Volunteer Work in Malaysia – A Comprehensive Guidebook

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If you’ve always thought that the concentration of wildlife is only in Africa, then you’re absolutely wrong! Come to this part of Southeast Asia, where the rainforests are full of orangutans, sun bears, pangolins, sambar deer, mouse deer, Borneo pygmy elephants and more.

Malaysia is all about “buzzing cities, culinary sensations, beautiful beaches, idyllic islands and national parks with wildlife-packed rainforests” – and that’s how the Lonely Planet perfectly describes the country & its grandeur. If you’ve always longed to set sail abroad and be a part of a conservation volunteering project – then this is your chance to make a difference. With 3 engaging and rewarding volunteering programs in the Borneo Region, Malaysia can truly inspire you to be active and protect nature for the forthcoming days.

volunteering in malaysia

In this Comprehensive Guidebook, we shall discuss in details all that you need to know about volunteering in Malaysia.

Why should I volunteer abroad?

You have thought about it for at least a 100 times and tried convincing yourself on the note that you really want to go for this! Yes, being a volunteer, the best thing you’ll get to do is to contribute meaningfully towards nature & society. But is it just about an act of philanthropy or there are other things as well? – Have you ever tried to dig in deeper into the matter? Let us take a minute of your precious time and help you see the other side of the coin.

A volunteering journey abroad has a much wider range of benefits attached to it, and you can’t ignore those even if you wish to.

  • It’ll help you to shed the fear of traveling alone.
  • It’ll be an opportunity for you to travel to a new country, and explore the place from a completely different angle, unlike other tourists.
  • You’ll understand that language can never be a barrier, and emotions can help you communicate.
  • You’ll also get to learn the native language from the locals.
  • You’ll get to taste the local cuisine and learn to cook as well.
  • This is your chance to meet new people from different parts of the world, and learn things that textbooks could never tell you.
  • It’s going to be an unforgettable chapter to your travel journal.
  • Volunteering will also accelerate your career with an unparalleled experience.

Above all, volunteering in Malaysia will endow you with chances of living amidst nature, to fill your lungs with freshness, to ditch the urban chaos while soaking in the eerie silence, and care for the endangered wildlife.

How To Get A Malaysia Visa?

Participants having a citizenship of the following countries are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 90 days.

malaysia visa requirement

Other than that, you can also apply for an online visa. You can seek guidance from our Program Advisor once you have successfully applied for the program, and you’ll be told how you can go ahead with the procedure. You can also look for some help on the internet, in case you need some info. Some websites for your reference are as follows:

https://www.malaysiaonlinevisa.org/
https://www.ivisa.com/malaysia-entri-visa

What are the volunteering programs available in Malaysia?

All animal lovers will have the treat of their lives while exploring & volunteering in Malaysia. All our programs are related to the wellbeing & conservation of those living in the zoo or in the wilderness, freely. Take a look at how you can make a difference in their lives and contribute in your own ways.

Sun Bear Conservation Volunteering Project

Sun Bear Conservation Volunteering Project

The sun bear is the smallest of all bears and has been marked as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout Southeast Asia over the past three decades has dramatically reduced suitable habitat for this particular species.

As a part of the Sun Bear Conservation Program, you’ll be working at the Conservation Center which is based approximately 19 km from Sandakan town, Malaysia.

Currently, housing 28 sun bears in 2 huge bear houses, this center aims to provide better living conditions for the animals as well as adequate food, for a healthy living. Being a volunteer, you will learn more about sun bears in the stages of rehabilitation and the process of releasing them back into the wild.

It’ll be an incredible opportunity for the volunteers 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 of the area.

Program Duration & Fee

The duration to be a part of this program is for 2 weeks. The cost of participation is $1119 per person which will include:

  • Airport Pick-up
  • Welcome dinner on arrival day in Sepilok
  • Accommodation at Sun Bear Conservation Centre
  • Meals
  • 2 work T-shirts
  • All overland transfers
  • Project Orientation
  • 24/7 in-country support

Borneo Wildlife Safari & Volunteering Experience

Borneo Wildlife Safari & Volunteering Experience

If you have just 12 days in hand, and feel like traveling to Borneo and spend a few days exploring the wilderness, then this would be the perfect program for you! Being a volunteer, you’ll get to live amidst the mysterious Borneo Rainforests and work at the region located along the Lower Kinabatangan River. This wildlife sanctuary is home to singing gibbons, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, hornbills, and the pygmy elephant as well as a host of other rarely seen wildlife.

