5 Coolest Places to Volunteer in Indonesia in 2017-2018

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Where to volunteer in Indonesia

With seventeen thousand islands comprising the huge picture-perfect country of Indonesia, it hardly needs stating that those looking to volunteer here aren’t short on options. With volunteer opportunities including everything from working alongside orangutans to lending a hand in projects in tiny Ubud communities, a stint of volunteer work in Indonesia is certain to leave you with fire in your belly as you get to see some of the most magical natural places on earth.

5 Coolest Places to Volunteer in Indonesia

Add into the fray weekend activities, like catching some waves and setting out on a jungle adventure, and you’ll find that volunteering in Indonesia ticks two important boxes: do gooding and do awesoming, that is, getting to hang out in some of the world’s coolest places.

Here are the five coolest places to volunteer in Indonesia in 2017 or 2018:

1. Bali

One of Indonesia’s veritable superstars, Bali is no longer the unpolished, “hidden gem” that it might once have been. But as a country that’s left a mark on many a traveller (Ziggy Stardust, aka David Bowie requested that his ashes be scattered here) and risen to global consciousness thanks to its depiction in “Eat, Pray, Love,” those looking to volunteer in Bali are guaranteed an incredible time.

Let’s be honest, helping out in one of nature’s finest paradises feels far more like play than work. Just image the scene: you trek out to Bali’s fertile mountains and to teach English in Indonesia in one of the communities here; tiny villages that are surrounded by the rich red berries of coffee crops.

Or maybe you join a project where you help construct schools in villages in the Ubud district of the island and can barely catch your breath at the sight of the silent, glimmering rice paddies seeming to merge into the sky right before your eyes. Either way, volunteering in Bali is enough to leave you questioning your senses but in a completely awesome way.

Sprawling rice terraces in Bali
You won’t Balieve just how much volunteering in Indonesia will change your life.

You probably know that this island is one of Asia’s top surfing destinations, but kill two birds with one stone (well, not literally) and head out to the coast to volunteer in Bali on a Green Sea Turtle conservation program, and your weekends can be spent catching waves or diving into Bali’s incredible coral reefs. Not only do these oceans contain over 500 species of reef building coral (a number so incredible it’s seven times more than those found throughout the Caribbean), but the area is literally brimming with hawksbill turtles, hammerhead sharks and the weird but wonderful bumphead parrot fish.

Although the streets are filled with backpackers in search of Bali’s secrets, it’s not hard to escape and find your cultural fix here. With influences stemming from Indian, Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, there’s plenty to keep you busy, particularly thanks to the estimated 10,000 temples dotted around the island. Seriously, Bali has it all.

2. Java

Made almost entirely from land spewed out of multiple volcanic eruptions, Java is a country rich in wildlife, historical accents contrasted with modern touches, and booming cities. One of the most important is Jakarta on the northwest of the island. The Indonesian capital might not seem the most obvious place to volunteer in Indonesia when you’re faced with such a slew of projects throughout this incredible jungle paradise, but don’t write Jakarta off just yet. It might still be in the caterpillar stage of its metamorphosis, but it is well on its way to emerging as something astounding.

sunrise on the beach in Java
Every day as a volunteer in Indonesia you can wake up to a wonderful, warm, welcoming cup of Java.

As the meeting point of people from all of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, it’s certain that all volunteers are charmed by the diversity and vibrancy of Jakarta. Whether it’s in the incredible flavours on display in Chinatown, the bohemian cafes scattered across the city, or the humbling experience of seeing the capital’s poorest neighbourhoods infringed upon by highrise buildings, reminded of your social conscience, you’ll find plenty to see, do, and volunteer with in Jakarta. You’ll definitely find plenty of volunteering opportunities working with rescued wildlife in Jakarta, and the rest of Java. If you’ve got six or twelve months to spare, then Jakarta may be the place for you to volunteer in Indonesia, particularly if you’re contemplating taking a gap year before college (psst seriously, we recommend it!)

