Elephant Care and Research - Volunteer Reviews

SOUTH AFRICA

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Jerrene - 2017

“Really enjoyed the project. I loved the elephants they are such amazing and interesting animals.

The project in South Africa was interesting and very useful in collecting data on the elephants. South Africa is a beautiful country and all the people the volunteers dealt with were very kind, helpful and professional. Of course the elephants were outstanding and wonderful animals. They all have different personalities and look different from one another. It was truly the best thing to be able to interact with them. We were able to help them with enrichments, food and other assignments to benefit their lives at the sanctuary. I feel extremely lucky to have gotten this chance to be around these majestic animals.”

Rebecca - 2016

“After 3 weeks my partner and I are sat in our living room, Alex getting ready for work, and we are not quite sure if the past three weeks actually happened or if it was just a really good dream. Because getting to spend each day walking alongside and observing the elephants, whilst exploring the sheer beauty of the surrounding area is the stuff of dreams. However, this placement is not for the faint hearted. Big animals = hard work so be ready for manual labour, early mornings and all night long observations during each week. A love for animals is required due to the accomodations several (very cute) cats, the park owners also own chickens, about 5 dogs and a huge lizard which you may see and the area that surrounds you contains hundreds of birds, ducks and geese, lots of zebra and 9 beautiful elephants, 2 of which are in their own area and 7 of which you will walk with everyday and learn to recognise within the first week. This may sound impossible but the fantastic staff at will share their helpful hints that allow you to disinguish between the rlrphants in order to collect the vital research data. The landscape outside the park is stunning and offers multiple opportunities for day-long hikes, trips to the beach, and adrenaline sports such as canyoning, abseiling and bungy jumping. So if you have a love of animals, are fairly fit and are prepared for hard work then this placement is definitely for you. An unforgettable experience.

What did you find most rewarding?
Seeing how happy the ellies were after spending hours making enrichments

What did you find most challenging?
Being able to fit all the activities we wanted to do into each weekend!”

Emma - 2016

“The actual placement was absolutely amazing! The staff , guides and locals are very nice. It is hard work and there is always something to do but it worth it if you genuinely care for elephants. I would reccomend taking much more than 200 pounds converted as all restaurants, beaches, activities and villages and a taxi away and the average taxi cost is
around 233 rand per person. The pod company is good just ensure you read everything properly as some things are vague. If anyone wants to mail me on Facebook about my experience you are welcome to ask questions and I can tell you from experience what you need, my name on Facebook is Emma Ronan , thanks

What did you find most rewarding?
Seeing the elephants cared for and being happy

What did you find most challenging?
Meeting people who have much less than me but give their all, very admirable but was challenging as it was difficult to comprehend

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Hard work! Great results +experience”

Sam – 2015

“I have absolutely loved my time in South Africa. I really wish I had booked for longer.
I will definitely be returning as the experience was second to none, the staff there are all fantastic, the volunteers I was with are now all new friends and the elephants are truly magnificent... I will definitely be returning.

What did you find most rewarding?
Spending time in the fields with the elephants and guides.

What did you find most challenging?
None of it was a challenge, I even didn't mind the early starts

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Go for it!!!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others?
Yes! They seemed the best from the ones I looked at.

I would like to thank Pod for everything they have done and Erin for her assistance throughout the process.”

Shannon – 2015

“Where do I even began? I decided to embark on this trip to 1. Experience all of the perks everyone raves about when traveling to a far away country alone 2. Help the greater good of elephants every where and to learn and spend time with them.

With those two points in mind, this was the best decision I have ever made. I was able to meet a lot of awesome people from all over the world. Also, on the weekends we had plenty of time to go explore South Africa outside of the park.

Working with the elephants day in and day out for four weeks was incredible! I really felt as if they were a true friend by learning about each personality everyday. Working with the guides and the staff was also a plus. Dr. Debbie's passion for the research was contagious and the guides were so knowledgeable and were a pleasure to work with.

I am truly honored to have experience such a remarkable trip and cannot wait to go back!

What did you find most rewarding? The opportunity to work with the elephants every day in the field was the most rewarding. Each day I learned something new and seemed to really get to know each individual elephant.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do NOT pack so many clothes! I packed a bunch of work shirts and field clothes, they give you work shirts to wear like a uniform.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! A friend of mine went to Thailand to volunteer for the Elephant Care project. She highly recommended it so I knew I could trust it and it would be a guarantee positive experience.”