The main part of the project will be in Sukau village and you will live among the gentle Orang Sungai or ‘People of the River’ learning their ways of life and joining them in their homes for meals.

Not only will you contribute significantly towards habitat restoration work by planting trees and maintain planting sites important for orangutans and pygmy elephants. It’ll be an incredible learning opportunity for students and gap year travelers, who are seeking to gain some first-hand experience.

Program Duration & Fee

The duration to be a part of this program is for 12 days. The cost of participation is $1318 per person which will include:

  • Airport Pick-up
  • Welcome dinner on arrival day in Sepilok
  • Accommodation at Sun Bear Conservation Centre
  • Meals
  • 2 work T-shirts
  • All overland transfers
  • Boat & river transfer on Project Days
  • Project Orientation
  • Entrance fees to Rehabilitation & Conservation Centers
  • 24/7 in-country support

Family Volunteer Adventure In Malaysia

family volunteering in Malaysia

Excellent opportunity to spend a week with your family doing something meaningful. Here you’ll get to explore the picturesque destination of Sabah in Borneo, make the most of your weekend as you learn more about the animals dwelling in the rainforests, their lives and conserving their natural habitat.

As a volunteer, your family and you will get to live in the  Borneo Rainforests and work at the region located along the Lower Kinabatangan River. This wildlife sanctuary is home to singing gibbons, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, hornbills, and the pygmy elephant as well as a host of other rarely seen wildlife. You will contribute significantly towards habitat restoration work by planting trees and maintain planting sites important for orangutans and pygmy elephants.

A perfect program for wildlife and nature enthusiasts, one can have a meaningful learning experience as well. It’ll be an opportunity for you to get closer to nature, and observe the little things that tourists often tend to miss out. It’ll also be a learning experience for your children, who will definitely learn how to value nature and grow up to be responsible travelers.

In a week-long volunteering duration, your family and you, in association with coordinators, will be carrying out the following:

Wildlife Population Observation – This entails cruising along the river to observe the endangered wildlife roaming the forest along the river banks. A lot of time is spent observing wildlife and their habitat. This will be done from a boat cruising along the main river and its tributaries within the wildlife sanctuary.

Habitat Restoration – The most crucial activity in ensuring the survival of wildlife. You will take part in tree-planting, nursery care, and seedling generation, sapling maintenance, mulching, composting, clearing invasive species and tree growth data recording.

Education Project – You can spend half a day on school children working on conservation issues that the children deal with on a daily basis. You will be provided with a framework and the coordinator will guide you in the planning of this session.

Community Development – This involves the development of a continuous project with the community of a local village. You will learn some skills required for their daily livelihood improvement and assist them as well.

Jungle Trekking – As an introduction to the nature of flora and fauna of the rainforest, you will go for a trek to understand what the rainforest actually is and how the inhabitants get indigenous medication, food & survival from the rainforest itself

Cultural & Community Interaction – Contributing back to the community is a big part of this project. Most lunch and dinners will be in the private homes of individual villagers. You may get to hear about their daily lives, chat with the children, learn their family structure and see how the Orang Sungai have been living off the rivers and jungles for centuries. 

Program Duration & Fee

The duration to be a part of this program is for 7 days. The cost of participation is $700 per person which will include:

  • Airport Pick-up
  • Welcome dinner on arrival day in Sepilok
  • Accommodation at Sun Bear Conservation Centre
  • Meals
  • 2 work T-shirts
  • All overland transfers
  • Boat & river transfer on Project Days
  • Project Orientation
  • Entrance fees to Rehabilitation & Conservation Centers
  • 24/7 in-country support

Please note that the children between 8 – 12 years old are charged a discounted program fee of $650

What Are the Necessary Requirements to Participate in the Malaysia Volunteer Programs?

The most important criteria to be a part of any volunteering program is openness. You must be patient and calm, as well as enthusiastic enough to adjust to any situation and hope to deal with any circumstances that might crop up.

It is essential for you to understand that no luxuries would be available during this journey, however, we shall try to make this experience as comfortable as possible. The best part is that no matter which project you choose, you’ll get to live amidst nature and fill your lungs with freshness.

