Volunteering in Malaysia: 2 Months in the Jungle

Dusky leaf monkey - Volunteering in Malaysia

In spring of 2013 we came to Malaysia for the first time. We had just finished cycling across India (it took us 5 months). We were running out of money. But we didn’t want to return home. So we decided to go and try volunteering in Malaysia.

And now, two and a half years later we came back to Malaysia. Back to Langkawi. Again – to volunteer (to find volunteering gigs we use Workaway). Well, actually yesterday was our last working day. And now I’m writing this to tell you how was it. In total this time we spent in Langkawi almost two months. Living and working in the jungle.

On a wave breaker in Langkawi - Volunteering in Malaysia

On a wave breaker in Langkawi, Malaysia

Why Malaysia? Why to volunteer in Malaysia?

Similar like last time we chose Malaysia as our starting point in Southeast Asia partly because of its immigration policy. It’s very easy for Latvians to travel to Malaysia. For a stay of up to 90 days you don’t need visa. And you don’t need to show an onward or return ticket, or anything else.

Another reason, why we chose Malaysia, was because of Workaway volunteering opportunities available in Malaysia. Choice here, in our opinion, is more interesting than in neighboring countries. And judging from the descriptions Workaway’s in Malaysia are better. With this I mean – better living conditions, better work organization, more experienced hosts.

That’s judging only from the descriptions!

But, yeah, initially we weren’t planning to volunteer at all. We had done a research (just in case) and that’s it. Because we both had remote jobs at that time.

And then, a week before our flight to Malaysia… we both lost our jobs.

So, maybe then it was a good decision to travel to Malaysia first?

Kaspars with a chainsaw - Volunteering in Malaysia

Kaspars with a chainsaw – Volunteering in Malaysia

Volunteering in Malaysia: Langkawi island

Last time we were volunteering on a yacht and a farm. Then we lived in the middle of the island, in a local neighborhood. This time we volunteered in a family run holiday villa rental business. Just 2 kilometers away from the most popular and touristic part of Langkawi – Pantai Cenang (Cenang beach) – but at the same time in a very secluded area, with a jungle all around us.

Thanks to the latter we saw wild animals daily. If before, in 4 months spent in Langkawi, we didn’t see any dusky leaf monkey, then now we saw them every day at least once. And not just a few of them, but a whole 15+ member family.

In the last couple of years Langkawi has been constantly growing. Area of Pantai Cenang in particular. There is a lot of construction going on. And animals are running away from development. But here, on this tip of the island, it’s still like in old days. With just a couple of villas in the jungle, and that’s it.

From the very first minutes here I could clearly understand, why everyone both on Tripadvisor (guests) and Workaway (volunteers) like it here so much.

Because it’s so peaceful! And these views…

View from our parking in Langkawi - Volunteering in Malaysia

View from our parking – Volunteering in Malaysia

What were our responsibilities?

Most of the time we spent in the jungle. At first we were preparing a land for a couple of new houses. That mostly meant dragging away already cut trees and branches, to put them all in one separate place. For a few days we were cleaning the beach. Another half of the time we were building stairs from the top of the hill, from our villas, through the jungle and to the private beach.

You know, now I understand, why in the movies they go through the jungle with machetes and why they move so slow. You simply can’t go through the jungle fast. Because jungle is so DENSE.

It was hard, but we liked it

Work was hard, especially because we hadn’t done anything similar before, but we liked it. Not in the first days, though. Then the same like in the Netherlands, working in a factory, all we wanted after work was to eat and sleep for half of the day. That tired we were at first.

Later on we got used to psychical work, heat, jungle and to work in heat. And then we could see the positive sides of this volunteer work as well. Spending a big part of the day outdoors is cool. Working here you always feel like a part of the family (your opinion is heard; everything is fair), which is something very important for us. We always knew, how long exactly we are working and when are our days off. If we worked extra, then we got extra days off.

It may sound like something obvious, but unfortunately not all Workaway’s are like this. Luckily we have had mainly good experience.

What you can learn from us – always ask questions before agreeing to volunteer. Ask about everything, that isn’t clear for you. Accommodation. Food. Work. For how long you can/should stay. Location. Public transport. Activities near by. Anything, that is important for you.

And now, after 2 months in the jungle, we are ready to move on. To new adventures!

In a couple of days we are heading to Thailand. And another week later together with 6 of you, our online friends, we will start an overland trip from Bangkok, all the way across Malaysia, to Singapore. In March I’m going to Nepal. But in April we plan to travel overland from Istanbul to Latvia.

Una in the jungle - Volunteering in Malaysia

Una in the jungle – Volunteering in Malaysia

P.S. If you are interested, where exactly we were volunteering, this is the place.

Author: Kaspars Misins

Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.