Mary – 2015

“This trip was the best experience of my life. The scenic walk from the lodging to the elephants every morning was peaceful and beautiful. Being among these amazing creatures was a dream come true.

You might think that being with the elephants all day could become boring - but they are magnificent, charismatic and fascinating - and the research you are doing makes the day go by too fast.

The work we do is fun, sometimes hard, but always energizing. The other volunteers and the staff were wonderful and amusing! I would do this again in a heartbeat.”

Bastiaan – 2015

“The Elephant Care and Research project is my second project I did with POD Volunteer and for a second time I have not been disappointed. The support from the team in the UK has been sublime and all local arrangements have truly been spot-on.

Having been able to contribute in the research and care of these magnificent animals fills me with pride and working together with other volunteers has been a tremendous joy. The weeks truly flew by and with a blink of an eye you are already on your way back.

I highly recommend this project but be aware, this is not a holiday!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It is my second project I have done with POD and so far I have not been disappointed. I am already looking forward to my next trip.”

Eleanor – 2015

“It's an absolutely incredible experience and one that I would definitely recommend to anyone considering doing one of these projects. It was such an honour to have the opportunity to work with elephants and to have helped with the research that will hopefully go on to make their lives a lot better. Going on this trip was one of the best decisions I've ever made and my only regret was that I couldn't stay longer

What did you find most rewarding? Being a Zoology student I found that getting to take part in even just a small part of the research incredibly interesting and seeing how the research is then put back into making sure the elephants get the best possible care they can is very rewarding.”

Hannah – 2015

“I would just to like thank POD and the team at the park for providing elephant lovers like myself such an amazing and life changing opportunity.

I cannot describe the feeling of the first time when you get to meet and touch the elephants, it’s truly magical. When you start out you see 7 elephants, but once you finished you see 7 individuals who you can identify straight away. Each have their own characteristics and I loved every single one of them for different reasons.

You do really feel like you are making a difference for not only these elephants but other elephants in captivity. The research was varied and getting to spend most of the day out in the field with elephants not one day felt like a day of work.

It's also great to meet lots of other people who have a passion for elephants like yourself and you become very good friends with many of them. The guides’ knowledge of the elephants is inspiring and I have learnt so much about these intelligent beautiful creatures.

The weekends were also great with lots of activities and places to go you never get bored in South Africa. It is probably the most beautiful place I have visited. I would highly recommend any elephant lovers to do this project it is something I will remember for the rest of my life!

What did you find most rewarding? Knowing that we were making a difference to elephants in captivity and helping provide them with a better future.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! POD volunteer provided a lot of information about the placement before and during. I also found the reviews very helpful as it was good to get an idea of what there was to expect and what other people thought about the project. Before the project POD (especially Erin) were very supportive and would answer any questions or queries I had straight away.”

Daniela – 2015

“This was the most amazing experience in my life. From the amazing staff at the park to all of the wonderful friends that I came to consider family, I would do it all over again if I could.

Meeting the elephants was a dream come true and being out in the field with them every day was something you will not be able to experience anywhere else. It's a feeling of magic and peacefulness I never knew existed.

What did you find most rewarding? Knowing how your volunteering work actually plays a role into the welfare and wellbeing of the elephants.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving the center! I wanted to stay forever.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I found it while researching and the website drew my attention. I can't thank you enough for all of your help in making this trip come true; it honestly was one of the happiest moments of my life being with the elephants and all of the friends I made were incredible. You have been nothing but attentive, helpful, and encouraging throughout this process and I want to thank you so much for that!”

Rosie – 2015

“Well, this project has been truly amazing. However cliché it is to say, I really have realized what I want to do with my immediate future after being at the park. As many of the girls I met whilst there, this was my first time travelling on my own. I thought that this would be the perfect place to start my travels and I was right. As soon as you arrive at the airport you make so many new friends. We ended up having "family meals" on the weekends.

Needless to say I went because the conservation and protection of elephants is very important. Not only does this volunteer project let you help a group of very special elephants live in a semi wild environment, you have the privilege to watch them interact together and see how intelligent they are. Being able to see the close relationships in the herd is amazing. After a few weeks you can clearly distinguish between each elephant, not just by appearance but by behaviour. Even if you don't know much about elephants, you learn so much and all the guides are willing to provide information on anything you ask. There is such a good atmosphere at the park, and being around such amazing, beautiful creatures has been the best experience of my life so far.

