Thursday, 19 January 2012 2:17 PM
If you are looking for a gap year experience that will be rewarding and fun, there are few better options than to work with animals. Malaysia is an excellent choice if you are hoping to really make a difference to a species that is in need of protection.
It is here that you will be able to work with one of the most gentle and caring apes in the world – the orangutan.
These wonderful creatures have seen their populations decimated over the years, with the destruction of their habitat and illegal poaching really taking its toll. One of the reasons why orangutans are in need of assistance is that each mother will only give birth to one baby every eight years or so, making it difficult for the population to grow quickly.
Should you choose to volunteer in Malaysia during a gap year, you will have the opportunity to help conserve these beautiful animals.
You will be based in Borneo at the Matang Wildlife Centre near the Kubah National Park in Sarawak. Here, you will not only be able to assist with the care of orangutans, but also some of Malaysia's other endangered animals.
This may involve feeding some of the centre's inhabitants, as well as cleaning out their enclosures and coming up with enrichment activities to keep the orangutans occupied.
However, this is not the only place you will visit on your gap year travel experience – you will also be able to go to the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre, where orangutans are prepared for life back in the wild.
This offers an excellent opportunity to see these stunning primates in their natural environment, so make sure you have your camera handy to grab some shots of the orangutans swinging up in the trees.
Direct contact with the animals is not the only way in which you can help them, though. Another part of your trip will involve heading into the Batang Ai rainforest, where you can replant trees to replace some of the foliage that has been lost.
You may also be called upon to assist with a conservation project by the national park authority when they require some additional manpower.
In between all these exciting activities, you will have plenty of time to explore more of Borneo and fully appreciate the stunning landscapes on this beautiful island.
For example, during your stay in the rainforest you can interact with local tribes people to find out more about their traditional way of life, as well as being able to enjoy numerous walks on trails through virgin forest.
While you are out and about, you will be required to make a note of any sightings you have of orangutans, as well as other wildlife of interest.
You will also have the chance to explore Bako National Park, one of the best places in Borneo to catch sight of much of its rare and fascinating wildlife. Proboscis monkeys, macaques, civets, deer and various species of snakes can all be seen in amongst the vegetation if you keep your eyes peeled!
There are also numerous sandy beaches where you can relax in the sun and swim in the crystal-clear waters that surround the island.
One other attraction you will have time to visit during your volunteer project is the Sarawak Cultural Village, a living museum dedicated to the Dayaks – or indigenous tribes of Borneo. Here, you will be able to see examples of traditional dress and crafts practised by the locals for centuries.