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10 Voluntourism Projects in Malaysia For Travel With A Difference


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Like a melting pot of colours, cultures and cuisines, Malaysia offers an exhilarating mix of bustling cities, quaint villages, lush tropical rainforests and beautiful islands. But what many tourists don’t see is how it also makes the perfect destination for ‘voluntourism’ - the wonderful marriage of volunteering and tourism.

In a nutshell, voluntourism is travel that involves an aspect of altruism or, in other words – it is holidaying with a purpose (other than to just relax/party your nights away). It combines the best parts of travelling with the best parts of human nature, creating unforgettable experiences that are often life changing. The options are diverse and whatever your age, skill set or interest, voluntourism has an opportunity for you to leave your mark whilst vacationing.

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Not to be confused with the generally understood concept of volunteering, voluntourism, like most other forms of leisurely travel, is a paid activity. You pay for your food and accommodation, for the unique experience and for the passionate people who are employed to run the project and guide you. Well-managed voluntourism can also provide much needed financial assistance to NGO’s and privately operated conservation and community projects. So, let’s not be stingy, people! It’s all in the name of ‘doing good’. Earning some good karma points whilst going on an adventure – sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Here are a few exciting local projects that will appeal to the adventurous and generous soul!

 

1. Perhentian Island Teaching & Community Project, Terengganu

 

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What: The project illustrates the importance of respecting and protecting the local environment and wildlife whilst simultaneously improving the villagers’ quality of life. Safeguarding their tropical paradise for generations to come, the project introduces new and efficient ways of generating income that are sustainable.

Where: In the heart of the fishing village on Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Terengganu

How: Regular beach cleans, assist in hosting weekly environmental clubs, teaching English and life lessons to local children.

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Volunteers are welcomed into a myriad of village activities and get to enjoy the island way of daily life – waking up to the fresh sea air and the morning calls of the neighbourhood roosters. Days off can be spent trekking or kayaking to other beaches on the island (or its bigger sister) and volunteers are free to snorkel to their heart’s content.

If your mind is set on watching sunsets, being in a work setting that allows beach sand between your toes and leaving a lasting impact on a lively community, pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

To learn more about the project, click here.

Ecoteer Responsible Travel
Tel.: +6 012 217 3208
Email: contact@ecoteer.com

 

2. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Volunteer Programme, Sabah

 

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What: To fight the endangerment of Bornean sun bears due to deforestation, illegal wildlife trade and poaching, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is set up to shelter rescued sun bears, rehabilitate them for return to the wild and promote their conservation.

Where: The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Sepilok, Sabah

How: Work with biologists and researchers in data entry of bear behaviour, feeding and cleaning enclosures (animal husbandry), preparing enrichment (to stimulate the bears and mimic their natural habitat), and improving animal enclosures.

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Conservation is largely dependent on the education of locals and visitors to the community. Volunteers are therefore encouraged to learn as much as they can about the sun bears. They may even be called upon to talk to school children and conduct an educational lesson, speak to visitors to the centre or present an educational gallery about sun bears.

To learn more about the project, click here.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
Tel.: +60 89-534491
Email: info.bsbcc@gmail.com

 

3. Juara Turtle Project, Pahang

 

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What: The Juara Turtle Project (JTP) is an open-ended volunteer program with an experienced Juara resident guiding the turtle conservation efforts. Its main focus is to carefully relocate green and hawksbill turtle eggs and to incubate them within hatcheries. When they hatch, the adorable little things are then released back into the sea where they belong.

Where: Kampung Juara, Tioman Island, Pahang

How: Beach walks and boat patrols to look out for new nests, data collection, practice sustainable living through the management of food gardens and help local school kids develop their conversational English.

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The JTP facility is located on a trail to a waterfall and the island’s tallest mountain. During breaks from working on the project, volunteers can enjoy many activities such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, trekking, rock climbing and biking – or if you’re tempted to just be a beach bum then the opportunity is ripe for the taking.