Not only is the park amazing and rewarding to work on, but there are limitless choices of what to do in your free time. There is information on taxi companies provided at the park, so transport is not a problem. Whatever you want to do, there is probably an option available. From bungee jumping, sky diving, canyoning, snake sanctuary, monkeyland, big cats sanctuaries, safaris, hikes to beaches and shops. You’re never alone when you want to do something and it will honestly be adventures you will never regret.

What was a typical day at the project? Each day would start at 6.30am. We would all walk to the boma (where the elephants sleep at night), about 20 metres from the bunk house where the volunteers stay. You walk in and wait until the elephants are taken out to be fed. The weight never bothered me, as the elephants are usually right in front of you, reaching through the bars to grab any food off the passing guides. All the guides that work with the elephants day in and day out meet in the boma before the day begins. It was very special seeing the clear bond and watching the trust between guide and elephant.

What did you find most rewarding? Hands down getting to work in such close contact with the elephants, helping improve their environment and welfare is the most rewarding thing you can do. Simply watching them together and grazing out in the field lets you know that the work of the volunteers is still effective, Tourism is obviously a major part of the park, and the elephants on the park have to live with it 7 days a week. Seeing the impact the passion of volunteers contributes, you see how it helps the elephants stay free among the vital yet damaging industry of tourism. Each of the 7 strong herd that work with the tourists are rescues from culling programs, other parks or orphaned as you calves. This park has given them a safe, loving environment they can live and grow in. They are semi captive and semi wild, so they can still go where they want during the day and graze where they choose. If they are not in the mood to have tourists around them they will make it clear and the guides will try to leave them in peace for the day. It’s one thing looking at pictures of elephants and watching programs on tv about them, but there is nothing like being close to an elephant.

Looking into the eyes of an elephant is indescribable. The depth of emotion and understanding there is so intense; it’s hard to look away.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I was searching for short volunteer placements including animal projects. I know about the state of elephant cruelty in Asia at the moment and wanted to do something for the conservation of animals, not just putting them in a zoo. I have also wanted to go to South Africa for a long time, and the elephant research and care project ticked all the boxes. I was drawn to the fact that it was conservation based and the project seemed to be working in all the right directions to help elephants with a balance of captivity and wild behaviours. PoD also offered an easy layout of projects, with lots of information and help with organizing your trip. As my first time travelling, this was invaluable to me, and they were incredibly detailed with the information booklets. They also happily answered any query I put to them, however stupid it may have sounded.”

Paula – 2015

“My placement at Elephant Care & Research Project in South Africa completely exceeded my expectations!

This was a dream come true for me. The help and information I received from Erin @ POD completely put me at ease, Erin was always there if I had any questions, no matter how small.

If you have been thinking of 'Volunteering' overseas but haven't done so because you are unsure then please, let me put your mind at rest and go for it! You will not regret it and POD are there for you throughout.

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day would be starting at 06.30 in the Boma and would entail carrying out research/data activities during the day in 2 hour intervals where we would collect data on the Elephant's behaviour (this was my favourite part), making paper/cards/gifts from Elephant poop which would be sold in the curio shop, the day was always varied and would also include evening/night observations in/outside the Boma too.

What did you find most rewarding? For me, the most rewarding was being able to observe the beautiful elephants and just watch, I felt privileged to be able to contribute to the research.

What did you find most challenging? I wouldn't describe any of it as 'challenging', however it can take up to a week to recognise each individual elephant.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go for it! You will regret it if you don't.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I carried out some extensive internet research before choosing POD and they certainly came out on top, feedback, awards etc.”

Jenni – 2015

“As a 65 year old this is my first experience of volunteering and I have to say it was the most fantastic thing I have ever done and would highly recommend anyone who has always wanted to do something like this to take that giant step and go for it.

It was good to know I had back-up from Pod and I have to say their help in getting started on this journey was invaluable and I now have the confidence to look to other projects for the future.

I just had the best time of my life - what else can I say.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a life changing experience which is of benefit to the projects you visit.”

Colin - 2015

“After reading the Volunteering Guide I downloaded from Pod I went to the facility in South Africa with an open mind and was amazed how true every part of the information was correct in every detail. Pod must be congratulated on their professionalism. I would say to anyone and at any age group if volunteering is your interest do it as long as your reasonably fit. I'm soon going to be 73yrs old and I was working alongside all age groups without any problems as we were all their for the same reason trying to make a better life for the elephant population. I was so amazed with my experience I am going back next year hopefully.

What did you find most rewarding? I think the most rewarding feeling you get is that you are making a difference in the care of elephants through the observations and data collected completing the research needed to help the elephants of the future.

