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Volunteer in Indonesia with International Volunteer HQ

Volunteer in Indonesia

Volunteer in Indonesia with International Volunteer HQ on volunteer opportunities that are focused on island conservation and community development. Volunteers are based out of a eco-minded surf resort on Simeulue Island, a beautiful tropical paradise off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. With low volunteer program fees and top rated volunteer projects, you will not find a more affordable and trustworthy volunteer travel organization in Indonesia.
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Watch IVHQ volunteers abroad in Indonesia

At a glance…

  • Available year-round
  • Special island conservation volunteer project
  • Program based within a conservation resort on Simeulue Island
  • Program fees include return flights from Medan to Simeulue, airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
My husband and I wanted an experience with our children that was meaningful and fun. We chose the IVHQ program in Simeulue, Indonesia because of the focus on supporting local communities in the areas of social enterprise, environment, education and conservation. The tropical climate, white sand beaches, surf breaks and natural beauty of the island made it a very special destination. Our volunteer program was well considered and diverse, which meant our children were super engaged with the experience. The accommodation and facilities allowed us to relax and enjoy some quality holiday time in Simeulue as a family. We would highly recommend this volunteer program.
IVHQ Volunteer - Sophie Braggins
Sophie Braggins
Nationality: New Zealander
Age: 34
Destination: Indonesia
  • Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Indonesia to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
  • Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Indonesia will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
  • Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
  • Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
  • Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
  • New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
  • Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Indonesia with your new-found friends.

The IVHQ Indonesia volunteer program is based out of a eco-minded surf resort on Simeulue Island, a beautiful tropical paradise off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Volunteers are required to fly into Kualanamu International Airport (KNO), which is a 16 to 18 hour flight from most major airports in Canada.

The volunteer program begins on the first and third Monday of each month, and you can choose to volunteer for 1, 2 or 4 weeks.

If you are volunteering for 2 weeks or longer, you will have the opportunity to participate in volunteer work on Bangkaru Island. The island is located to the south-east of Simeulue within the Banyaks archipelago. Bangkaru is an uninhabited island with untouched primary rainforest, adjacent to white sand beaches fringed with coral reefs. Here you will be conducting sea turtle patrols on Amandangan Beach (turtle beach) which stretches for 1 mile (1.7 kilometers).

Island Conservation

Volunteers on the Island Conservation project have the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the ecosystems in Simeulue and surrounding islands.

Simeulue is west of the island of Sumatra and is a small, isolated island. Volunteer work on this program is different to other IVHQ programs due to the challenges of working in a remote tropical location where sudden thunderstorms can change plans within minutes. This requires the project to be flexible in the way it is run and volunteers need to adapt to changing schedules.

Volunteers work in collaboration with and on behalf of our local team through a number of initiatives. Depending on the length of your volunteer program, you could be involved in:

Beach Cleans: Volunteers help to remove rubbish and clear debris from beaches to reduce the amount of waste in the ecosystem.

Reef Surveys: Volunteers work alongside oceanographic organizations monitoring coral abundance and quality. This work is done in collaboration with CoralWatch; a not-for-profit citizen science program that works with volunteers around the world to increase understanding of coral reefs, coral bleaching and climate change. After each reef survey, data is fed into CoralWatch’s global data set.

Plastic Recycling/Upcycling: Plastic pollution is a serious problem in Indonesia, where discarded plastic is not often recycled. Volunteers use various recycling techniques, including developing a plastic recycling factory.

Camera Trapping: Camera trapping is used to identify animals inhabiting Simeulue and monitor population fluctuations. This information aids animal conservation efforts and provides important feedback around how different protection methods are performing. Camera trapping is an exciting way for volunteers to collect data, with high anticipation and reward for capturing animals on film. Volunteers are involved in all stages from setting camera traps, collecting tapes, analysis and recording findings.

Community Education: Volunteers support English language development in schools and provide cross-cultural learning opportunities for students. Work is alongside a member of the local team, which operates an onsite school for local children on Fridays and Saturday afternoons. Lessons provide a basic English vocabulary with environmental and conservation themes.

Bird Surveys: Simeulue is home to a large variety of endangered and endemic birds. Volunteers play a vital role in collecting information to measure the increase or decrease in species diversity and population numbers.

Local Forest Foraging: Throughout Simeulue, there are a number of edible wild foods which provide local people a sustainable source of nutrition. While learning about sustainable harvesting and traditional food sources, volunteers play a key role in collecting and preparing these foods for local children. Although a fertile island, food security and health is still a real issue on Simeulue. By providing healthy free meals collected from the forest, volunteers can build an awareness of food availability.

