Volunteer in Indonesia with Rescued Wildlife in North Sulawesi

Volunteers are needed to join a Wildlife Rescue Centre in the northern part of the Island Sulawesi in Indonesia. The project includes tasks such as feeding the animals, provide browsing from various vegetation to the animals, and making enrichment for the animals to be stimulated, and finding methods to address concerns about the captive wildlife’s welfare.

You can join for 2 weeks up to 12 weeks and we have places available all year round.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Costs for accommodation in a shared volunteer house, food, materials & training start from £900.

Sun bear in enclosure at Rescue CentreVolunteers working on crocodile release siteLeopard at Rescue CentreBaby MacaqueBusy Volunteers at the Rescue CentreSun bear sleeping in enclosureBento the OrangutanEco lodgeCockatooMarina of ManadoNew forest enclosure for macaque monkeysPalm cockatooSunrise from lodgeVicky the Javan Langur

About the Project

Bento the OrangutanThe Wildlife Rescue Centre is located in the Northern part of the island Sulawesi in Indonesia. This particular location is a hotspot for the smuggling of wildlife out of Indonesia onto the global market via the Philippines. Animals from all over the vast Indonesian archipelago have suffered this trade route. The Rescue Centre helps the authorities tackle this crime and take care of the wildlife confiscated from this trade.

Volunteering at the Wildlife Rescue Centre thus involves work with various wild animals from the region. Tasks can include feeding the animals and providing browse from various vegetation to the animals. In the wild, animals constantly interact with plants for nourishment and entertainment. Volunteers simulate this experience by providing browse to the captive wildlife twice a day. You could also be making enrichment for the animals to stimulate and find methods to address potential concerns about the captive wildlife’s behaviour, and their physical and psychological welfare. It is also an important part of the daily activities for volunteers to observe the animals, and pay attention to any potential abnormal behaviour.

Volunteers at work Volunteers will work 5½ days a week, having one personal day off and one communal afternoon off a week. The communal day off is typically for organising excursions to some of the many places of cultural and natural interest in the area. The working day usually starts very early at 6am and ends around 4pm, and after that your time is your own. During this time, you will have both a long breakfast and lunch break.

Safety on the Project

Please be aware that this project includes working with wild animals, and thus adherence to the Safe Distance Policy is crucial. The Safe Distance policy is simply about always keeping a safe distance of two arms lengths from the wildlife. Failure to adhere to this could result in being dismissed from the project.

Wildlife does not naturally seek human interaction, and because our organisation partner operates according to the five freedoms of animal welfare, they do not unnecessarily handle wildlife. They want to give them the possibility to express their natural behaviour, and only clinic staff or keepers will be able get close in exceptional cases. Also, viruses and bacteria can be transmitted to humans through bite wounds and scratches, or through contact with faeces, saliva and urine. For that reason, volunteers cannot touch, pet or hand feed any of the animals at the centre.

Dates & Costs

You can join the Wildlife Rescue Volunteer Programme for 2-12 weeks throughout the year. 

Cockatoo at Rescue Centre

18th February to 3rd March 2019
4th March to 17th March 2019
18th March to 31st March 2019
1st April to 14th April 2019
15th April to 28th April 2019
29th April to 12th May 2019
13th May to 26th May 2019
27th May to 9th June 2019
10th June to 23rd June 2019
24th June to 7th July 2019
8th July to 21st July 2019
22nd July to 4th August 2019
5th August to 18th August 2019
19th August to 1st September 2019
2nd September to 15th September 2019
16th September to 29th September 2019
30th September to 13th October 2019
14th October to 27th October 2019
28th October to 10th November 2019
11th November to 24th November 2019
25th November to 8th December 2019
9th December to 22nd December 2019

The above dates are a guide, however, volunteers that join on short-term programmes (2/3 weeks) should arrive on a Monday, and will thus leave the project on a Sunday. Volunteers that join for 4+ weeks should just arrive on a weekday, even though it is preferred that all arrive on a Monday to facilitate training and welcome together. Volunteers need to arrive in Manado before 6pm, or you would have to arrange hotel/hostel overnight at own costs. Only in the case of a delayed flight will it be possible to be picked up after 6pm. Please email charlotte@workingabroad.com for further details or any questions about dates.

Programme Costs

The cost for 2 weeks is £900, 3 weeks £1015, 4 weeks £1110, 6 weeks £1360, 8 weeks £1565, 12 weeks £2040. This covers food (3 meals a day), accommodation in the shared volunteer house, airport pick up, training, in-country and WorkingAbroad Project support. 

