The Elephant Care and Research project studies the biology, behaviour and husbandry of their elephants with the aim of enhancing the welfare of captive and wild elephants throughout South Africa.
Volunteers work closely with the elephant herd who live in the park to provide care and enrichments for them. You will help the team to monitor the elephants throughout the day, gaining important insights into all aspects of the elephant’s life which contributes to vital research for the magnificent species.
Become part of the team to help collect data and care for the elephants.
Live on the famous Garden Route which is ideally located close to the stunning coastline, wildlife reserves and vineyards of South Africa.
Join the local expert team to care for and research their herd of 10 African elephants, which includes relocated elephants, orphaned calves and elephants rescued from situations such as culls. The elephants live in a 110 hectare park where tourists visit daily to interact with the elephants on educational elephant tours, feeding and walks.
The park provides a home to elephants, providing them with an improved environment, healthy diet, enrichment and access to veterinary care and the research unit is the first of its kind to be dedicated to research to help guide the management of captive elephants to promote the best possible care.
Volunteering offers a unique insight into elephants and the chance to work closely with these magnificent African elephants who are in vital need of conservation.
Volunteers staying 1 week focus on caring for and learning about the elephants, while those staying 3 weeks+ receive additional training and familiarisation on the techniques needed to observe and study the elephants, allowing them to get more involved in their research and welfare.
All volunteers receive elephant information and talks and are involved in a range of tasks, including:
Volunteers who stay for 3 weeks+ also undertake additional tasks, which may include:
Volunteers normally work 5 days a week with weekends off. Generally volunteers start at 6.30am and finish at 5.30pm. Volunteers live on site which is a short walk from the elephants. There are many exciting free time activities locally including the famous Garden Route.
There are usually 6-10 volunteers at the project at any one time, with a maximum of 12.
This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.
Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our South Africa Elephant Care and Research reviews.
Volunteers help the local team to feed and care for the elephants which is no small task! Volunteers are an important part of the research unit as they enable them to gain more elephant data which allows for a greater insight and understanding of this fascinating species. One of the most important contributions that volunteers make is through monitoring the interactions between elephants and visitors to the park. These research findings have led to improvements in the recommended management of captive elephants and ensures that a positive and responsible balance is kept with the ongoing tourism activities.
Having volunteers’ assistance has allowed the research team to undertake more studies, including the Elephant Listening project, and also contribute to research to help reduce human-elephant conflict in wild elephant populations.
Volunteers act as ambassadors for the research team by helping to spread the word about their elephant research results, welfare and conservation issues.
“Without volunteers, many of our research projects and husbandry duties like providing enrichment for the elephants wouldn’t be accomplished. By having trained volunteers in the field monitoring them we can see on a daily basis the changes in behaviour and even spot medical issues before they become problematic. They also show that people all around the world want to care and protect elephants.”
Abi - Volunteer Coordinator
South Africa is situated at the southern tip of Africa and ranges from desert to sub-tropical. With dramatic landscapes, amazing wildlife and a rich and diverse culture and interesting history, South Africa has something for everyone. Popular activities in South Africa include:
To find out more, see the Lonely Planet South Africa.
You’ll be living in the park which is based around 9 kilometres from the popular tourist destination of Plettenberg Bay. You will be located on the famous ‘Garden Route’ which is well known for its beautiful natural diversity including pristine coastline, huge wetlands, salt marshes, rivers, mountains and indigenous forests – so it’s a brilliant location for nature lovers.
Volunteers have weekends off so you can visit animal and bird sanctuaries and reserves, go whale watching, bungy jumping, sky diving, surfing and much more!
Free time during the week is spent relaxing on the terrace overlooking the park, playing games, watching TV or reading.
The volunteer accommodation is located within the elephant park. Volunteer rooms may be shared with 2-3 volunteers on a same sex basis. Each shared bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with a toilet and shower. There is a fully equipped kitchen in the house for volunteers to prepare food and there is a dining area, terrace and living room where volunteers can socialise. There is WIFI internet access at the volunteer accommodation.
“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.”
“Volunteering with the elephant research project was a truly wonderful experience. The staff were so supportive as we learned to identify the individual elephants and to record the observation data and while very professional, they were great fun as well - much laughter and good times! The elephants themselves were magnificent creatures and it was a joy to get to know them as individuals. I don’t think any of us volunteers ever tired of watching them and would use our free time on the weekends to go out to the field and just spend time with them. Special treats are when they decide to go swimming or to indulge in a mud bath! The guides are wonderful with the elephants and I so enjoyed watching their relationships. Overall, it was an incredible experience with memories to last a lifetime.”
“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.”
“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”
2019: 17 Mar, 7 Apr, 28 Apr, 19 May, 9 Jun, 30 Jun, 21 Jul, 11 Aug, 1 Sep, 22 Sep, 13 Oct, 3 Nov, 24 Nov, 15 Dec
2020: 5 Jan, 26 Jan, 16 Feb, 8 Mar, 29 Mar, 19 Apr, 10 May, 31 May, 21 Jun, 12 Jul, 2 Aug, 23 Aug, 13 Sep, 4 Oct, 25 Oct, 15 Nov, 6 Dec, 27 Dec
2019: 11 Feb, 4 Mar, 25 Mar, 15 Apr, 6 May, 27 May, 17 Jun, 8 Jul, 29 Jul, 19 Aug, 9 Sep, 30 Sep, 21 Oct, 11 Nov, 2 Dec, 23 Dec
2020: 13 Jan, 3 Feb, 24 Feb, 16 Mar, 6 Apr, 27 Apr, 18 May, 8 Jun, 29 Jun, 20 Jul, 10 Aug, 31 Aug, 21 Sep, 12 Oct, 2 Nov, 23 Nov, 14 Dec
|1 week - 2019||£795||GB Pounds|
|1 week - 2020||£845||GB Pounds|
|3 weeks||£1245||GB Pounds|
|4 weeks||£1595||GB Pounds|
|Extra weeks||£295||GB Pounds|
Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis. For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.
All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT).
Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com
hours of research conducted each year
"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder
Apply and you'll hear from Iona soon!
We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.Apply
“I had an awesome time and will definitely come back - the local people, guides, staff and fellow volunteers were all amazing. One of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I've ever undertaken.”Read more volunteer reviews
“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.”Read more volunteer reviews
“This trip was, amazing! Every one of my expectations were exceeded, and I can see now how others who have volunteered on this project fell so hard in love with the people, the environment and of course the Elephants.”Read more volunteer reviews