Elephant and Wildlife Conservation - Volunteer Reviews

SRI LANKA

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Elephant and Wildlife Conservation project

Matthew – 2018

“Had a very fun, enriching and educational time. The scientists teach you lots about the activities you are doing, the work the society is doing and about the behaviour of the elephants. You will be sure to see some elephants, though it can be variable. We saw loads during my first week and far less during my second. But when you do see them it is really spectacular! 

The day is split up well, with a long break in the middle when the temperatures are too high and the sun is too harsh to be outside in. Your morning activity will be something physical that changes every day, and your evening activity is simply going out to try to observe the elephants and collect data on them.

The local staff are very fun too; many nights were spent playing Uno with them! The activities themselves are well varied and can be challenging but are never unbearable. My only criticism was that when there are lots of people, you sometimes end up not doing much work as there are too many to split the task between, which leaves you slightly feeling that you aren't doing enough. Some of thetasks could probably have been done by three people and did not benefit from the extra hands (group sizes were usually about 5 people) though other tasks did require as many hands as possible.

Overall I still felt fulfilled with the work I had done. After your morning activity is finished, the day becomes quite relaxed. The only tasks left for you to do are to have a shower (you will need several a day) do your laundry, eat your meals and sit in the jeep/treehouse waiting for elephants! 

It was definitely more chilled out than my previous volunteering experience, so if you are looking for something intensive this might not be for you. 

Though overall, I would highly recommend the project. I had a very memorable experience and came back filled with knowledge and stories to tell!

What did you find most rewarding?
Weeding the orange trees for the local farmers.

What did you find most challenging?
Working in the very hot climate can be quite fatiguing sometimes. You need to be very well hydrated as you will sweat buckets! There were also a lot of bugs around the field house during the evenings and nights, which could make things uncomfortable sometimes.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Don't do it if you are very squeamish around creepy crawlies! Everything in the jungle can find its way into the field house and during my time there I saw a millipede, scorpion, lots of lizards and cockroaches (I shared a bathroom with some) as well as several flying things!

I didn't mind it too much and adapted to it, but be prepared to do the same!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Very transparent with information, made sure you knew everything you wanted to know before you made any commitments. 

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes. Thank you very much for helping me through the process though, your information was very useful and thanks to your work I had a brilliant time!”

Lucy - 2018

“I was involved in the project for a very rewarding and eye opening 2 weeks. Whilst it was challenging at times with more physically demanding activities, the support received throughout and the good that comes from the projects made it so worthwhile.

Getting to help and improve the lives of the local villagers and therefore improve the lives of the elephants was an amazing opportunity and one that I won’t forget. Particularly when we assisted with house rebuilds, it really brought to life the idea of ‘Saving the Elephants by helping the people’.

The highlights of the 2 weeks for me would be getting to visit the National Park where we were able to see the elephants up close, getting to teach English at the local school and create lesson plans and activities for the children. Another great aspect of the project is being able to get hands on with introducing and maintaining projects set up by the team (e.g., The Orange Elephant Project).

The staff and other volunteers were amazing to be around, and it was a great opportunity to meet people from around the world who share the same passion and interests.”

Nyree – 2018 

“The food is fantastic, I really loved the cuisine, and it was tasty and filling. I enjoyed having the experience of eating a Sri Lankan diet & trying new food. The food is cooked to such a high standard by friendly kind and helpful staff.

Seminars with Chandima on Thursday evenings were brilliant, interesting, informative and at times amusing. We learnt heaps about the project, and were always asked for our opinions and listened to.

The house was basic but quickly became home. We referred to it as home when on our way back from a weekend in Aragum Bay. There is a lot of downtime which was a challenge during the first 3 days but after that the work is demanding and the downtime is greatly appreciated. The field house is in keeping with the aims of the project and the culture, this was an important part for me.

Morning Tasks to begin with were more observers but soon we were getting stuck in and offering ideas on how to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently. For me this was a complete contrast to my job at home so I am really thankful for the field experience and being able to get my hands dirty in aid of helping farmers and ultimately the project. I am so grateful that I have been able to help but also learn new skills, knowledge and gain an understanding, something I did not have before.

The Staff all Sri Lankan people are the happiest people I have met. Chandima, Chat and Akila are so knowledgeable and have an excellent eye for wildlife and nose (Chandima said “I can smell elephants” and then they appeared). The research assistants, guides and drivers were awesome and always tried to teach us something or show us interesting things even though communication was not always easy, we all got there in the end. The project staff were accommodating when it came to us leaving for the weekend or getting back to Kandy/Colombo or continuing our travels, they would book vans, find out costs and bus times, we honestly could not have asked for more.

The freedom to roam was not an option which was a shame because the countryside is beautiful but the reasons were for our own safety because wild animals especially elephant roamed freely in the area.