If you’re looking to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures, this is the project for you! The project is predominantly volunteer-run, with an experienced Juara resident guiding the turtle conservation efforts.

To learn more about the project, click here.

Kampong Juara
Tel.: +60 17-704 8911

 

4. Yellow House KL, Kuala Lumpur

 

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What: Yellow House KL provides volunteering opportunities at local grassroot projects and gives substantial and continuous help to several programmes in the lively city of Kuala Lumpur. It also supports sustainable living practices and has various mini-DIY projects, such as re-purposing materials like discarded pallets and turning them into useful things.

Where: A volunteer hostel in the suburb of Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor.

How: Take part in local grassroot projects and activities such as soup kitchens, ‘homeless hairwash’ sessions, helping at animal shelters, swimming lessons with special needs children, teaching at a refugee school, turtle conservation and mangrove restoration.

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Unlike many other voluntourism initiatives, Yellow House KL doesn’t require volunteers to commit to projects for long periods of time. Even if you’re only in town to do a few days of charitable activity, you will be welcomed with open arms.

All you need is a good dose of enthusiasm!

To learn more about the project, click here.

Yellow House KL
Address: Lorong Ikan Emas 2, Kampung Ampang Campuran, 68000 Ampang, Selangor
Tel.: +60 19-306 0852

 

5. Rainforest Community & Conservation Adventure Project, Perak

 

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What: Ecoteer takes voluntourists into the forests of Ipoh for a good amount of jungle trekking with a purpose – to evaluate the wildlife inhabiting the area and assess the level of poaching taking place.

Where: FE Base Camp and community centre in Kampung Tonggang at the foothills of Mount Korbu, Perak.

How: Evaluate the wildlife inhabiting the area and assess the level of poaching taking place, help collect camera traps placed in the rainforest, participate in weekly English lessons for local children.

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Volunteers stay at the FE Base Camp in Kampung Tonggang, where they get to know the Temiar Orang Asli (‘original people’) whose ancestors once lived nomadic lifestyles in the rainforest. Village elders, who experienced authentic forest living for part of their lives, impart their knowledge and teach visitors a thing or two about what it takes to survive life in the jungle.

Based at the foothills of Malaysia's second tallest mountain, a 5-day climb is a possible addition to the trip. If an adventure off the beaten track is what you seek, this is the project for you!

To learn more about the project, click here.

 

6. Bubbles Turtle and Reef Conservation, Terengganu

 

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What: Pledging to protect the endangered green turtles that nest on its beach, Bubbles Dive Resort offers the opportunity to be part of a passionate team running the Bubbles Turtle and Reef Conservation project whilst enjoying the serene sights of this stunning environment. 

Where: Bubbles Dive Resort, Pulau Perhentian Besar, Terengganu

How: Conduct nightly beach patrol – looking out for nesting turtles and deterring poachers. Assist in data collection; including the location of nests, the sizes of turtles and how many eggs laid. Assist in monitoring coral reef health and building artificial reef sites that are transplanted to aid in coral regrowth. Also help create awareness amongst resort guests by giving educational talks.

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Snorkelling just off the beach often leads to encounters with black tip reef sharks (relax - they aren’t interested in you), humphead parrotfish, turtles and other exquisite marine life. Utter bliss!

To learn more about the project, click here.

Bubbles Dive Resort
Address: No.546A, Jalan Kubur Batu 8 Seberang Kastam, Pulau Perhentian Besar, 22300 Kuala Besut, Terengganu, Malaysia
Tel.: +60129838038
Email: info@bubblesdc.com

 

7. Orangutan & Pygmy Elephant Conservation Project, Sabah

 

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What: The project run by APE Malaysia (Animal Projects & Environmental Education Sdn Bhd) focuses on reconnecting fragmented forest in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary so that it may establish a continuous corridor for the diverse flora and fauna of this area. It engages local communities, making the most of their knowledge and expertise and helps people understand and explore their relationship with the natural environment.

