •  If you are arriving on the 9th, you will meet the rest of your volunteer group that evening and all have dinner together with our project facilitators.
  • If you are arriving on the 20th, you will be joining some volunteers who have already been working at the centre for 2 weeks, and you will have a group dinner with them and the project facilitators on this day.

Remember to hold onto your receipt for your bag, as you will have to show this as you leave the airport in Ketapang. There is no arrival or departure airport tax that needs to be paid at the airport. These taxes are included with the flight ticket.

What to do if we don’t meet you?
It is incredibly unlikely that we will not be at the airport, awaiting you in the ‘arrivals lounge’. Atworst, we may be a little late due to bad traffic, terrible weather or inconsistent flight arrival times in Indonesia. If we are running late, and you’d like to call us to make sure we are coming, please use:

  • +62(0)85750815547 phone number of Drh Adi Iawan, the operations manager for YIARI in Ketapang
  • +62(0)856-5237-3497 office number for International Animal Rescue Indonesia
  • +62(0)8128709931 phone number of Chris Wiggs, Landscape conservation advisor based in Bogor

If for any reason your flight is delayed/cancelled or you have missed the flight and will be arriving
late please contact one of these numbers or email:

Volunteer Itinerary (via Jakarta):
Day 1 Arrival: Arrive at Ketapang Airport in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo where volunteers will be met by a member of the team and transferred to the volunteer house which will be their home for the duration of the project. Upon arrival there will be a welcome dinner and orientation with the project staff and fellow volunteers
Day 2 – 10 Project days: During this time volunteers will be working six days a week at the centre and getting involved with a variety of activities. The work varies greatly month by month due to the unpredictable nature of what takes priority on a day to day basis, however, for a guideline of the
activities they may be a part of, please check the “volunteer role” below
Day 11 Final Day: This will be the last full day at the project site and after saying goodbye to the orangutans volunteers will enjoy a farewell dinner with the project facilitators and fellow volunteers.
Day 12 Airport transfer: Volunteers will receive a private airport transfer to Ketapang Airport for their return flight home or onward independent travel plans


  • Meals as provided in the IAR information guide
  • Airport transfers in Ketapang
  • Accommodation at IAR housing in Ketapang
  • Domestic airfares in Indonesia (we can provide you a price for these airfares upon request)
  • International airfares
  • Travel insurance
  • Accommodation in Jakarta

Indonesia is a developing country, and incidents of human poverty are common. The very poorest volunteer on our project will be immeasurably rich by comparison, so please bear this disparity in mind when interacting with the local people. Be mindful of how you dress, as Indonesia is
predominantly a Muslim country; if females walk around in shorts or short skirts with vest tops on, you will certainly be stared at and likely cause offense. However, be prepared to be stared at, whatever you wear and however you look, as Western people are still an incredible novelty item in Ketapang. Indonesians are very friendly by nature too, so when you venture in to town, be prepared for everyone to try to wave at you, talk to you, try and get a photo taken with you, or all of the above.

Cultural Considerations:

  • Do not point, except with the thumb.
  • Do not touch people on the head (especially children).
  • Take off shoes before going indoors.
  • Never refuse food from locals you know
  • Do not be confrontational. Locals do not know how to deal with this.
  • Always remain pleasant-even when making a complaint.
  • Customer service is not very good so patience is required.
  • Locals are laid back and do not like hassle - pace of life is slow and nobody works too hard.
  • Be aware that the local people in Ketapang will not speak English. Make an effort to learn some Indonesian, even if it is only a few words. The Indonesian people will be very excited to hear youtrying out their language

Personal Safety
You are travelling to a relatively safe area, though as with all places opportunistic crime can be a problem and theft of valuables can occur. It is recommended for volunteers to have a lock on their bags and to keep their most valuable possessions on their person. Do not bring or carry around large sums of cash.
Drinking alcohol is legal, but this should be done discretely, even at the volunteer houses. We hold a zero tolerance policy on drug use. There is a severe penalty (death) for taking and dealing in drugs and volunteers should abstain from any drug taking activity.

Free time:
Volunteers will have at least one free day a week, free time activities may include:

  • A visit to Hutan Kota, a small forest in the city that is home to macaques and proboscis monkeys
  • Beaches surrounding Ketapang
  • Visiting a traditional Melayu house
  • Indonesian barbeques, a hit with the staff and volunteers
  • Karaoke nights
  • An overnight stay in Pematang Gadung, a peat swap forest with high conservation value and rich biodiversity, that YIARI is working to protect. This is a wonderful opportunity that shows the volunteers what it is like to live in the forest, and a rare chance to (hopefully) see
    orangutans in the wild.

The accommodation will be basic, Indonesian style and shared, though we will try to ensure that each volunteer has their own bedroom. This is a locally rented house in Ketapang that includes a number of bedrooms, a toilet, wash room, kitchen and outdoor area with wifi included. The toilet is
Indonesian style, by which we mean a hole in the floor. There is not a shower, rather more traditional washing apparatus in the form of a container/bucket full of water and a scoop to pour the water over yourself. The cold water is also a welcome refreshment after a long day at work. The house as a whole and facilities are certainly basic, though there have been no complaints from our past volunteers and we believe it is more than comfortable, as long as expectations are correct.