The costs don’t include flights to/from Manado, health and travel insurance, visa fee, airport drop-off and personal expenses. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Lodging, Food, Travel


Volunteer House at Rescue Centre

There are typically between 6-10 volunteers at any one time, even though there is capacity for about 20 volunteers in total. Volunteers stay in male or female dorms with 8-12 beds (4-6 bunks) per room. The accommodation is a communal volunteer house with kitchen, dining area and recreational area. Each dormitory has a balcony and beds are separated in personal spaces with lockable cabinets.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided for by the project, as well as access to fresh fruit and drinking water. For environmentally sustainable and animal welfare ethical reasons, the project serves food free from any animal products/derivates. There may be fish or eggs on request, sustainably harvested locally.   

Volunteer communal areaWeekly trips to supermarkets in neighbour towns are regularly organised for volunteers, who wish to buy any extra food/items. However, you will not be allowed to bring any red meat to the house. If you find yourself missing a carnivorous diet, there are plenty of nearby restaurants that sell a range of other meat and fish dishes.


Manado (MDC) airport is the nearest airport to the Wildlife Rescue centre in North Sulawesi. If you arrive in Manado after 6pm you will need to book a hotel for the night, and you will then be picked up the next day at your hotel. If you decide to stay at a hotel further away than the airport, like in the city centre, there might be an extra fee. Pick-up from the airport after 6pm can be arranged, but only in unavoidable situations such as delayed flights etc.

Visa for Indonesia

As a volunteer, you would need to get a Social / Cultural visa to do voluntary work in Indonesia. The initial Social / Cultural Visa is valid for 60 days, and can be extended with 30 days at a time, up to a maximum of 180 days. You will have to include an invitation and sponsor letter in order to apply for a Social / Cultural Visa, which you will be able to request from our local project partner in Indonesia, if you are accepted on the project. Please allow at least 30 days for the visa process to be fully handled, and take contact to your local consulate/embassy for updated information related to your nationality. It is for the individual volunteer to make sure to check that they are eligible before applying, and that they follow the instructions provided. Not doing this might prevent you from gaining the visa successfully.

Free Time

View from lodge over bay

On your day off you can arrange your own trips. You can easily arrange your own local outings as there are a variety of day trips available. Also, don’t miss some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. Special rates are available for volunteers at our project. There are also discounts for volunteers who wish to follow a PADI diving course. Or just enjoy the luxury of a well-earned overnight stay in a beach resort.

Every week a group excursion or activity is also planned and all volunteers are invited. This usually takes places Wednesday afternoon, and thus volunteers are free from work. Activities include a visit to Tangkoko Nature Reserve, where you have a good chance of seeing tarsier, hornbills and crested macaques, a walk through nearby ravine to a bat cave, when in season, or regular trips to the Masarang sea turtle conservation programme are organised for visitors and volunteers.

Health Information

As a volunteer, you are required to have certain vaccinations up-to-date. These include Tetanus (usually combined as DTP) and Hepatitis A & B. These are required to keep volunteers and animals safe and healthy.

An up-to-date immunisation for Typhoid is recommended. A Rabies pre-exposure vaccination is not needed for your stay. Rabies is not present in the animals on site, but you may want to consider it if you are travelling in Indonesia and South-East Asia before/after your stay. Although the rescue centre is not in a malaria area, and there have not been any records of Japanese Encephalitis in the region, it is recommended that you take preventive measures against mosquito bites.  It is always recommended to also check with your own GP for any updated recommendations.

Interactive Map & Background

The Rescue Centre is set in a beautiful location in a former coconut palm plantation on a hill near the sea, overlooking the Lembeh Straights and near the town of Bitung in North Sulawesi. It is just a few hundred miles north of the equator and has a typical equatorial climate with two seasons: rainy and dry, although this is less noticeable on the coast where the Centre is situated.


North Sulawesi has its own microclimate and the differences between the seasons are not as great as those described in many of the travel guides to Indonesia. The Dry Season lasts from April to October with just the occasional shower and the Wet Season begins in November when cool north-westerly winds arrive from the South China Sea.  Rain falls mainly in brief but heavy showers throughout the Wet Season. Temperature averages between 23-35°C in the Dry season and 23-30°C in the Wet Season. If you are unused to a tropical climate you will find work very hot and sticky for the first few days until your body adapts to the climate. But there are always cooling breezes and a dip in the sea to look forward to after work, though please remember the beach is shared by the local villagers and always observe the dress code for swimming and relaxing on the beach.

