There's one thing you should know about orang utans before going any further. It is estimated that there are, in all likelihood, fewer than 20,000 left in the wild throughout Asia. Therefore, embarking on an orang utan-spotting trip in Malaysia is more than just an excuse to indulge in some wildlife photography. It is a privilege.
One terrific holiday experience that will appeal to the whole family is the opportunity to mingle with orang utans. These two-week trips are arranged by the Malaysian National Zoo. Not only do they give the chance to actually meet these majestic creatures in person, but they will allow you to actually do some proper work with them.
There are many reasons why the numbers of these rainforest mammals have declined so drastically, but you can be sure that living so close to Homo Sapiens has not done their cause much good. Activities like logging have had a detrimental effect on their habitat. Another aspect of their lives that these trips seek to address is helping to balance their fragile position within Malaysia. So helping indigenous tribes to make orang utans an important aspect of the local economy is also touched on during the two-week course.
As well as giving visitors to Malaysia some hands-on experience with the orang utans, these trips provide a rare opportunity to explore the country's impenetrable rainforests in the hands of experienced guides and wildlife experts. As well as the magnificent primates themselves, the forests are the natural habitat of an incredible biodiversity. There are other primates, many species of monkeys, fabulous birds, colourful amphibians and a dazzling array of insects, not to mention spiders.
No visit to the orang utan conservation region is complete without popping in to the rehabilitation centre. Many orphaned orang utans are brought to this sanctuary – a sort of drop in rehab centre for the creatures – so they can be looked after, nurtured and taught how to survive in the wild. This is a crucial part of their development, as well as a key aspect of their conservation.
At the centre experienced staff will demonstrate the various techniques they use to feed and strengthen their young charges prior to re-introduction to their native rainforests.
Details of the conservation work
The oran utan conservation trips run from February 2014 right through to December, lasting for 28 days. On the first day you are met at the airport, then taken to your accommodation. After a welcome dinner and briefing, you spend the first night in Kuala Lumpur.
Day 2 sees you enjoying complimentary breakfast before your transfer to Zoo Negara. The remainder of the day will be taken up with orientation and health and safety information, as well as an extensive tour of the zoo.
Days 3 to 16 are effectively the project days, when you commence your work as a volunteer. Starting at around 8am, you will finish at 5am, all the time rolling up your sleeves to pitch in working with orang utans. You will receive first-hand experience of cleaning, feeding and maintenance, all of which will give you a valuable insight into how these fantastic creatures live. A crucial aspect of the work undertaken at the facility is to keep the animals stimulated and happy. This is where you might well get the chance to get to know individual animals.
Weekends are generally given as off-days. How you choose to spend your spare time is entirely up to yourself.