Volunteering in Borneo

Learn jungle skills from Penan Tribe in Sarawak and volunteer with our reforestation project which plants up to 15,000 trees every year in logged areas. We welcome interest from individuals and groups and we are flexible on arrival dates and duration of placement, but the minimum time is three weeks. Your volunteering hosts will be the Penan tribe, and you will be living in a homestay and eating with one of the families and taking part in the close community life. 



Without doubt you will witness the strong links between Adventure Alternative and Moving Mountains and the communities that you are placed in.  As such, you will be an ambassador for both Adventure Alternative and Moving Mountains. You need to appreciate what responsibility you are taking on in this respect and to conduct yourself in an appropriate way. Don't be afraid of this, it's simply something to be aware of. Most cultures in developing countries are naturally conservative and traditional, but they are also fun-loving and naturally demonstrative and curious.



Volunteering in Borneo itinerary

Volunteers are selected after an initial interview during which we make sure you are right for this type of experience and that we can meet your expectations with a trip like this. The minimum time spent is three weeks but some people choose to stay longer, and many people use this as part of a longer journey in south east Asia. We can advise on all sorts of amazing places to visit, and we have our own company based in Kuching and in Kota Kinabalu. 

After arriving in Sarawak (Kuching or Miri) the local Penan guides will meet with you and take you to their villages which takes several days trekking and in longboats up the rivers. This is a wonderful introduction to the beauty and vibrancy of the jungle environment, time to slow down and notice everything around you. 

The villages are dotted throughout the forest and this volunteering in Borneo means staying in a local home and meeting a family who will look after you. There are schools in the area, churches and community centres, homes and farms with animals and land that they cultivate. Always the jungle surrounds everything, with it's noises and colours and life. There are streams and waterfalls, mountains and rock pools, forest canopy and forest floor with all the wildlife you can imagine. The Penan will show you how they live here, what the plants are for, how to hunt animals with blowpipes (and meet the blowpipe maker), how to fish and what food to eat. 

Having arrived, life will fall into a routine of village life, and you can help out in the school, in the community hall, on the farm and in the planting nurseries. Sometimes you will go off for a few days hunting, or visiting other villages, or transplanting saplings. If the conditions are right you can collect seeds. We also need to collect data on the project itself and what the impact has been on the community, plus the charity is keen to try and record some of the plants that the community uses. 




Volunteering in Borneo cost £1195.00


  • Personal in-country trip cost including all accommodation and food and activities in the jungle and staffing by the local Penan people and our own staff at Adventure Alternative Borneo
  • Internal air fare


  • Fundraising target of £1000 per person which goes directly to the tree planting project managed by our charity Moving Mountains and sent to the Penan Koperasi.
  • International air-fare to Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Additional weeks in the villages costs £150 per week. 

The money paid to the villagers covers your accommodation, food and money to the local people to help look after you. We also have an office in Kuching and in Kota Kinabalu, so some costs are for managing your placement and maintaining the long term contact and communication with the villagers. This has taken years to build up, and the whole tree planting project has come about because of this long term investment in trust and friendship. 


 Volunteering in Borneo - experience

For this trip you don't need to be experienced in foreign travel or experienced in building techniques or working with children or in schools. The programme is designed so that you are the one getting the experience, while at the same time allowing you to interact with the local people who can show you their job and their life. We are not expecting you to be experts in any specific or even related fields, but we will expect you to come back with a great deal of knowledge at the end of it.

The most important characteristics you need are openness, willingness to learn and take part, enthusiasm, initiative and a sense of curiosity. Your experience simply as a person from another culture will give you an enormous amount to share with local people who perhaps have less opportunities than you. The trip is very emotional, and you will meet people whose lives seem incredible, but your interaction with them can be beneficial for both parties, and is often life changing. 

The jungle is hot and humid, and there are few mod cons here, so you will need to be sure that your expectations do not include air conditioning for example. Life is quite slow, quite routine for the villagers, and fascinating for us. Anyone interested in anthropology would love this chance to live amongst the Penan tribe, who describe themselves as the last of the jungle dwellers. You may go out on visits to other villages, trek to waterfalls and hilltops, go hunting, learn to make a blowpipe, eat a porcupine, go to church, clean rice, plant trees, go fishing, go swimming, or just sit quietly and watch. This is a life which will take time to get used to, and patience and curiosity, but also be prepared to get involved. The villagers are very close and they work very much as a community, so you will become part of this and your experience socially will be important. 