Volunteer Testimonials

Nathalie de La Tour volunteered for 2 weeks in April 2018: 

I used to travel every year because I like discovering new countries, new people, new customs but these last years I realized that tourism could have a bad influence in some countries by changing the way of living people because of the money even if you’re careful. I saw sometimes animals used as attraction for the tourists : lamas in Bolivia, monkeys in Bali, elephants in India etc. and it’s because of the tourists and the money they give to see and touch animals. Some of them want to bring home wild animals they saw travelling to have them as pets. This is why I decided to travel in a different way give part of my time and money for those who help animals.

I spent two weeks at the wildlife rescue project. It was really interesting and so amazing being so close to the animals. I learned a lot of things from Gavin the coordinator such as how to make enrichments for the animals, how to take care of the kuskus or the lories, etc. The days are based on the same routine but every day is different.

Group testimonial from a group of 4 high school students, Nicolas Pizzo, Jun Wei Huang, Harry Goertz & Jackson Neil Emerson, who joined for a week in March 2018:

Volunteers in Orangutan enclosure Indonesia

Our group came to the Wildlife Rescue project to make a difference in the protection of endangered species.  We can safely say after leaving that we did just that.  By helping create the different enrichment and activities that the animals used on a daily basis, we could see first-hand how our work and time was worthwhile, as it was clearly stimulating for the animals.  In addition, working to help ‘greeneries’ the Orangutan enclosure was very rewarding, as we could see immediately after we left the impact it had on the general excitement and energy that the Orangutans had.  Overall, our entire group felt that the project was a great place to volunteer, as we really felt that we had made a difference.  My favourite moment has to be filling the Orangutan enclosure with greenery and seeing them play and swing around, knocking down all the palm fronds.

Quote from Jackson: “Honestly the week I spent at the Wildlife Rescue project was possibly one of the most moving and generally incredible weeks I have ever had. There was literally nothing I could fault it on from the people to the activities it was a truly wonderful and enriching experience. I could not recommend it highly enough as words can’t encapsulate it properly"

Lisa Schreiter volunteered from November 2017 - January 2018:

The only expectation I had when I came to the Wildlife Rescue project was to help in every possible way. In the
beginning when I heard stories of some of the animals, I was shocked and sad how bad they were
treated by humans. It is different when you read about these kind of things, than when you look right in to their eyes. Even more important is it to be a part of the change because the world is full with sad stories.

The project is a great place to learn about the different species and the struggle they have all in their natural habitat. Every day the team is doing their best to create new enrichments for all of the animals and all the volunteers can bring new ideas to give them a little exercise before they can enjoy the food.

It’s a nice feeling to see how your own idea works. One of the things I will never forget is that I’ve learned so much about the different personalities. The facial expressions, gestures and how they live together in a group. So many things in common but we are too blind to see. It was a great opportunity to be a part of the Wildlife Rescue project and I would do it again any time.

Brent Hendrikson, volunteered from October to November 2017, and brought this great long essay on his time at the project:

When you decide to go join the Wildlife Rescue project, your life will change. I know this sounds like the biggest cliché ever, but I experienced it myself. The biggest interest I have is helping animals and saving their habitat. I did a bachelor in biology and after that I ended up in Sulawesi. Of course, it was scary in the beginning, because I was alone, did not know anyone and I am going to the other side of the world for an unknown period of time. But fear makes me feel a life, and sometimes you have to face your fears to get the best experiences in life.

The evening I arrived, I already felt at home and the others accepted me like a family. It does not matter where you come from or how old you are, everyone is accepted by the other volunteers. Actually, it is a good thing that everyone is different, because everyone can bring their own input in the work we do. Besides the other volunteers, there are working local people that feed the animals and clean the cages. The locals are really nice and although they could not speak English very well I had a good relationship with them.

When I was looking for a place to volunteer, I did a lot of research. I knew that some places are not helping the animals, but you are just spending your time in some kind of tourist attraction. When I found the Wildlife Rescue project, I knew immediately that this was the right place. The ultimate goal is to reintroduce the animals in the wild and this is not possible when we treat them as pets. They are all wild animals and they are treated with the respect they deserve.

For the safety of the animals and the volunteers, there is a hands-off policy. The keepers will clean the cages and do most of the feeding. What we do, is making enrichment, and this is just as important as cleaning or feeding. Enrichment will stimulate natural behaviour in the animals, like searching for food by the use of smell, or getting a peanut out of a bamboo stick. You can be very creative with this, that’s why it is a good thing that everyone is different. The staff will listen to every idea and give you feedback. For every animal we make different sorts off enrichment, because every animal shows different behaviour.

