Bear Rescue

Cambodia

The Bear Rescue team in Cambodia care for over 150 rescued Sun Bears and Moon Bears that have experienced mistreatment.

You will work with the local keepers to help with duties such as feeding the bears, providing enrichments, and maintaining the enclosures. This helps the local team to create a comfortable life for the bears, as close as possible to the wild because many of the bears have long-term health problems, re-release can be difficult. The project works with the local community to promote the importance of conserving and raising awareness of the threats facing the species.

Explore the nearby bustling city of Phnom Penh that has beautiful temples and palaces and is steeped in history.

Support the team’s efforts to provide a safe haven for the bears.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: 1 hour south of Phnom Penh
  • Start dates: Every Sunday
  • Duration: 1 - 8 weeks
  • Age requirement: 21+
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £695 / €815 / $890 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The project aims to provide the rescued Sun Bears and Moon Bears at the centre a comfortable life. Many of the bears unfortunately suffer from long term health problems, or are unable to be re-released due to mass deforestation in Cambodia. The enclosures are large with vegetation, climbing frames and pools.

Volunteers are supervised by the experienced animal keepers at the centre, working together to care for almost 200 bears currently at the rescue centre.

Each day will differ and volunteer tasks include:

  • Preparing food and assisting the keepers to feed the bears
  • Repairing and maintaining the enclosures
  • Working with the keepers to clean the enclosures
  • Making enrichment items and activities for the bears. An enrichment activity is anything that makes the bears’ lives more interesting such as filling up hollow bamboo with honey or other treats, making frozen fruit ice lollies, rebuilding climbing frames, putting out dead trees etc.

Other tasks do not directly involve the bears but benefit them greatly, such as constructing new play areas or weaving hammocks – bears love to climb!

Direct physical contact with the bears is not possible as these are large and wild animals, which are potentially dangerous. There is a strict hands off policy at the project; this is for the safety of both yourself and the bears. The less contact they have with humans the more likely they will be able to express normal behaviour.

Working days and hours

Volunteers help at the centre Monday to Friday, from approximately 8am to 4pm, with an hour lunch break from 12 to 1pm. During the weekends, you can spend your free time relaxing or exploring Phnom Penh and the rest of what Cambodia has to offer.

Other volunteers

There are usually 1-4 volunteers with a maximum of 6 volunteers, who work alongside a larger team of staff.

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Volunteer Reviews

Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our Cambodia Bear Rescue reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

The sanctuary employs full time Khmer staff to support the bears, however many of the roles are labour intensive and there is always more to be done; whether it is fixing or expanding an enclosure, creating a new enrichment idea or simply helping with the daily duties.

International volunteers also help the sanctuary get their message out to other tourists and travellers in Cambodia and increase the knowledge of the threats facing these species.

Closure dates

The project is closed to volunteers between 29 Sep - 4 Nov.

Location, free time and accommodation

Cambodia

Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations, bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north and Thailand to the west. Whilst Cambodia is most famous for its ancient temple of Angkor Wat, its unique culture and heritage makes it a great place for volunteers to explore.

Popular activities in Cambodia include:

  • Visiting the sites of Phnom Penh such as the Royal Palace and National Museum
  • Exploring Cambodia’s turbulent history at the S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields
  • Relaxing on one of Cambodia’s beautiful islands

To find out more, see the Lonely Planet Cambodia

Local area and free time

Volunteers spend their evenings relaxing at the volunteer house, in a beautiful location surrounded by paddy fields and close to a temple. There is a comfortable lounge area, balcony, and an outdoor pool available to use. The house is also equipped with games and a pool table. The evenings are quiet, volunteers generally either relax together or spend time reading.

Weekends are free for you to relax at the volunteer house or to explore Cambodia. Phnom Penh, is about an hour away and a great place to visit at weekends with its beautiful temples, palaces and bustling night markets. In addition to sightseeing, you can also enjoy some of the many bars and restaurants, or even relax and treat yourself to a room in one of the nicer hotels. A tuk tuk can be arranged by the volunteer coordinator (approximately $10) to Phnom Penh on a Friday afternoon.