Kit List

  • Rucksack or duffle of no more than 20kgs as luggage, 65-90litres.
  • Clothing - shorts, Tshirts, light long sleeved tops, lightweight trekking trousers, light socks, jumpers for the evening, football shorts and the like. Try to avoid all cotton and think of clothes that aren't too tight or won't dry quickly. Cotton underwear takes a while to dry, a lot of people wear cycling shorts or boxer shorts.
  • Small day pack, approx 40 litres
  • Sunhat
  • Sun glasses with good UV protection
  • Sleeping liner - keeps your bag clean and you can sleep in it if the night is too warm.
  • Sleeping bag - a synthetic 3 season bag is best. If it has a lengthwise zip then you can open it out and use it as a blanket.
  • Light Water proof jacket, but also take an umbrella for showers
  • Wash kit and travel towel
  • Good walking shoes or boots, locally you can buy 'kampong' shoes for the jungle
  • flip flops and lightweight trainers or pumps
  • Camera - plus charger unit, but keep it dry!
  • Head torch
  • Money belt
  • Medical pack / first aid kit and sanitary products for girls
  • Sun cream - with a high UVA protection
  • Water bottles and Water purification tablets although boiled water is best
  • Insect repellent
  • Notebook, stationery, pens



Females will have to dress conservatively in public and especially in schools and the childrens homes. You will draw unnecessary attention to yourself and maybe cause offence if revealing clothing is worn.

Also don't forget:

Your passport - valid for at least six months beyond the return date.
Insurance - comprehensive travel and medical insurance cover.
Immunisation booklet - with details of all the jabs you've had.
Passport photos - take about six of these to be used as identification
List of emergency telephone numbers - to cancel/call insurers, credit/debit cards
Tickets and itinerary - remember to leave copies of these with friends or family
Money - a mixture of some cash, travellers' cheques and credit cards.
List of useful contact numbers - such as British Embassy/Consulate, insurance company and credit card 24 hour emergency telephone number.

Why Us

  • Your trip fee is going directly to the local people to help give them a revenue to the local village co-operative, while your fundraising directly employs the villagers to do the seed collecting and tree planting. These are direct revenues for the community. Every year we have to find about £10,000 to pay for the tree planting so your fundraising makes a big impact. The money we pay the villagers to look after you is a tourist income and the local people use this money to repair buildings, buy books and send their children to school. 

  • We are driven by good intentions and not just good practise; our trips work with professional bodies that work full time in the field of international development.

  • We are members of Interhealth which gives you access to pre-trip health information and on-site assistance by phone in the event of an emergency.

  • We have independent research to evaluate and assess the projects we run. We have credibility because our projects are not all self-regulated, but assessed in a collaborative process that involves many stakeholders such as the community leaders, the NGO staff and the regulatory bodies in-country.

  • We have progressive ideas about the structural determinants of poverty and the implementation of 'clever aid' to create sustainable benefits.

  • We fulfil the criteria of Fair Trade Volunteering.

  • Our projects and programmes determine the trip, not the other way around.

  • We believe in what we do, and we have the experience to carry it out.


Moving Mountains started as a small charity in 1991 when founder Gavin Bate was teaching in the slums of Kenya. It now runs programmes and projects in Kenya, Nepal and Borneo. We want you to be a part of it, but we ask that you respect our system. We have rules, which include not giving ‘things’ to children and not making private arrangements for personal sponsorships or gifts or money. The local communities respect a system that doesn’t just hand it out, but gives them a chance to become owners of something successful and long-term, like any self-respecting person. It’s easy to fall into the trap of responding to an emotional response and just handing over money, but that isn’t aid and it doesn’t actually help. What helps is clever expenditure of money, a strategy to spend it properly, and the realisation that money is hard to come by in any society.

Your trip is enough to make a difference. It’s part of something successful and inspiring, and it’s part of a vision that somebody had a long time ago. Your promise to us is to let that vision continue.


Dates and Booking
Click here to request custom dates
Staff Review

This is a really adventurous trip, either for individuals or small groups, travelling to the jungles of Sarawak to live and work with the Penan people whose forest is gradually being cut from around them. These logging areas are where the local community replant saplings but in the village there are nurseries for thousands of seedlings. Part of the job includes collecting seeds, looking after the seedlings and then transplanting them into logged areas. Much of your time will be spent shadowing the villagers, going on hunting forays and learning about their life, their culture and their beliefs. There are few mod cons, but you will be very well looked after by these gentle and remarkably resilient people. 

Key Information
  • Duration 3 weeks min
  • Numbers 1 - 5
  • Comfort Homestays, camping
Borneo Information
More Information