One thing about South Africa you have to expect the unexpected, and need to be open minded but this in its self makes it more of an adventure and it sure teaches you to be patient and chilled out.

Why did you choose Pod? The level of advice given - a very professional group of people making opportunities for those wanting to get into volunteering projects.”

Timothy - 2015

“A most enjoyable experience with a goal to meet new people and friends. The elephants are something very special and it was impossible not to fall in love with them, the country and the people, especially those involved at the park. The project involves hard work with special rewards and as a volunteer we were made to feel welcome and valued, would I do it again? Sure I would, for longer God willing, a truly memorable time that I will never forget.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? If you love and care for the world you live in why not give up a little of your time.”

Emma - 2015

“Not to quote nike but just do it! It doesn't matter how much it costs - as long as you have the money it will always be worth it. Had the most incredible time with the elephants. I one hundred percent have to do something like this again.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I heard from researching it that unlike some 'charities' most of the money goes back to the charity and that Pod is very transparent about where the money goes. Thank you for your part in facilitating the best experience of my life.”

Alisa – 2014

“I had a fantastic time - really was amazing and I didn't want to come home!! If you are considering whether to join this project I would highly recommend that you do!

I had never done anything like this before but I really did have the time of my life. I was both very nervous and excited before I went but once I got there I realised I had nothing to be nervous about. The volunteer co-ordinators and other volunteers at the project were all really friendly and helpful and made me feel welcome straight away.

Also, before I went Erin at Pod was very friendly and helpful and answered any of my questions (however daft I thought they might be!). I thought the support I received from Pod before, during and after my experience was fantastic and I would definitely recommend them to anyone considering volunteering at a project overseas.

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day at the project started with cleaning the boma at 6.30 in the morning. This involved removing all the branches that the elephants had stripped the bark from the night before. Then you would have a break before the next shift which could be monitoring the elephants’ behaviour in the field, monitoring the behaviour of the bachelor herd in the orchard or camp, making dung paper or entering data.

All the shifts were in 2 hour blocks with breaks in between and you get a 2 hour break for lunch. After lunch you could be back out in the field monitoring the elephants behaviour and this could be either monitoring the behaviour of Sally's herd or concentrating on the activity of one elephant. The day would normally finish between 5.30 and 6.

Once a week you would be on an early morning or late night boma observation as well and I really enjoyed doing the night boma observation as it meant I got to see some of the ellies fall asleep!! The shifts changed daily and I thought it was done really well as everyone had a go at everything and the days were always quite varied.

What did you find most rewarding? There is no other project that does research on semi-captive African elephants, and I feel very privileged to have been able to help care for these gentle giants and help with the research to understand their behaviour.

What did you find most challenging? Every few weeks new sawdust got delivered for the boma which meant the old sawdust needed to be shovelled out and the new sawdust wheel-barrowed in. I found this quite challenging (mainly on my arm muscles!!) but it was all worth it as otherwise the ellies would not have a clean place to sleep.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? If you are considering doing this placement my advice would be to do it!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? I think it is a fantastic opportunity to volunteer abroad, as you get to help make a difference with the projects and you can also explore the area in your free time.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I chose Pod as the website seemed to be set up really well and all the reviews about the project and the support other volunteers had received from Pod were extremely positive. I would definitely recommend Pod.”

Shelli – 2014

“When I was a little girl I saw my first elephant and fell in love. I have always thought they are the most beautiful interesting and gentle giants ever. My 50th birthday was October 20, 2014 and I knew I wanted to celebrate in the best way so I researched working hands on with elephants. My search brought me to POD and I will never regret the decision to volunteer in South Africa. The people of the country are absolutely lovely and I made so many new friends.

The elephants are the icing on the cake. When looking into their beautiful brown eyes and know they are looking right back at you still gives me goose bumps. I will never forget the first time an elephant, Shungu, touched me when his trunk. It was the best feeling and he is adorable. By the end of my stay I could recognize the elephants and I knew their personalities.

Thank you for making my dreams come true. I hope to volunteer again next year and every year after! It is truly an experience not to forget!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I loved the stories and the professionalism of Erin. She responded to all of my emails promptly and answered all of my questions.”

Laura – 2014

“I had a marvellous time and felt that I contributed to a worthwhile cause. To me being close and personable to ellies was a "dream come true" They do read your hearts and have a deeper understanding that we can ever imagine.