I have had a wonderful life enhancing two weeks here, learning things I did not know, developing a skill set I did not have and meeting people of all ages and cultures. It has been better than I thought it would be. If I had to describe this pure experience I would describe it as a raw paradise!!”

Ellen  - 2018

“During my six weeks with I Iearned a lot about the human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. It is an uplifting experience to help work on projects that are trying to find relief for this problem.

We talked to farmers and helped them by rebuilding houses that were damaged during elephant crop raids or by handing out orange plants whose smell can keep elephants away. I also really enjoyed the school project in which we went to a local school to help young adolescents improve their English skills.

Apart from the social projects I really enjoyed being out in nature to collect data on elephant migration habits and behaviour which is important to find solutions to prevent further issues. In the afternoons we would go to the tree hut and observe elephants who would often feed on the grass in the area and cross the road to go to the nearby lake. It is one of my favourite places since it is the ideal place to unwind and get to know the other volunteers.

I also loved going to the national park to see wild elephants! But my time here wouldn‘t have been complete without the wonderful staff. They didn‘t just take care of us but they also made us feel right at home with their sense of humour, hospitality and positive nature. My time here was filled with warmth, laughter and knowledge.”

Indy – 2018 

“Two weeks I stayed at the elephant project, were two amazing and interesting weeks. I have learnt so much about the animals and the issues going on here. It was a unique experience and would recommend that everyone should do it.

The field house is a cool place to stay and the view is the most beautiful. On top of that, I met so many amazing people. The staff is so kind, friendly and helpful. I had a really good time and laughed so much.

Sometimes it was hard and sad to experience the issues from so close. But I am glad I could help, although I sometimes wished I could do more. 

I want to thank everyone who made this experience as fun, beautiful and informative as it was!”

Camille - 2018

“I spent 3 weeks in this little paradise and this 3 weeks were an amazing experience. I could learn a lot of things about elephants and the conflict between them and the people. This project is very interesting and I really love the way how they protect the elephants: Saving elephants by helping people.

We spent every afternoon in the tree hut, and it’s a very good place to observe the elephants when they are there, I loved it and I will miss this. 

The staffs and all the volunteers are really nice and friendly, we spent a lot of really good moments. I was impressed by the knowledge of the staffs about elephants.
Thank you for the wonderful adventure, I will never forget it!”

Maddy - 2018

“I have had the most incredibly eye-opening and heart warming experience volunteering over the past 3 weeks, it honestly was not long enough! The work the team are doing here is very ethical and just makes sense, helping the elephants by helping the people. I learnt so much from the work we did, it is all researched based tasks that allows you to get down and dirty, picking through dung, scouting for footprints, digging sand traps, this was all right up my alley and I loved every second of it.

During my time we we’re lucky to help rebuild a couple of the houses in the village that had been damaged by elephants as apart of a volunteers initiative. It was hard work but seeing the families gratitude was of course worth it.

My favourite part of my time here was having the opportunity to observe elephants - observing how these incredible creatures doing their own thing in their own environment from the tree huts. Whether it was in thunder storms or intense heat I looked forward to the tree huts everyday, its where I had what could be the best moments of my life just messing around with the staff while waiting to see elephants. It is such a beautiful and natural thing to be up a tree surrounded by a herd of elephants completely in the wild.

But what tops this whole experience off is hands down the crazy cool field house! Its basic living at its finest, completely open and blessed with one of the best shower views in Sri Lanka. I loved every second of my time here and have been heavily motivated to continue along the wildlife conservation path, as you can see from this project that it is so important and worthwhile.”

Erwan – 2018 

“I stayed in the elephant project for two weeks and really liked it because the mission is quite essential, understanding and resolving the human/elephant conflict, and you have the feeling to participate in something meaningful for the environment, the people and the elephants. What I liked the most was observing the elephants from the tree hut and of course seeing them from so close in the national park from where we were parked. It was wonderful to be surrounded by the elephants, to see them moving and to observe them in silence, just enjoying this magical moment.

Volunteering was quite an amazing experience that changed my opinion on a lot of things, especially seeing the villagers living so humbly and always smiling to you and helping you. I would go back to the project for sure.”

Camille - 2018

"I stayed 7 days and I really enjoyed it! The activities were not physically demanding as I expected some would be (to my pleasure) and I learned a lot about the research activities needed to complete all the different projects the organization has in the works which was wonderful. The activities were linked to collecting data and it would be great to see how the data we collect will be used. For example, see previous works accomplished by staff or even participate in further tasks. Outside of the activities themselves, the staff was always happy and very knowledgeable, great atmosphere in the field house, really fun team."

Quian - 2018 

“Thanks for providing this opportunity to me! It is an adventure for me.
The staffs are nice and friendly; especially Akila, who is very responsible and helpful, just like a friend to me, taught me animal knowledge and how to play carom…she is my coach.
The food is good ,I put on weight instead of losing weight. Haha! The accommodation is eco-friendly, which is awesome, I never lived in a house without walls! And the view around the field house is breathtakingly beautiful, I will miss my morning walk when I back home!
I wish I can come back if it is possible, and I wish I can learn more next time!”