[Insider Tip: While you search for opportunities to volunteer in indonesia, save and compare your favorite programs with MyGoAbroad to help you find your very own slice of paradise.]

3. Sumatra

Say the name “Sumatra” and images of idyllic, lush tropical rainforests and volcanoes probably spring to mind. Although you’re not far off with those wistful imaginings, the reality of this island needs to be seen to be believed. Sun bears, elephants, the (charmingly cute nocturnal primate) slow loris, and of course, the star of the show, the orangutan, inhabit these wild shores, making Sumatra an incredible place for wildlife volunteering in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, it’s not all plain soaring through the treetops for these cute critters; Sumatra has lost 50 percent of its tropical rainforest in the past 35 years due to illegal logging and palm oil production. As a result, volunteers are always needed to work to conserve fragile habitats upon which these precious animals depend.

close up of tiger in the jungle in Sumatra
Make a difference in habitat conservation as a volunteer in Sumatra.

Sumatra is also the only place on the planet where you tigers rub shoulders with rhinos, orangutans, and elephants, so there are plenty of conservation projects suited to whichever type of incredible wild animal most floats your boat. One of the most exciting is the chance to work with endangered Sumatran elephants while living alongside indigenous communities whose way of life hasn’t changed for centuries. Wowsers!

4. Borneo

The rainforests of Borneo or Kalimantan as it’s known by the locals take some beating. They’re believed to be over 140 million years old and contain thousands of species of plants and animals, some of which are only found on this island. If you want to volunteer in Indonesia in a truly unique and mind-blowing location then just stop right there, because Borneo’s for you. Seriously, read reviews of previous participants’ experiences volunteering there to get an idea of quite how incredible it can be.

But, that’s not the only reason why Borneo is certainly the coolest place to volunteer in Indonesia. It’s one of the only remaining habitats on Earth for the Borneo orangutan so, you’ve guessed it, volunteer roles are primarily focused on educating local people about protecting the rainforest and the habitat of this incredible primate. Unfortunately, huge swathes of Borneo’s towering jungle have already disappeared so it’s really now or never when it comes to volunteering in Indonesia; just take your pick from any of the island’s six national parks and help save one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

close up of Borneo orangutan in the trees
Get into a little monkey business as a wildlife conservation volunteer in Borneo.

What’s more, Borneo is best suited to the most intrepid at heart. With an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in the west and centre of the country, volunteering in Indonesia is certainly quite the adventure; just don’t worry, the indigenous Dayak tribes (formerly known for their head hunting ways) who still inhabit deep, isolated parts of the jungle are far more welcoming to visitors these days.

5. Sulawesi

Despite being the eleventh largest island on the planet, Sulawesi remains a lesser known part of Indonesia’s incredible array of jungle wilderness, where rare primates swing through treetops beneath plumes of smoke gently issuing from ancient volcanoes.

Unfortunately, not all animals in Sulawesi are able to answer the call of the wild, which is why volunteer projects in this part of Indonesia are often in rescue centres for animals caught up in the illegal trading of wildlife between Indonesia and the Philippines. Give these poor creatures a new lease of life by helping to support the vital work of these projects.

woman carrying seagrass harvest in basket on her head off island coast in indonesia
Set your heart on making a difference in Sulawesi.

But beyond the wildlife, there’s plenty of island culture to be soaked up thank to the numerous indigenous groups that still inhabit communities across the region ready to be visited on jungle tours. You can also expect to spend afternoons lounging on white sand beaches and diving in some of the clearest waters imaginable too thanks to Sulawesi’s incredible coastline bejewelled with thriving stretches of reef.

Ready to volunteer in Indonesia?

You are the best. Seriously. Wherever you pick (and we know it’s a tough decision with so many awesome choices), volunteering in Indonesia is the stuff that dreams are made of, particularly because lending a helping hand literally makes you one of the best people in the world. It also open you up to some life-changing experiences along the way. What more could you ask for?

So start searching for and saving programs, read up on reviews, send in your application, dust off your adventuring shoes and passport, and go out there and do some good.

Find volunteer work in Indonesia here!