There are many animals in the Rescue Centre, from loud Birds to Bears and from large Cassowarys to the cutest Cuscus. I love all animals but monkeys fascinate me the most, and there are a lot of monkeys at the centre. It hurts me a lot to see all these animals in cages, and I wish one day people will care more about animals so that rescue centres are not needed. But unfortunately, today is not that day and sadly enough, animals are in cages. But this gives me a huge motivation to help the animals in any way possible, and in this place that is by making them enrichment, make greeneries for their enclosure and picking the tastiest flowers for them.

You are busy all day, from the morning to the afternoon. And sometimes, when the slow lorises needed extra care I went out there in the evening. It is hard work but there is no job that is more satisfying as helping animals and thereby creating a better version of yourself.

The project is located in the jungle so there are a lot of animals on the terrain like insects, geckos, snakes, spiders, tarsiers and one time we even saw a civet! There are a lot of beautiful trees, bushes, flowers and jungle strings. Surrounded by jungle, animals and the ocean you will feel at home. Of course, it is warm, humid and there are a lot of mosquitos, but you will get used to it.
It is not a luxurious place, don’t expect hot showers or meals other than rice. All the money they do have (and believe me they should receive a lot more to build bigger cages and give the animals better and more care) goes to the animals. Humans are the reason animals end up there in the first place so it is our duty to help them.

On free days, you are free to do whatever you want. You could rest at Tasikoki, chill in a nearby resort, go to the beach and what I like the most is exploring the surroundings. And beautiful nature, there is: dense jungle, big waterfalls, white beaches and breath-taking sea life. I went on several snorkelling trips, did some free dives and I got my PADI licence! The project has connections with several dive resorts. Sulawesi has one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world and a lot of special, native fish. Snorkelling or diving in these places are extraordinary experiences and you will never forget this. Many people go to Bali or Thailand (I have been there too) but the coral reefs there do not even come close to the amazing coral reefs in Sulawesi.

I could easily say that I learnt just as much volunteering at the project, as during my 3 years of biology studies. The people there taught me so much and I have a lot of respect for them. I am blessed that I could work here and I will take this experience with me as long as I live. 

I wish we could free all the animals, but it is much more complicated than I thought. It is an issue of money, government, local people, not enough knowledge and deforestation. Because of this, some animals will stay at the rescue centre forever. Some of them are better off than before (for example monkeys that have to dance or ride a bicycle for their owner), but it is still not enough and we are responsible to take care for these animals. So, if you are thinking about joining the project, I hope you will do it. I know for sure that you will not regret it.

Rebecca Nolph, from the USA, joined the project as a volunteer in 2016:

Growing up, I always wanted work with animals (primates in particular) in some sort of capacity. During my time on Sulawesi, I learned about conservation, preservation, and rehabilitation. From gathering food for animals to creating enrichments to the extensive process of releasing rehabilitated animals back into the wild, I gathered a plethora of knowledge about this world with which I was now a part.
I also learned about the palm oil industry and how it is destroying habitats all over Indonesia. I now pass that knowledge onto nearly every person I meet, detailing what it is and why products with palm oil should be avoided at all costs. Every day at the project, I worked to help make the lives of the animals better, and it made every single day I was there so meaningful. Since returning to the United States, I have continued helping animals in my local area through other volunteer opportunities, and I look forward to continuing this kind of work throughout the rest of my days. Thank you to everyone working there for making such a huge impact on my life!

Steven Stillwell volunteered at the project in Spring 2015:

This was my first time travelling alone internationally and thanks in no small part to the volunteers and staff at the rescue center, it became one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I got to participate in meaningful work, caring for endangered animals threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, while at the same time living in a foreign country whose culture and way of life was vastly different from my own. The support from the staff helped negated much of the stress that comes from solo travel and functioned as an amazing safety net for anything from visa and immigration issues to helping arrange transportation around the island.

The project recruits volunteers at an international level which means you have a chance to meet and make friendships with people from all across the globe. Sulawesi is a beautiful island and is home to some of the best scuba diving in the world. While I was there I got the chance to learn to scuba dive. Most people learn to dive in swimming pools. I on the other hand got the same training while diving in coral reefs located right off of tropical beaches. In short, if you want to live in a foreign country, doing important rewarding work, while at the same time meeting different kinds of people from all over the world than this is an opportunity that you simply can't pass up.

How to Join the Project

Volunteers and Staff at Rescue Centre

If you are interested in volunteering in Indonesia, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post). To secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form, including your application payment of £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However, for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid two months before arrival. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on the project, safety, Indonesia, suggested items to bring etc.

Apply Now

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