  • The minimum age requirement for the programs in Malaysia is 18 years except when traveling with family
  • 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.

You can volunteer as an individual or in groups (students, corporate or friends), and/or with your family & friends.

What Kind Of Accommodation & Meals Can I Expect During My Volunteering Trip In Malaysia?

cooking by volunteers

During your volunteering journey in Malaysia, you can’t expect the luxuries that you usually enjoy at home. You’ll mostly be living close to nature or at village-style BnB, where there are adequate chances of soaking in the freshness. However, Volunteering Solutions has always ensured to provide a ‘home away from home’ experience to all the volunteers.

Your accommodation will vary according to the project you opt for. Here are the living facilities that you can expect while you volunteer in Malaysia.

Accommodation while Volunteer at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center

As a volunteer for this program, you’ll be provided with dorm-style accommodation, where you need to share a room with one person, 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, for your convenience.

Accommodation while Borneo Wildlife Safari & Volunteering Experience

As a part of this program, 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. Welcome dinner will be provided on the first night. There is no kitchen and washing machine available.

At Sukau, you’ll be staying at a Village style B&B, in order to get a feel for the local living. You’ll be sharing your room with 2-3 other volunteers.

Food allowances will be provided to all the volunteers on all project working days, along with specific ‘Welcome Dinner’ as mentioned in Program Itinerary.

What Are the Dos and Don’ts That Should Be Followed While Volunteering in Malaysia?

do and don't in Malaysia

Being a culturally diverse country, Malaysia boasts of a heterogeneous society with the indigenous people of Malaysia as well as citizens from India & China. The influence of the Europeans, since the colonial era, has created further impact, making it a truly global culture. With every passing year, the number of travelers visiting Malaysia is increasing, many of whom are taking the step to volunteer & make a difference.

Although the societies are extremely open-minded and the people are friendly in general, here are a few dos & don’ts that you must follow, to enhance your volunteering experience in Malaysia.

DOs

  • Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling. In case you are greeting a local, make sure to shake hand with the man but not with the lady!
  • Make sure to dress appropriately.
  • Always use your right hand to give or receive things. Eating also must be done using the right hand. You will be considered discourteous if doing all this stuff with left hands.
  • If someone invites you to their place, never turn it down! Be courteous to attend the lunch/ dinner invitations.
  • Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.
  • Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors.
  • Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia since the majority of the Malaysian population are followers of Islam and abstain from the consumption of liquor.
  • Take permission before clicking photographs of a person / religious or official buildings etc.
  • While volunteering, make sure to take care of nature and stop indulging in anything that may harm the animals.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t ever touch one’s head, since it’s considered to be a sacred part of the body.
  • Never point your feet towards people or sacred images.
  • Don’t point your fingers while talking to someone, or indicating someone.
  • Don’t indulge in public display of affection. Unlike in Western countries, this is something that’ll gather frowning looks!
  • Don’t get involved in any kind of drug dealing or consumption. It’s a punishable offense and penalties are extremely high.
  • Don’t discuss ethnicity, religion or political as these are extremely sensitive issues.

What Are the Things to Do While Volunteering in Malaysia?

Since you’ll be living in either in the Borneo Region or Malacca during your volunteering experience in Malaysia, it will make more sense if you explore that part of the country rather than hopping to the more touristy areas like Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown! Impenetrable rainforests, rare wildlife, and diverse culture – Borneo is perfect for adventure and nature lovers alike and the cultural as well as heritage sites of Malacca will keep you booked.

things to do in Malaysia

Here are the things to do while volunteering in Malaysia:

1. Swim with turtles in Sipadan

Sipadan can be called as a snorkeler’s paradise! Imagine kneeling on a sandy seabed ogling a large hawksbill turtle, only an arm’s length away – getting goosebumps already, right? That’s the kind of encounter that awaits you under the crystal clear waters off Borneo’s Sipadan Island. You’ll only get to know why Sipadan is rated as one of the best dive sites in the world, once you experience it by yourself.

2. Climb South East Asia’s highest mountain – Mt. Kinabalu

The best weekend plan will be a trek to Mt. Kinabalu – yes! There’s no kidding! At 13,435 feet tall, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is the tallest mountain in Malaysia, the third-highest peak in Southeast Asia, and one of the tallest peaks in the region that can be climbed without technical equipment. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a long, revitalizing soak in the Poring Hot Springs nearby.