Where: Orang Sungai village, Borneo, Sabah

How: Participate in wildlife observation and population data collection activities in the forest along the Kinabatangan River, and play a big role in habitat restoration and a successful tree-planting programme.

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This project engages local communities, making the most of their knowledge and expertise and helps people understand and explore their relationship with the natural environment. APE Malaysia collaborates with numerous NGOs and ecotourism partners to conduct its volunteer programs.

To learn more about the project, click here and here.

 

8. Borneo Coral Reef Conservation Project, Sabah

 

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What: Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) is a non-profit organisation that works primarily around Pom Pom island, where it runs marine conservation expeditions, with volunteers assisting in the reef restoration and coral planting efforts. It’s aimed at protecting the reefs that can support a decent reef shark population and involves regular reef and shark surveys. 

Where: Pom Pom island, Semporna, Sabah

How: Assist in reef restoration and coral planting efforts, patrolling the island, monitoring all nesting females and relocating eggs to the hatchery to ensure that they don’t end up at the Semporna market. Volunteers also help in teaching English to the children in nearby rural communities.

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TRACC is expanding its coral nursery area and is working with villagers on seaweed culture, sea cucumber culture, as well as employment opportunities for women at their Batik and sewing centre. 

Lovers of the big blue (ocean), this one is for you. If you don’t already have a diving qualification, fear not – TRACC has your back! PADI dive courses are available on the island.

To learn more about the project, click here.

 

9. Tiger Conservation in Taman Negara, Pahang

 

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What: Based in Merapoh, the project conducts regular jungle treks in the area north-west of Taman Negara in an effort to observe and record signs of tigers and their prey, as well as to deter poachers with the presence of the conservation team.

Where: Merapoh, Pahang

How: Trek along a tiger trail at the edge of Taman Negara, Malaysia’s national park in Pahang, in an effort to observe and record signs of tigers and their prey, as well as to deter poachers with the presence of the conservation team

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Ecoteer also works in close partnership with Save the Caves of Merapoh. The caves of Merapoh are home to many new found species and the locals have used the caves for centuries. Many of these caves have been the target of companies wanting to sell the lime for cement. Volunteers go caving once a week with this local group and sometimes have the opportunity to venture into the river cave or abseil out of another cave. 

Volunteers get to camp out in the rainforest with the Batek tribe and go foraging with the Batek ladies once a week. Each session lasts 4-5 hours and the ladies have total control over where they take you.  

To learn more about the project, click here.

 

10. The Great Orangutan Project, Sarawak

 

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What: The multi-award winning Great Orangutan Project focuses on the rescue and rehabilitation of orang-utans and the conservation of the their natural habitat, which proves to be quite a challenge in the face of mass deforestation and forest fires.

Where: Matang Wildlife Centre, Sarawak

How: Work alongside local facilitators at the centre, practicing animal husbandry, provide enrichment for the orangutans and assist with construction tasks around the centre. Help improve the living conditions of injured, orphaned and rescued orangutans are rehabilitated at the centre.

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Matang Wildlife Centre houses various wildlife species, such as sambar deer, crocodiles, sun bears, civets and bear cats, hornbills, eagles, kites, storks and other native birds, in spacious enclosures like rainforest or large cages.

To learn more about the project, click here.

Matang Wildlife Centre
Address: 93050 Lundu, Sarawak, Malaysia
Email: info@thegreatprojects.com

 

Voluntourism in Malaysia

 

Alright, let’s not kid ourselves - you’re not going to change the world with a week or two of volunteering but it may just inspire you to be more proactive in such activities, go on to do more substantial volunteering work or even fundraise for the projects that resonate most with you. At the very least, it should encourage you to be more mindful of your individual impact on the environment and appreciate what a little bit of kindness and consideration can do for people.

 

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