One must have a passion for elephants as all the tasks that one undertakes is for the benefit of the elephants there - from mucking out to making dung paper. Everyone that works at the park is so friendly and you can have as much interaction with the elephants even when off duty.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding for me was the all night observation when I was allocated a slot after midnight and I could observe the ellies sleeping and eating in their Boma. It was so lovely to see them asleep and to hear them snoring - such a delight.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Honesty and understanding of questions asked. Excellent pre and after service and during the placement as well. The cost is reasonable.”

Laura – 2014

“Choosing to be a part of this project was the best decision I have ever made. I have never done anything like this before, I shouldn't have been worried, all of the staff at the park are so welcoming, friendly and fun and the other volunteers equally so.

I quickly made friends and became settled at the park. I was given a variety of jobs to do including collecting data by watching the elephants, data input on the computer, cleaning the boma and food bowls or weighing fruit. I had such a giggle with the other volunteers, it didn't feel like work. We all shared a love of elephants and we all felt blessed to be there and knew it was a special experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad offers great experiences, a way to open your eyes to new things and it is a fantastic way to meet people from different countries and cultures.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I chose Pod because I liked the layout of the website, they are a not-for-profit organisation, they genuinely seem to care about their projects and other people's reviews were good.”

Camitra – 2014

“There isn't any experience like this. It was simply amazing, yes at times hard work but being in such close proximity to elephants made it absolutely worth it. This was the first time I have ventured into something like this and I am already looking forward to doing it again.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Fear is temporary, regret is forever. Go with an open mind and you will absolutely love it.”

Annika – 2014

“I had an amazing time at the park and loved every minute of my placement. The support from the co-ordinators is great and everyone makes you feel very homely and welcome. The ellies are just amazing, and you get to know them so well as you spend time with them nearly every day (apart from Fridays and weekends maybe but that’s completely up to you as you always have to chance to go out into the field).

All in all I can only recommend this project to anyone who wants to get out of their comfort zone and experience a whole new thing. I have done lots of travelling before but this truly was something different!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I liked their website and the way the project was described from the start and they also seemed very bothered about each and every volunteer.”

Harriet – 2014

“The overall experience of my trip to South Africa, from the organising with Erin at Pod, to working with the lovely elephants and park staff, was truly amazing. It couldn't have been any better. I was travelling out there on my own which could have been extremely daunting, but everything was brilliantly organised and I felt supported by Erin and the co-ordinators at the park.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Make the most of your time in the park if you're there for a short period as the time goes very quickly! Get involved with tasks and enjoy being out with the elephants at every chance.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering is extremely rewarding and you get to meet some amazing people. It adds a depth to your trip which you may not get from just 'travelling'. Find a project you're passionate about and get involved!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Pod was one of the first websites I found - their project looked perfect, and the reviews of the project and Pod, as a company, were great. I contacted them there and then and Erin was extremely friendly and helpful - I didn't need to look anywhere else.”

Sammy – 2014

“This trip has been the best experience of my life! I met so many great people that have become great friends! It really opens up your eyes, you see there’s so much out there in the world, just makes you want to travel more!

Working with elephants interacting with them in a natural setting is honestly a once in a lifetime experience, you become so aware of their actions and each ones unique personality! You can even tell which elephant is which by the unique features each one has its amazing!

I’m so glad I chose South Africa, it’s beautiful, you have beaches, mountains, and the bush, its honestly the whole package and I wouldn’t change my decision coming here for a second!

What did you find most rewarding? The whole trip was honestly rewarding itself. I can’t really describe how much this trip has impacted me and changed me as a person.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Get ready for early mornings and hard work! Even though its hard work its enjoyable because it’s all for the well-being of the elephants!

Why did you choose Pod? I chose Pod because they were very helpful, they were always in contact with me and prepared me very well for this trip!”

Jo – 2014

“Volunteering with elephants is something I have wanted to do for most of my life and after procrastinating for months I decided if I didn't book something now I would never do it. I researched a lot of different opportunities with various charities, wanting to choose the right one (this is the only time I will ever get to do this after all!); this project sounded like it offered a great mix of hands-on encounter whilst participating in important research to ensure the welfare of captive elephants, and from reading other testimonials POD sounded like a very professional and supportive charity.