3. Go for a ride on the North Borneo steam railway

Soak in the vibes of the colonial era, as you go for a pleasant ride on the carriage, passing through villages and coastal towns, paddy fields, rainforests and plantations of rubber and coffee. It’ll be the best way of exploring Northern Borneo.

4. Chill on a beach or hop off to an island

Well, Borneo is not just about wilderness, jungles, and wildlife – but there are miles of pristine beaches where you can simply chill and soak in the sun. You can head off to Labuan Island – a duty-free island off the coast of Sabah, or Pulau Tiga, where the first season of the hit show, Survivor, was filmed.

5. Explore the Sarawak Iban Longhouse

Take a longboat ride up the Lemanak River to see ancient longhouses tucked behind almost every bend in the river. It’ll be a perfect way to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while sailing in the calm waters.

6. Go for the Malacca Night River Cruise

If you are in Malacca, you just can’t miss out this ride! Soak in the artistic atmosphere and culture of Malacca, and do keep a lookout for iconic graffiti on the buildings by the river as you cruise along.

7. Enjoy the views at the Taming Sari Revolving Tower

It is hard not to notice Taming Sari Revolving Tower when you are in Malacca as it soars to a height of 110 meters, and you’ll get to see panoramic vistas across the city which stretch all the way to the coast.

8. Walk around Stadthuys

To soak in the colonial vibes, you can take a walk around Stadthuys and click those postcard perfect shots of the buildings that are modeled on the Stadhuis or town hall in Hoorn in the Netherlands.

While you’ll working at the project sites on all weekdays, you’ll have the weekends to roam around and explore the beauty of the country. In case you need any further assistance in planning your weekend trips, you can simply drop a mail at [email protected] and get in touch with our Travel Experts!

Why should I choose Volunteering Solutions to volunteer in Malaysia?

why choose volsol in Malaysia

Almost every person who decides to travel abroad to volunteer has some doubts and faces the trouble of choosing one organization through which they can fulfill their dreams. When we ask you to join our programs, it’s obvious that this particular question will come to your mind.

With its presence in 24 destinations all across the globe, Volunteering Solutions provides a plethora of volunteering programs in each of these destinations. In the last 10 years, since its inception, Vol Sol has placed more than 13, 500 international volunteers on different projects as well as internship programs and has helped them nurture in their personal and professional lives.

Vol Sol values the importance of ethical and successful volunteering, and through its deep knowledge in this field, it places a candidate into a program which suits him/her the best, according to the field of interest, skills, and educational background.

We are associated with locals NGOs, schools, hospitals, orphanages, HIV/AIDS clinics, women groups, conservation centers, wildlife care centers and other social welfare organizations across the globe. It is ensured by the dedicated Vol Sol team that volunteers/interns have a smooth and memorable journey while traveling, and they get to learn from their peers as well.

Being a Vol Sol volunteer, you’ll get to meet a lot of like-minded people and work with them, sharing thoughts and ideas. Living together at the volunteer house will also give you the opportunity to know more about their countries, culture & lifestyle. It’ll help you to broaden your social network. You’ll also get to polish your skills and there will be immense scope for peer learning.

From the time a candidate generates a query, through the process of clearing doubts, filling the application form, making payments, access to Pre-Departure Guidebook, and reaching the volunteering placement location followed by Program Orientation – the Vol Sol Team takes care of everything. We have in-country coordinators and representatives who are specially appointed to help volunteers at the project sites.

Apart from these, VolSol provides help in various important divisions, such as;

  • Providing Medical and Travel insurance at a nominal extra cost
  • Raising fund for volunteers who face financial crunch to sponsor their trip
  • Assisting the volunteers during their entire journey in Malaysia (Malacca / Borneo)
  • Ensuring safety & security of each & every participant
  • Vehicle facilities for local traveling and airport drop for a minimal extra cost

How can I contact Volunteering Solutions?

It’s easier than you can think!

You can join our Facebook Group to connect with other volunteers and also follow us on Instagram for some travel inspiration, as well as to know what our volunteers are doing right now! And in case you need to know more about volunteering in Malaysia, you can simply drop us a mail at [email protected]

Come, join us on this crazy journey and get closer to nature – We’ll be glad to host you in Malaysia!


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