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Indonesia Orangutan Conservation (Sumatra)

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Indonesia Orangutan Conservation (Sumatra)

Travel in a small group, staying in remote forest camps, as you track orangutans and other fascinating native species on this research project, vital to developing sustainable conservation programmes.

Prices from US$1,145

You'll travel in a small group, staying in remote forest camps, as you track Orangutans and other fascinating native species like the Sun Bear, Clouded Leopard, and Slow Loris. The work of the research project is vital to developing well-targeted conservation programmes aimed at protecting threatened habitats from human encroachment. Without your help, the world's last remaining Orangutans could find their forest habitat destroyed before their very eyes.

Read the Indonesia Orangutan Conservation Project of the Week article on GapYearBlog


  • Hands on contribution to world leading orangutan research
  • Follow and observe Sumatran Orangutans in their natural habitat
  • Experience village life in Indonesia
  • Jungle trekking in the tropical rainforest of North Sumatra
  • Make lifelong friends
  • This is a Frontier Connect project!


  • Minimum age of 18 years


Location Sumatra, Indonesia
Activities Site clearance
Observe and track orangutans
Contribute towards scientific research
Data collection
Transport Transport to & from the airport
Accommodation Camping


Before you go Pre-departure support & documentation
Travel & medical advice & documentation
Advice on visas & equipment
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt
In-country Food
Airport pick-up & drop-off
Ground transfers to project
Project orientation and training 
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ back-up



A variety of qualifications are available on many of our projects. For example, BTEC certificates and diplomas on our Group conservation projects and TEFL certificates and BTECs on most of our teaching projects. You may also be able to gain a CoPE to support your university application. For more information on these qualifications, please see the qualifications section of our website or ask your volunteer advisor.


Orangutans originally roamed from India to South China and to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Now only a few places with wild Orangutans remain and these are found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

This project was set up to investigate special behaviours and ecological conditions necessary to maintain health in wild orangutans. Currently this project is the only on-going and long-term orangutan health research project being conducted in the world at this time. This is partly due to the complexity of self-medicating behaviours of the orangutan and the astonishing variety of flora in the rainforest, which also entails geographical and seasonal variations.

There is still a great need for more information to be gathered and for further research to be conducted in order for us to continue learning about orangutan health and how orangutans combat disease.

The primary focus of the research to-date is investigating and understanding how wild orangutans combat parasitic infections. Parasite infections can and do affect everything from health to reproduction and fertility, and ultimately survival. Understanding preventive and curative methods in wild orangutans will aid rehabilitation programs in the future to teach possible reintroduced orangutans health practices similar to those of wild orangutan populations in surrounding areas, thus enabling a higher chance of survival once reintroduced orangutans are on their own in the forest.

Due to the rapid decline of rainforest trees and plants each year, the project also aims to facilitate rainforest preservation by bringing to light the enormity of the importance of Indonesian rainforests through information obtained through our research regarding the healing properties of plants found only in the rainforests. The use or consumption of these plants is not limited to wild orangutans, but also applies to captive orangutans. Perhaps, eventually, some of these same plants can be used in natural and pharmaceutical medicines to treat human ailment.

As a volunteer, you will be directly involved in our work in a variety of ways. It is impossible to express how important volunteers are to the functioning and health of our project and research; without the support of our volunteers, the project could never have made it to where it is today.

We need your help to:

  • Process and enter data from our field researchers across Indonesia
  • Maintain and preserve project equipment, samples, and data 
  • Observe and track wild orangutans
  • Collect data and samples from the rainforest

In exchange for your support and assistance, we are able to offer a challenging but rewarding experience. You will have the increasingly rare opportunity to see primary rainforest in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, and with a bit of luck you will be within viewing distance of one of the most graceful primates on earth.

We aim for your time with us to be both exciting and educational. You will learn about orangutan behavior and ecology first hand, and will learn to appreciate the complexities and difficulties of conservation and research in a place like Indonesia. While trekking, our knowledgeable guides will teach you about the ecology of tropical rainforest biomes like that of Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser. 

In addition, you will be immersed in a beautiful and fascinating country — Indonesia is rich in cultural and natural diversity unlike anywhere else in the world.