I wasn't wrong on any count - the application process was very smooth and the POD team have been really great keeping in touch in the run up to, during and after my placement. And the project itself - walking out into the beautiful park with magnificent African elephants every day for four weeks was a dream come true. Getting to know the herd, with all their individual personalities and identities, working with like-minded volunteers who all love elephants and stay up chatting for hours about them, exploring South Africa on the weekends and falling in love with the country; it was very hard to come home!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It looked a very professional organisation and the testimonials backed that up. I was confident I would get the support I needed and I did.”

Anna – 2013

“This was an unbelievable experience and totally unforgettable. Not only was it amazing to work so closely with the elephants and get to know them, but it was also great to get to know the staff and guides at the park.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! As a young traveller, I was cautious of volunteer programs where support was not explicitly mentioned. Pod was very supportive and encouraging, and provided me and my family with all the necessary information and more.”

Kayleigh – 2013

“The 4 weeks I spent at the project were absolutely amazing from start to finish. From meeting the elephants on the first night to watching them out in the field every other day, I genuinely wouldn't have changed a thing and the people around me only made the experience even more memorable.

What did you find most rewarding? Just being so close to the elephants on such a regular basis, and feeling like I really got to know their individual personalities. I also learnt so much from talking to the guides in the field; it was never boring out there.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving! Even though some of the work was quite physically challenging, like changing the sawdust in all the elephants' pens, it was good to be busy and not at all too difficult when everyone was working together.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Pod seemed so professional and helpful from the very start and the project was exactly what I was looking for, the obvious choice.”

Mary-Jane – 2013

“My time volunteering in elephant care and research in South Africa is something that will be forever in my memories. The experience was magical. All my expectations were met, and much more. It was fascinating living in the elephant park being surrounded by such majestic animals and getting to know them really well. I was instantly made to feel really welcome on arrival at the park, and it was great to meet so many people from all walks of life. A very thought-provoking experience and I would not hesitate to sign up again as soon as I have the time!

What did you find most rewarding? Feeling part of a team and knowing that our help was making a difference to both the elephants' welfare and also those who work full time at the park.”

Sara – 2013

“This project was amazing!!! The people were absolutely great and of course the elephants were the best part. Being able to spend hours in the field with elephants in their natural environment is a feeling that is indescribable. Everyday gets better and better. You start forming a bond with all these elephants and start to learn their personalities and by the time you leave you have a favorite that you want to see and interact with every day.

Being able to walk out to the field for the 8:30am field obs was my favorite time of the day because usually the elephants are down in the valley with no tourists and it’s so beautiful seeing them just "being elephants". To be touched by an elephant is something you truly feel down to your soul.

The bond you make with the staff and guides is amazing as well. You are out in the field with the guides for at least 4 hours a day and you start to get to know them and joke around with them. They are really amazing resources and have a wealth of information to provide you about the elephants and other wildlife of South Africa. They are around the elephants all day every day, they know these elephants as closely as they know their own family. The staff are so helpful and amazing to work with. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be working around every day.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding feeling is knowing you are there for the elephants. The level of care these elephants receive is simply amazing and to know you are being a part of that care is a great feeling you can take back with you every single day.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? If you go in the winter, bring a lot of warm clothing. It gets very cold at night and in the morning and you are going to need it.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I choose Pod because of the great feedback I read on their website and the professionalism I received when I inquired for more information.”

Elli – 2013

“The gift of volunteering through Pod for the Elephant Care and Research park is more amazing than you can imagine. The idea of traveling to into the wilds of South Africa working with elephants sounds incredible, but it’s not until you step foot into the shoes of a volunteer that you truly grasp the intensity and appreciation of the program.

Every new day becomes better than the day before as your bond between the elephants, guides, coordinators and other volunteers grows stronger. The first moment you stand out in the field in awe of the beauty that surrounds you, you’re frozen. The first embrace you receive from an elephant touches down deep into your soul and the love you feel for them soars. When waking up at 4:30 a.m. to do observations excites you, because there is nothing more peaceful then the sounds of them sleeping. Volunteering through Pod for the Elephant Care and Research park isn’t just an incredible opportunity, it’s a gift to yourself that will last a lifetime.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's truly the best gift you can give yourself. There wasn't a single volunteer there that regretted going and all of us wished we could stay longer.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I choose Pod because a friend of mine recommended it. I have traveled quite a bit and I will say that Pod is extremely organized and takes phenomenal care of their volunteers. There was always an open line of communication, very thorough information packet and support throughout the entire process.

Thank you for offering this out to volunteers of all ages and professions. The mix of personalities was great and wonderful friendships were formed due to the incredible diverse group of individuals there.”