Bangkaru Island Eco-adventure and Turtle Conservation: Volunteers who join the Indonesia program for two or four weeks will have the opportunity go to one of the most remote and pristine islands in the world. Volunteer work can be on a number of different initiatives as part of a turtle conservation program on Bangkaru, working with a government conservation agency and the incredible Aceh organization HAkA.

The trip to Bangkaru involves an overnight ferry ride and a speedboat out to the island. On the ferry, volunteers have a private comfortable volunteer dorm room with all the facilities required, while the speedboat ride is 4 hours on a simple local boat.

The living conditions on Bangkaru Island are basic. Volunteers are accommodated in dormitory-style rooms with basic amenities and can expect to share a room with one or two other volunteers. Although the camp has some facilities, toilet and washing facilities are very basic and may be challenging for some.

Volunteers can be involved in overnight and morning patrols to find and monitor turtle numbers and help prevent turtle poaching. The turtle nesting beach is a 40-minute hike through dense jungle. The path often has to be cut through bush with machetes, features many muddy puddles and steep and sometimes slippery climbs. This is not a placement for the faint hearted!

The daytime will mainly be spent resting and preparing for night patrols; however, you may be required to assist in marine debris clean-ups and environmental surveys, as well as some camp management such as keeping communal areas and rooms clean and tidy.

This is a demanding placement, and while there is no set age limit or fitness requirements, volunteers are recommended to have a high level of fitness and should be aged between 13 and 60.

On the return trip from Bangkaru, if weather allows, you’ll stop off at Tailana Island for one or two nights. The island is known for its snorkeling and has some of the best coral reefs in Aceh. On Tailana, volunteers help collect reef samples which can be used as comparisons to the reefs on Simeulue.

Mincau and Babi Island Conservation: Mincau and Babi are two islands within close proximity to Simeulue; it takes 45 minutes on a boat to get to Mincau and 90 minutes to Babi. Landing on the island itself can be difficult, and often involves a small swim to the beach. Life jackets will be provided and assistance given to volunteers who require it.

Volunteers will assist with the setting up of ranger turtle conservation programs in these locations. Much like the program on Bangkaru, these will involve employing local rangers to patrol the island to eradicate poaching. Volunteers will assist in scoping and initial baseline surveys, in order to gain an understanding of turtle numbers on the island and level of poaching threat.

While on Mincau and Babi Islands, volunteers participate in beach cleanups and reef surveys. Even the most remote Indonesian islands are struggling to deal with rubbish that can cause real damage to the ecosystems and wildlife.

Please book your flights to arrive at the Medan, Kualanamu International Airport (KNO). The local team will arrange your flight from Medan to Simeulue. As there is only one flight per day at 12:45pm from Medan to Simuelue, an overnight stay in Medan may be required and our local team can assist you with booking this. The round-trip flight cost from Medan to Simeulue is included in your Program Fee.

Once you arrive in Simeulue, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation.

Orientation is hosted by our Indonesia team at the volunteer accommodation on Simeulue Island. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Indonesia – introduction to Indonesia, culture and customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities, introduction to volunteer project and different placements.

Orientation: Upon landing, you will meet one of the friendly local team members who will take you to the volunteer accommodation. Here you will be shown your room and you are free to explore the resort. After dinner, your orientation to the program will begin.

During orientation, our local team will arrange your volunteer schedule and planned outline, but as we realize that the Bangkaru adventure is not for everyone, you can adjust this as required.

The volunteer schedule can easily change for many reasons out of the local team’s control, so flexibility is crucial. This schedule will also vary depending on the particular aspect of the project the volunteer is participating on any given day.

The below schedule also does not apply on the Bangkaru Island experience.

A typical volunteer day on Simeulue Island:

7.00 AM Breakfast is served at the volunteer accommodation.

9.00 AM Volunteers typically begin activities for the day on the Island.

12.00 PM Lunch is served at the volunteer accommodation.

1.00 PM Volunteers resume work on the Island.

7.00 PM Dinner is served in the communal area at the volunteer accommodation.

Simeulue: Volunteers on Simeulue will be accommodated in restored ‘Tsunami Houses’, dwellings supplied as aid relief to Acehnese post the 2004 earthquake. These have dormitory-style bedding arrangements, so you can expect to share a room with one or two others. The resort overlooks a world-class surf break, ‘The Peak’, and is backed by a steep hill which has an abundance of clove, nutmeg and lime trees.

Pulau Bangkaru: The living conditions on Bangkaru are basic but comfortable. The accommodation is surrounded by jungle and fronted by a white sandy beach. Volunteers are accommodated in dormitory-style rooms with basic amenities and can expect to share a room with one to two other volunteers. You are requested to help conserve water by limiting shower times, as resources are sparse during dry season.

WiFi is available Simeulue between 5pm-7am, however it is extremely slow and unreliable. We recommend bringing an unlocked phone and purchasing a SIM card when you arrive on the island. There is no internet access or phone communications on Bangkaru. There is a satellite telephone on site in Bangkaru in case there is an emergency, however it is unavailable for personal phone calls.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided on the program. Vegetarian diets can be catered for and we ask that you make a note of any special dietary requirements in your application form, so our local team can prepare for your arrival. On Simeulue, the local team offer western fusion cuisine, whilst on Bangkaru we are completely self-sufficient and this offers more locally-orientated meals. Indonesian cuisine commonly consists of rice, fish, vegetables, noodles, beans, and pasta. If you are vegetarian, it may be wise to bring vitamin tablets, or other food supplements to meet your dietary needs.

There are a range of activities to enjoy on both Simeulue and Pulau Bangkaru in your free time. While volunteers can enjoy the surfing, yoga and tour options below, there are also many beautiful hikes and river walks that can be explored, plus waterfalls that are only a 30-minute drive away. Or, opt to take a walking tour through one of the local villages, exploring the local shops, cafes, and mosques.

Further afield, Minchou Island is a 30-minute boat ride from the volunteer accommodation and is one of the best beaches in the area with snorkeling, white sand beaches, and a secret cave to explore.

Surfing: You are welcome to enjoy the world-class waves on your doorstep in your free time, along with snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding down the Sumatran river. Situated in the doldrums just above the equator, Simeulue is not affected by trade winds, meaning winds are most often light, gifting favorable conditions for surfing. This makes our volunteer location a year-round surf trip destination. The main attraction is “The Peak”, the most consistent wave on the island right in front of the volunteer accommodation and viewable from all rooms and common spaces.

Yoga Session: Part of the local team’s approach to holistic sustainability, is to maintain personal wellbeing. Yoga is practiced twice daily – once in the morning at 7am and once at 4pm. The sessions are led by a professional yoga instructor and volunteers are welcome to join in. Yoga is a tool used to develop a greater appreciation for not only ourselves, but for our surroundings. By practicing every day in our beautiful Joglo (a traditional Indonesian shelter), surrounded by jungle and the beach, it provides a space to create an environmental awareness and positive mindset. No previous yoga experience is necessary!

Coconut Tour: aluan is a sustainable organic coconut oil producer based on Simeulue. It’s clear that a lack of work opportunities is forcing people into extractive industries. We’re seeing first hand that forests and wildlife are disappearing, fuelled by ongoing demand for unsustainably sourced palm oil. Without examples of businesses like aluan being successful, banks and politicians won’t offer their services. So aluan, in partnership with IVHQ’s local team, aims to prove that sustainable business is possible. As part of your volunteer experience, you will have the opportunity to visit the aluan factory on Simeulue for a guided educational tour. aluan aims to develop sustainable supply chains from forest to consumer, and the tour’s theme will be to discuss how this is achieved.

Local Town Tour: As part of the volunteer program, it’s great to get a feel for the local culture by visiting thriving local places including Simeulue’s main town , Sinabang. Your guide will drive you through the city center and bring you to the local market. The bustling market is a great opportunity to take photos of a truly local marketplace, as well as learn about the different type of foods, clothes, fish, fruit and vegetables, and any number of weird and wonderful things that might be on sale that day.

Capital Jakarta
Population 237.42 million
Languages Bahasa Indonesia
Currency Indonesia Rupiah (IDR)
Time zone UTC+07:00

Weather and climate: In Simeulue and Bangkaru, the rainy season is between September and January, although being so close to the equator, the weather can be highly variable. If you are volunteering during this period, make sure you bring a reliable rain coat and some warm clothing. The temperature can get to 18°C during the night and up to 30°C during the day. Patrols do not get cancelled during rain, so be prepared to get wet on occasions. The dry season is predominantly between February and August. Be prepared to get hot and sweaty. However, always be cautious and abide by the local dress code.

Dress Code: When leaving the volunteer accommodation, make sure that you dress modestly. This means no bikinis or tank tops (t-shirts are acceptable), and trousers should cover the knees. On Bangkaru, the dress code is less strict. There are beaches that are ok for sunbathing and bikinis. However, be considerate when you are around the local staff.

All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check.

English is the spoken language on the IVHQ Indonesia volunteer program. While community development initiatives within local schools will be carried out in English, some of the younger children will only speak Bahasa Indonesian. Fluency in Indonesian is not a prerequisite for the program, however we recommend that volunteers learn some basic Indonesian prior to departure, as this can help immensely in communicating with local people.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
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Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
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