Accommodation

You will live together with staff and other volunteers in a house around 30 minutes’ drive from the centre in a beautiful rural area.

The volunteer house is a typical Cambodian style house with open-air ground floor and bedrooms upstairs. Bedrooms and bathrooms are shared between 1-4 volunteers (usually on a single-sex basis). The house has a communal kitchen and living area and an outdoor pool for volunteers to use. There is no internet connection on site but there is intermittent phone signal.

Read volunteer reviews from the Bear Rescue project

Diane

“The group I was with was a really good mix of ages, backgrounds and nationalities, all with the same common interest in bears and in supporting the excellent and necessary work performed by the Bear Rescue programme. The work at the sanctuary was pretty varied. Even humble tasks such as raking leaves allowed the fantastic and dedicated keepers to focus on other more bear-focused work, and it was rewarding to feel that I was doing something worthwhile

It was wonderful to be so close to the bears and be so involved with their care; there were many days when I just sat at lunch time watching the Sun Bears play and had to pinch myself, to be so close and to see them so happy and well cared for - especially knowing what horrendous conditions most had been rescued from - was a dream come true for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend it to anyone.”

Sally

“A wonderful time at the Bear Rescue project. I couldn’t get enough of the Bears and great to see what good conditions they are kept in and how well loved and looked after by the Keepers and the organisation - a very dedicated team. A privilege to be part of it.

Just watching the Bears was rewarding! It is very rewarding and it is great time away to stay somewhere different. You could also get a good mix of interesting people to spend time with.”

Louise

“My time at the project was, without exaggeration, one of the best times in my life, I can’t ask for anything more. This is my third volunteer project abroad and this one has actually been my favorite one in every sense. The work at the centre was very rewarding, the people lovely, the bears adorable - everything was great. After some culture shock I really came to fall in love with Cambodia as well. I was totally surrounded by human warmth all the time and I loved it.

I actually loved everything (and I’m not usually that kind of perky person that loves everything). They treat you really good. As an “animal rights-person” I didn’t know what to expect with animals in captivity but I honestly do think that the bears have the best lives possible under the circumstances.”

Petra

“The Bear Rescue project in Cambodia was a great place to do my first volunteer work ever! The people that work for this organisation are very professional. The have a great passion on bears and animal welfare. The sanctuary is in a zoo. It’s the best maintained part of the zoo. With a lot of information and education for local and international visitors.

The volunteering I really enjoyed. It is a great and rather professional organisation. It was good to see how well organized they are. And the bears…I just fell in love with all 150 of them! Beautiful animals. I am really glad that I choose this project to volunteer. The interaction with the bears and the bear keepers was great. It felt useful for me to work with the bears. And after a long day of work I got my reward: the swimming pool at the volunteer house!”

Read more reviews

What's included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team
  • Single point of contact - Lucy is your dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • In-depth volunteering and planning your trip guides
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Animal care volunteering placement
  • Pick up from a meeting point in Phnom Penh and transfer
  • Accommodation - a basic shared room
  • Food - breakfast and dinner
  • Daily transport to the project site
  • Induction and training
  • Support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), food (lunch), weekend accommodation (optional). Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
1 week £695 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £350 GB Pounds
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Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

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bears rescued by the team

"Pod is a no nonsense volunteer organisation looking to change lives"Cian

Lucy

Pod UK Specialist

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We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

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VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - Fiona

    “The whole experience was rewarding! However hard we had to work, however much we sweated, those bears are worth it! Seeing them playing around and enjoying their enrichment was just so worthwhile.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - I-Ching

    "I love that the keepers know each bear distinctly, working tirelessly to care for them. It gave me a unique experience, one which I can share with others, and hopefully create greater awareness of the plight of bears."

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Bear Rescue volunteer - Mark

    “If you want to work hard, make a valuable difference and learn about the story of each bear then just go for it. The reward is totally worth the efforts you put in. The team that looks after the bears are just amazing!”

    Read more volunteer reviews

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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