Michael – 2013

“What a fantastic time I’ve had at the park, it really has been the best experience of my life – what a difference to my normal day job of working with computers! Awesome to just be able to watch these beautiful elephants each day. I find the time went really quickly as the work is quite varied and we’re kept busy, but we also do get time off. The area is great too with plenty of other activities to do.

The older elephants are brilliant too and I’ve very much enjoyed being out in the field with them and watching their behaviour – I loved the day when about 6/7 monkeys appeared and Thatu thought it would be great to chase and trumpet at them! I wouldn’t say I have a favourite as I think they’re all such individual characters that are all remarkable in their own way.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Be prepared for hard work, but it's more rewarding than anything

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Thank you for organising a great time, and for such fantastic support - couldn't fault it.”

Anne – 2013

“Life here is wonderful! This has been a dream come true. There is a good mix of tasks that allows you to not only interact with the elephants but also with the staff so that you get a real sense of all that goes into caring for the ellies.

What did you find most rewarding? The best part of this project is being touched by an elephant. It will change you forever. To look into their eyes and feel their crinkly, spiky haired trunk on your arm is an experience like no other. To walk in the field with them fulfilled my lifelong dream.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I liked the website and so many volunteers left such positive feedback. When I sent an email, Erin responded promptly and was very patient answering all my questions!”

Devi – 2012

“How’s life at the project? I am literally having the best time of my life !!! I love love love it here, the people are soooo lovely and friendly and welcoming. As for the elephants . . . well they are just gorgeous. I love them all. Thank you so so so much for making a dream come true !!! You are an Angel. This really is a life changing project, an absolute dream come true !

If you are in two minds as to whether you should pick this project or not, I'd say "Just Go for it!" Working with The Ellies was just amazing! Literally a life changing experience which I would highly highly recommend for everyone. You will not be disappointed. I loved it.

What did you find most rewarding? Everything ! But especially interacting so closely with the elephants. I loved and adored hand feeding them.

What did you find most challenging? Inputting the Data was time consuming more than challenging but I think that was more to do with my poor IT skills!

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Take plenty of layered clothing, wellies if weather is bad and then just enjoy every minute!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a brilliant thing to do!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Quite simply The Best Web Site on the internet.

Just an extra special "Thank You " to Erin at Pod for being so kind, caring and efficient and to Laurie and Abbey at the project for being so absolutely lovely . You have all been stars and made my dream come true xxxxxx”

Elaine – 2012

“Words truly not describe how amazing my time at the elephant park has been. Not only did I learn so much about the elephants, but also about the country, the culture and the people. The people and friends I have met are equally as special as the gentle giants that are the elephants. I have fallen madly in love with the energy and spirit of South Africa and will return as soon as possible. I have memories and friends I will remember forever. I am utterly in love with SA!

There is so much more to life here than elephants, it is the people that will truly touch your heart. To really know a country I truly believe volunteering/working there is the best possible way…you are mixing and meeting the people of the country and not just the cliché tourists in a hotel…which can be found in every generic hotel in any generic city in the world. The staff/handlers/guides etc are some of the nicest most interesting people you will meet. They know so much about each of the elephants, so with them on your side; your time with the elephants will be easier and all the more interesting and fun.

What did you find most rewarding? Finally being able to apply my studies of Animal Management to real life work...this placement has confirmed to me that this is the path I need to take in life to be happy.

What did you find most challenging? Sharing a room and not really having any true privacy or space.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? I would recommend this placement to anyone who is serious about working animals and wants extreme in depth hands on experience...it's not for the faint hearted or slackers! Make your placement as long as possible. Embrace everything, leave without any regrets. Make the most of every second because your time will pass by so quickly. Go Whale Watching, Safari, bungee jumping and sky diving, or dancing and singing at open mic night…do whatever makes you happy! Make friends and memories in South Africa and try to go home without regrets!

Whatever your reasons are for coming here, I can guarantee you will leave here a better person with priceless memories that will follow and enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! The agency has a strong reputation and many years of experience. Thank you for helping me with this amazing adventure, I have been blown away at how organised and easy it was to work with Pod”

Helen – 2012

“Finding a volunteer project that suits your needs is hard! But Pod made it so easy; the Elephant Care and Research project suited me down to a tee.

Pod staff made it easy to organise and were always quick to reply to any queries I had. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Elephant Park and would recommend this project to anyone with a real interest in observing these gentle giants, rather than having a hands on experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It’s an amazing experience where you get to meet new people in the same situation as you, and make friends for life.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It was simple and quick to apply for a position at the centre, and all information needed was given.

