In Sabah, volunteer tourism focuses more on the preservation and sustainability of environments, to keep them clean and green, and is done mostly in vacation spots.

ARC (Artificial Reef Crest) Reef – one of the Artificial reef designs used to create a stable substrate for rescued transplanted corals.

Imagine yourself living in a tropical island, swimming with turtles and other marine creatures while enjoying beautiful reefs. You can now turn that into a reality as one of the top projects for voluntourism in Sabah is the Coral Reef Conservation Project by The Tropical Research and Conservation Centre. Also known as TRACC, they are located on the small island of Semporna called Pom Pom. TRACC is a conservation centre that focuses on diving while rebuilding coral reefs that were previously destroyed from fish bombing. They are always welcoming like-minded people who are concerned about reef conservation and how they can help to improve them. Volunteering period will be a minimum of 2 weeks and at a maximum of 12 weeks.

Turtle Facial Identification – using photographs of both sides of a turtles’ faces, with a computer program to create a unique fingerprint to gain a better understanding of the Sea turtle population on Pom Pom and the surrounding Islands.

Besides reef conservation, Pom Pom Island is also home to the green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles. In Sabah, poaching of turtle eggs is still a big threat to sea turtles, even though they are protected by the law. The Pom Pom Sea Turtle Conservation Camp aims to protect these sea turtles by having volunteers working with them for at least a minimum of 10 days. Volunteers will get the chance to discover the beautiful world of sea turtles and at the same time learn the ways in recognising and monitoring sea turtle nests, relocating the eggs in the incubator, releasing the hatchlings and many more. Similarly, Turtle Island Sandakan is also participating in voluntourism by having conservation program for sea turtles and allows volunteers to experience hands-on conservation and research activities on sea turtles as well, for a total of eight days.

Imagine life on a private-island getaway while sipping from coconuts and relaxing in hammocks. Just a mere 30 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu and another 15 minutes boat ride will bring you to the picturesque Ara Dinawan Island Resort. At Ara Dinawan Research Education Conservation Centre (ADRECC), volunteers will be actively involved in the education, conservation, observation, and research on coral plantings, seagrass planting, eco-fruit farm, and many more. For the artistically inclined, there’s no shortage of signs to be painted and installed advertising the island’s recycling efforts. Leisure combines with work as volunteers splash into the ocean to remove tyres, plastic bags, and any other ocean rubbish. Volunteering packages ranges from 2 days to 3 months.

Back in 2008, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, Sandakan had only a total of 8 bears. Eleven years later today, they now have 43 sun bears residing in the conservation centre, where most of them were rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from zoos, resorts and private collections. If you are keen on exploring the wonders of the Borneo wildlife while volunteering at the sun bear conservation centre, volunteers are welcomed to join them to help with the rehabilitation process. During the volunteering programme, volunteers will assist with creating enrichment programmes for the sun bears, maintaining the cleanliness of the conservation centre, learn how to observe the sun bear’s behaviours, and many more, while working closely with dedicated biologists and researchers. Those who are interested in volunteering will need to volunteer at the centre for a minimum of two to four weeks with extended periods if required.

Yoga instructor volunteer program

The eco-resort, 9 Huts on A Hill in Bak Bak, Kudat hosts a volunteer programme in exchange for accommodations, food, and some pocket money. They welcome anyone skillful  in building, farming, cooking, or any other relevant skill that can that could contribute to their resort. Volunteers can help in building new eco-houses, do gardening in their organic garden to assist in providing raw foods, or even learning from the chefs on how to prepare eco-friendly dishes. Besides that, they offer Yoga Instructor and English Lessons for the locals to promote a healthier lifestyle and to educate them in daily English conversations. People with administrative or marketing/social media abilities are also welcome to help spread the message around the world. The volunteering programme will be around 1 week to 52 weeks.

English class lesson for the locals and beach clean up programs

Besides wildlife and nature tours, Borneo Eco Tours together with its non-profit arm BEST Society offers voluntourism packages that cover two main hotspots in Sabah; Kinabatangan where conservation efforts are the main focus and also Kiulu, a community-based tourism destination that involves participation from the local villagers there.  With their newly launched Sukau Ecotourism Research Centre (SERC) which aims to facilitate research and conservation programmes, the centre will be a hub for volunteers. Voluntourism activities include tree planting, developing jungle trails, river cleaning and environmental education. Apart from that, volunteers can go on a river safari excursion in search of some of Sabah Borneo’s wildlife wonders! In Kiulu on the other hand, volunteers will be exposed to the beauty of Sabah’s culture and people to learn about the locals and at the same time, giving back to the community. Activities range from farming, land preparation, paddy and vegetable planting, restoration and repairs, developing jungle trails and many others.

Be part of the Volunteer-Tourism, Voluntourism movement in Sabah! 

Last reviewed: June 17, 2020