Tasks at base:

  • Orangutan behavioral data entry;
  • Processing (cataloguing, weighing, inventorying) fecal or plant samples;
  • Preserving plant samples in our herbarium
  • Preparing new plant samples for our herbarium;
  • Shopping for project supplies in town or at the local market;
  • Updating weather and climate data
  • Helping with maintenance of headquarters and project equipment 
  • Brainstorming ideas to help the project's promotion and operation

Tasks in the forest:

  • Locating areas with significant wild orangutan populations
  • Finding and following wild orangutans for individual identification, to collect behavioral data and to gather plant and fecal samples (Note: It is not easy to find wild orangutans and many hours trekking does not guarantee any sightings)
  • Nest counting to provide seasonally varying estimates of the orangutan population
  • Fruit trail transects to record the range of foodstuffs available to orangutans in an area


You will be greeted at the Medan Polonia Airport by a friendly Frontier representative on Monday morning. Together you will travel back to the project base at 2.5 hours away. There you will settle in to the project accommodation and be given an orientation presentation including; what the project does, a brief history of conservation in Indonesia, what tasks are required at the base and an outline of the trekking schedule to come. The following 2 days will see you assisting with tasks at the project base before embarking on the 5 day trek into the rainforest.


Trekking in the Rainforest is 5 days, with the rest of your time being spent at the project base. You will be camping out in the Orangutan's backyard as you work your way through the rainforest, washing your clothes in the fresh streams and rivers which criss-cross the land. Accommodation will be basic but comfortable and you will have access to washing and cooking facilities.

The project base is set amongst rice paddies in a small village on the fringe of the Gunung Leuser National Park. At is the base there are kitchen facilities, office and working spaces and  two small accommodation buildings.

Accommodation facilities at the project base consist of basic, clean and comfortable bamboo huts elevated above rice paddie fields. You are provided with single beds, mosquitoes nets, toilet and basic washing facilities. 

Whilst trekking in the rainforest you will be required to sleep at the pre-existing project site alongside the Landak River. You will be provided with sleeping mats and sleeping bags. Basic ‘jungle style” toilet and washing in the river are the most refreshing options while in the rainforest.


A large variety of traditional indonesian cuisine will be served three times a day. At the base mouth watering rice dishes of chicken and vegetable curries (usually with some degree of chili) will be served.. When in the rainforest you will also be well looked after with three meals a day, coffee and tea.

Ten Most Recent Reviews for This Project

Sumatra Jungle Adventure  | 13 Aug 2018
We had the most amazing time in the Sumatra Rain Forest! It pushed our physical, emotional and me...

Read more

Adventures and Orangutans  | 25 Jul 2018
My inspiration for volunteering came from my love for Biology. I am currently doing a degree in Z...

Read more

Sumatra is a part of me now  | 11 Jul 2018
I landed at Medan airport, after one or two complications, greeted by a friendly local who took m...

Read more

I had the time of my life  | 4 Jul 2018
I had the time of my life, meeting new people, learning the language, seeing some amazing wildlif...

Read more

Ian's eye opener to the plight of the orangutan  | 17 Jun 2018
My daughter Zoe and I did not realise how things would pan out on the trip. It was an eye opener ...

Read more


A range of additional adventure and cultural activities including visits to local villages and communties, an elephant sanctuary and river rafting are available. Please arrange these direct with local providers and contribute to the local economy.


Project fee (student) US$1,045

Project fee (non-student) US$1,395

Registration fee US$85


Projects start on the first Monday of the month. One deployment date per month only.


13 days


Before you go

  • Pre-departure support & documentation
  • Travel & medical advice & documentation
  • Advice on visas & equipment
  • Discounted medical kit
  • Free Frontier t-shirt


  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Airport pick-up & drop-off
  • Ground transfers to project
  • Project orientation
  • Project equipment
  • In-country emergency support
  • 24-hour international HQ back-up


Nearest airport(s): Medan (MES)


  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Insurance

For detailed information on flights, visas and insurance, click here.


Please read our legal statement regarding the running of NGO projects.

To apply for this placement, click on "Apply Now" below. Fill in the short application form and one of our advisers will then call you back to answer any questions and make sure this is the perfect placement for you. Applying doesn't cost a penny and you won't pay anything until you're completely happy and you're ready to reserve your place.

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