The time at the project and the help from Pod was amazing. No complaints at all!”

Alice – 2012

“I was away for 2 months working with 12 amazing elephants at the Elephant Care and Research project in South Africa. The elephants are basically your neighbours. The volunteer work was based on their welfare and conservation. The work consists of being out in the field studying the elephants’ general and social behaviours.

What did you find most rewarding? Getting to know the elephants. Elephants aren't animals to give you immediate respect and attention. When they do, it shows that they trust you and it's an amazing experience to have.

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? If you are going for a holiday which happens to have elephants in it, this isn't for you. To get the most out of it you need to be willing to work hard. They are long days, but you also get 2 hour shift breaks in between field shifts (observations) or other activities. The project is close to the beach and other animal reserves. The people who run it are extremely welcoming and if you are wanting to use you're weekends to travel around they are willing to tell you what is worth seeing.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? I didn't really know where to start on the volunteering aspect around the world. I looked up volunteering online and Pod came out with the best reviews. Thank you for helping me arrange it all. It was an amazing experience and one I would recommend to anyone.”

Sarah and Luciano – 2011

“Our time spent at the park was truly amazing. As a volunteer you are involved in all aspects of the elephants care and well-being. It gave us a true insight into the herd dynamics and psychology which we would never have gained any other way. Truly recommend this project!

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? If you want to learn more about elephants and you are not afraid to get your hands dirty or to do physical hard work, then book this project it is so rewarding.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes. We just wanted to say thanks for all your help and that we had the most amazing time!!!”

Nicky – 2011

“Once in a life-time!!!! The Elephant placement was brilliant! I was a little worried prior to arrival that as I am over 50 it might all be a bit too much hard work as many volunteers are much younger. And yes, it is quite physical, and the days do start early, but the team were really appreciative of us (I went with my sister) and adjusted a couple of things to accommodate any restrictions / barriers we encountered. Though no change to the early start time each day!!! That is dictated by the elephants!!!

Very, very friendly staff, who made us one of the family: in a very short time and were so generous with their knowledge and time. Plus the elephants. What can I say? Awesome, gentle giants, who allowed us a brief entry to their world. I cannot explain how their presence and energy affects you!

With so many projects to choose from, no one should ever have to lie on a beach surrounded by a thousand other folk for 2 weeks, Go Pod!!

What did you find most rewarding? Spending so much time up close with the elephants and learning so much from the guides and the research team.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Even though you are only there for a short time, you are collecting valuable raw data for the research.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? My sister found out about Pod, but ever since I have been telling all my friends and colleagues and they have been interested and I will be looking to do another project in the future.”

Kathryn – 2011

“The whole experience was beyond amazing; the most amazing experience of my life!

What did you find most rewarding? Being with the elephants everyday and getting to know so many people from different cultures.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Pod was very helpful and answered any questions I had. I would recommend them to everyone of all ages.”

Georgina – 2011

“Volunteering with elephant research was and will be an everlasting experience. This experience provides a rich wealth of knowledge gained through direct field experience, learning from the elephant handlers and gaining insight plus the unconditional support from Dr. Debbie. A truly rich and three-dimensional experience.

What did you find most rewarding? Being part of every aspect of conservation and research from mucking out pens to field study to learning from those who live and breathe the elephants. Being with the elephants and their handlers.  Having the big bull elephants walk past you, just inches from your face, leaving you to feel completely small and vulnerable as these pre-historic like mammals move by with grace, softness, power and majesty!

What did you find most challenging? Saying goodbye and leaving a part of you behind.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering - if you let it - stretches your personality and builds character. You learn and gain deeper perspective on life and where you come from. You come back with so much more than what you originally expected.”

Valerie – 2010

"My 4 weeks as a volunteer with the elephants have been more than wonderful. Having the chance to work every day with 12 elephants is something that I will never forget. It is truly touching to realize that after a few days, they begin to recognize you. During my 4 weeks I had the chance to do several things; feed a 2 and a half year old elephant with a bottle, spending whole days with the herd in the field to study their behavior, preparing some of their daily meals, helping to prepare their fruit, informing tourists about the elephants .. and much more! I'm happy because I learned a lot during my stay in South Africa, and I take with me millions of unforgettable memories!

What did you find most rewarding? When the elephants recognise you and to take part in the research

What did you find most challenging? The hot African sun!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it's amazing to have the chance to work with an other culture in an other country. You learn so much about everything"

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal