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Volunteer in Indonesia with International Volunteer HQ

Volunteer in Indonesia

Volunteer in Indonesia with International Volunteer HQ on the island of Simeulue and support volunteer opportunities that are focused on island conservation and community development. As an eco-minded surf resort, Simeulue is 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.

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 two 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 a mile (1.7 kilometers).

Island Conservation

For volunteers with a passion for conservation, the Island Conservation project offers the possibility to assist with a wide range of activities that aim to help the ecosystems in Simeulue and surrounding islands. Volunteers should approach this program with an open mind, as volunteering activities will vary greatly depending on factors such as weather, season and the length of your volunteer trip. Being flexible will allow you to make the most of your time by contributing to different initiatives, learning new schools and seeing different parts of the Indonesian ecosystem.

While volunteering is a core aspect of this program, you will also have the opportunity to get involved in holistic wellbeing activities such as yoga, gardening, surfing and other aspects of island life.

Volunteers can expect to be involved in some of the following:

Beach Cleans: Removing rubbish and clearing debris to reduce the amount of waste in the ecosystem.

Reef Surveys: Volunteers work alongside oceanographic organizations monitoring coral abundance and quality in order to increase understanding of coral reefs, coral bleaching and climate change.

Plastic Recycling/Upcycling: Supporting various recycling initiatives to help mitigate local plastic pollution.

Camera Trapping: Monitoring island species by setting camera traps and collecting, analysing and recording the data to assist with local conservation efforts.

Community Education: Supporting English language development for local children and providing cross-cultural learning opportunities. Lessons teach a basic English vocabulary with environmental and conservation themes.

Bird Surveys: Collecting information to measure the increase or decrease in species diversity and population numbers across the large variety of endangered and endemic birds.

Bangkaru Island Eco-Adventure and Turtle Conservation: If you spend two or four weeks on the IVHQ Island Conservation project, you will have the opportunity to spend time on one of the most remote and pristine islands in the world. This involves dedicated time on Bangkaru Island assisting with a range of turtle conservation initiatives led by a local government conservation agency. Volunteers can be involved in overnight and morning patrols to find and monitor turtle numbers, and helping to prevent turtle poaching. The turtle nesting beach is a 40-minute hike through dense jungle with steep and sometimes slippery climbs.

Time spent on Bangkaru is demanding and physically challenging, and volunteers are required to have a high level of fitness. The trip to Bangkaru involves an overnight ferry ride and it’s important to note that the island is very remote and has extremely basic facilities.​ As a result, this placement does not tend to be suitable for children and families opting to volunteer on this placement can choose to stay on Simeulue if preferred. The length of time volunteers spend on the island can vary and will be agreed on at the program orientation, though is subject to change based on a range of factors. Volunteers are required to be flexible, especially in instances where poor weather requires you to relocate back to Simeulue.

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

Mincau and Babi Island Conservation: Volunteers assist with newly introduced turtle conservation initiatives. Tasks involve scoping and initial baseline surveys in order to gain an understanding of turtle numbers on the islands and the threat of poaching. Volunteers also 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 from Medan to Simuelue, at 12:45pm, volunteers should plan to arrive in Medan on the Sunday before your program starts, no later than 10.45am. Volunteers arriving in Medan prior to the Sunday will need to book your own accommodation, and, if required, 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 meet one of the friendly local team members who will take you to the volunteer accommodation and show you to your room. You will then be free to explore the resort. After dinner on Sunday, your program orientation will begin. As part of the orientation process, the local team will work with you to arrange your volunteer schedule for your time on the program. Volunteers can opt out of Bangkaru Island placement if you choose to.

The volunteer schedule is not a typical Monday through Friday work week. You should expect tasks and activities throughout the week, including weekends. Daily hours vary depending on the activity, for example night patrols on Bangkaru Island. The schedule should be viewed as a guide only, as it is subject to a number of influencing factors and can often change at late notice. Volunteers are required to be flexible in this regard.

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 the Acehnese people after a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2004. 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, dubbed ‘The Peak’, and is backed by a steep hill which has an abundance of clove, nutmeg and lime trees.

Simeulue has WiFi available between 7am-5pm, however it is extremely slow and unreliable. We recommend bringing an unlocked phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive on the island so you have access to mobile data.

Bangkaru Island: The living conditions on Bangkaru are very basic. 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. Toilet and washing facilities are also very basic. Volunteer should expect bucket showers and squat/pit toilets​. You are also requested to help conserve water by limiting shower times, as resources are scarce.

On Bangkaru there is no internet access or phone communications. There is a satellite telephone on site in Bangkaru for emergency communication, however it is unavailable for personal use.

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 and holistic wellbeing experiences to enjoy on both Simeulue and Bangkaru in your free time. Most activities will be included in your daily schedule, though some may incur rental or tour costs. There are also many beautiful hikes and river walks that can be explored, plus waterfalls that are only a 30-minute drive away. You can also opt to take a walking tour through one of the local villages, exploring the local shops, cafes and mosques.

Surfing, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding: 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 conditions are often calm and perfect for surfing. This makes our volunteer location a year-round surf trip destination. The main attraction is known as “The Peak”, and is the most consistent surf break on the island, right in front of the volunteer accommodation and viewable from all rooms and common spaces. Equipment hire is available at the resort.

Local Forest Foraging: Throughout Simeulue, there are a number of edible wild foods that provide local people a sustainable source of nutrition. As part of the program you’ll have the opportunity to learn about sustainable harvesting and traditional food sources.

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 and again in the afternoon. The sessions are led by a professional yoga instructor and volunteers are welcome to join in at no cost. No previous yoga experience is necessary!

Coconut Tour: aluan is a sustainable organic coconut oil producer based on Simeulue. They run an environmentally friendly operation, which is different to other, more invasive producers on the island. In partnership with IVHQ’s local team, aluan aims to prove that sustainable business is possible and 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 discuss how this is achieved.

Organic Gardening: Spend time learning about organic and permaculture principles in Mahi-Mahi’s organic permaculture garden, alongside local staff and occasionally children.

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 take you to the local market. The bustling market is a great opportunity to take photos and learn about the different types of food, clothes, fish, fruit and vegetables, and any number of weird and wonderful things that might be on sale that day.

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.

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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