Linn - 2017

"Today I had my last day here at the project and I could not have had a better last day. We saw like 20 elephants and they were all so close. Amazing! I have now been here for three weeks and I have had an amazing time here. This is such a great project with really determined people who wants to make a change and preserve the elephants and their habitat. The whole project is very complex and covers a lot of things. When I first got here I thought we would mostly observe elephants, but I love how that was not the case. Talking with farmers about the damage elephants have done, make them feel heard, coming up with solutions such as bio fences, all to protect the elephants. Also analyzing dung to learn where the elephants have been, what they have been eating and other interesting things. The sand traps and camera traps were also very interesting! The project is covering almost the whole problem which is superb!"

Rebecca - 2017

"I have spent 3 weeks volunteering, it has been an amazing time. I have learned a lot about elephants in general and other species, like birds, that live in Sri lanka, and I got aware of the elephant human conflicts. I had the chance to observe elephants in the wild in a beautiful environment. I had the chance to get in contact with local people, getting to learn more about their habits than what a normal tourist does. The conservation work we had to do every day is very interesting, the locations are stunning. The people that work together with the volunteers are really nice and helpful. The field house is placed in a wonderful spot, so the view is amazing as well as the surroundings, and although very basic, it is comfortable enough to live in."

Maddy - 2017

"The conservation project was amazing and a great opportunity that I will remember for the rest of my life. I really enjoyed being able to understand the human-elephant conflict of Sri Lanka and the measures this organization have put in place to reduce it. I have really enjoyed all the activities I got to experience while being here, especially visiting and interviewing farmers as well as visiting the National Park and seeing the beautiful elephants."

Anna - 2017

"I thoroughly enjoyed my week volunteering with this fantastic elephant conservation project. I have treasured this opportunity to partake in such important work as to ensuring the longevity of a healthy elephant population in this region of Sri Lanka. As a volunteer I believe I was well looked after and treated excellently by all staff members and fellow volunteers; which made making friends easy! My overall experience was a positive one which I will never forget! However, I felt as though you may be able to better optimize the man power supplied by the volunteers.

This was my first wildlife conservation volunteer project and such an incredible and joyous experience with you has motivated me to volunteer at more projects like this. I learnt valuable knowledge about the human elephant conflict in this region and hope to use this knowledge in future volunteering. Thank you so much for having me I have had the most amazing week!"

Kitty - 2017

"You will see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world and hear and see some of the most majestic animals and insects in the world. For those who feel this kind of thing might be out of your comfort zone, this is the first time I have done anything more adventurous than camping in a tent for a long weekend, and I’d do it all again, a million times.

I have learnt much about elephants and their behaviors and the history of them living in the same vicinity as villagers. The damage created by both and the process and projects that they have and are putting in place to improve and increase the longevity of both living together. An elephant can smell a bag of rice or a lump of salt from a great distance and will travel across land to get to it. However, they can be persuaded not to by the whiff of a lemon or lime tree…

The project is implementing the planting of citrus trees for the locals and teaching them the importance of why? This is just one revolutionary idea being put in place by the project and their volunteers for how the villagers can protect themselves against the elephants.  

I have been trekking (light trekking) across rice fields to monitor the electric fences. I have met villagers who have welcomed us onto their property to share their frightening experiences of elephants coming onto their land, damaging gardens and crops and homes. I have been to the lake and watched eagles, kingfishers, egrets, bee-eaters, pelicans – to mention a few bird species here. I’ve seen families of elephants with their babies and lone bulls meandering through the jungle living their lives naturally.

Not only have I been educated about the damage caused by both elephants and humans, I have done a little bit to help and by doing so I have had the most incredible time here.
It has been surreal and magical and at times sad. But an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I have met like-minded, honest, caring and funny people and had the pleasure of living in their company while here.  

The staff are very welcoming, super friendly, incredibly informative and helpful – not just with anything connected to the project, but places you want to see and best how to get there. The field house is rustic and basic and you live while you are here as one big happy family. Another fabulous experience."

Mark - 2017

"My experience here has been wonderful. I must say that in my past 19 years, I have not experienced anything like this. Firstly, it was great to learn about why there is human-elephant conflict and how it affects people’s lives. Moreover, I also got to know about the efforts put in to solve this problem in order to protect the elephant population and to create a better living environment for everyone. The various activities such as making sand traps, observing elephants, monitoring fences are really interesting and enriching. Last but not least, people I have met here are great. The staffs are friendly, kind and knowledgeable. I also met people from all over the world. Talking with these people really broadened my horizon. In a nutshell, it has been an amazing week and I really hope to come back soon in the near future."

Find out more about the Elephant and Wildlife Conservation project

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