Two meals will be provided Monday – Saturday, Sunday is a day off and volunteers will need to pay for meals at a nearby restaurant. Breakfast food, snacks, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not provided. Volunteers should expect to eat a purely Indonesian diet for the duration of their stay.
Most Indonesian cuisine has a meat component, usually chicken, most of the meals provided will be vegetarian however volunteers can expect some fish or chicken served at dinner. Most food stalls (called warungs in Indonesian) can accommodate vegetarians if you ask for the meat to be removed If you have any dietary requirements please ensure you have left us know so meals can be prepared

Visa Requirements:
In order for volunteers to join this project they will need a tourist visa. The 30 day tourist visa can usually be purchased on arrival into Indonesia, depending on your country of origin. Different countries have different visa agreements, so please check beforehand whether the visa is free or has
to be purchased. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Entry to Indonesia will be refused and airlines may not carry passengers holding passports with less than six months validity. Volunteers are also required to retain their arrival card for presentation to Immigration upon departure.

Travel Insurance:
All volunteers must purchase travel insurance before arriving in Indonesia.

YIARI recommends that volunteers consult a professional medical service in their own country before making a trip to Indonesia.
Volunteers should also ensure they bring sufficient quantities of any medication which is routinely used e.g. inhalers for asthma, or those that may be needed in an emergency such an Epi Pen for an allergic reaction.

The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah. Traveller’s cheques and currency exchange are not available in Ketapang, so please ensure you either bring cash with you, or you have a travel card that can be used worldwide. If you are bringing a debit or credit card, it is recommended that you notify your bank.
Lunch and dinner is provided Monday – Friday, so you will need spending money for any snacks or treats you would like to purchase, and meals for the weekend. Indonesia is a relatively cheap country, and while fruit and vegetables are more expensive than on the main island of Java, it is usually possible to buy or prepare a meal for around $3.
ATMs can be easily found throughout Ketapang, and almost all accept foreign cards.

Visitor Agreement Form
This form must be completed by any visitor or volunteer (“Visitor”) to any Yayasan IAR Indonesia (“IAR”) Centre including project areas managed by IAR (collectively referred to as a “Facility”). No person shall be admitted into an IAR Facility without signing this Agreement. If the person moves from one IAR Facility to another, the conditions in this Agreement shall remain in force.

No animal contact policy:
The media is saturated with images of western people hugging animals, especially baby orangutans or other charismatic wildlife. This creates the misleading impression that to be of use in a primate rehabilitation centre, all you need do is care for the animals, as you would a human child.
Reputable primate care centres, especially those attempting rehabilitation and release in accordance with the IUCN guidelines, prohibit tourist and volunteer contact with any and all animals for two main reasons:
1: There is a very real risk of disease transmission from humans to orangutans (zoonosis), and in the 0-3 year old orangutan, common ailments of ours such as the cold sore virus, coughs and simple colds have proved fatal. Disease and infection also carry more risk to a younger primate who has
been orphaned, due to a suppressed and under-developed immune system. Increasing the number of people who have close contact with the orangutan simply increases the chance that a potentially fatal pathogen is transmitted to these animals. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Best Practice Guidelines for Health Monitoring and Disease Control in Great Ape populations (Gilardi et al. 2015) recommend that all visitors to primate care centres should maintain a minimum distance of 7 metres (23 feet) to decrease the risk of airborne pathogen transmission. Permanent staff that have contact with the animals are all subject to blood screening, which we do not insist on for volunteers.
2: The aim of the rehabilitation centre is to return the orangutan to the semi-wild, or wild in some cases. Close physical contact with many different people has an extremely detrimental effect on the behaviour of these animals. Orangutans are very intelligent, and learn very efficiently through
observation and imitation. Therefore, the more humans they are exposed to, the more they try to behave like us, rather than like orangutan, which only impedes their return to the trees.

At YIARI we also house orangutans who have spent their entire lives in captivity and cannot return to the trees. We often get asked what constitutes contact. Is it okay to touch an out stretched hand, can I play tug of war with a branch, is it possible to hand them the food? It can’t be all that detrimental if they can’t be rehabilitated right?

Imagine for a moment, you are close enough to touch an orangutan’s hand, are you wearing a facemask? Before you reached out, did you consider where your hand has been? Have you coughed into it that day, wiped your nose, been to the toilet or had contact with another animal (maybe a
domestic cat)? Even if you had just thoroughly washed and disinfected your hands and you were wearing a facemask, remember the transient presence you are in that animal’s life. For you it is a quick, gratuitous touch that you see as having little or no impact – for the orangutan, you have just reinforced that if it holds its hand out to a human, it is going to get a response. Although captive, this is not the behaviour we want the orangutans to be having, especially with rotating volunteers.
You should always ask yourself – is touching the orangutan something you feel will benefit its life, or is it something that you wish to do simply for your own experience and pleasure?
During enrichment work you will have great opportunities to observe the orangutan and widen your understanding of their behaviours and characters. When working around the orangutan, you will be expected to follow best practise guidelines for volunteering with great apes, which include:

  • Facemasks are to be worn at all times when in close proximity to the orangutan. When participating in orangutan enrichment, you will often be just 2-3 metres away from the animals, with only a cage between you. Therefore, a physical barrier to prevent the spread of communicable diseases is mandatory for all volunteers.
  • No food or drinks (outside of the diet provided by the centre) to be given to the orangutan at any time.
  • Always listen to and follow the instructions of your supervisor/the animal keepers/the rangers.
  • When observing semi-wild orangutan, do not take food or drink into their areas, keep a safe distance from the animal and always follow the directions of the member of staff you are with.

These guidelines are for the safety both of yourself, and the animals that you are coming to help.
For a volunteer program to truly be of the most benefit to the orangutan, the volunteers should not really even see the orangutan. The detrimental impact of habituation and humanisation on these animals cannot be overstated. We are working to create a new model of tourism and volunteering, where the interaction with the orangutan is kept to an absolute minimum, yet the impact and educational value to the human participant is incredibly high. For any queries or concerns regarding the information above do not hesitate to contact us at

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