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 and internationally.
Volunteers work closely with the elephant herd who live in the park to create and provide 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.
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. You can learn more about the project here.
Volunteers staying 1 week focus on learning about and observing elephant behaviour and interactions, while those staying 3 weeks+ receive additional training and familiarisation on the techniques needed to collect data and observations for studying 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 + may also help with:
Additional activities that volunteers may also participate in as needed may include helping to prepare the elephant's food, changing their sawdust bedding and mucking out their living areas.
Volunteers staying longer than 3 weeks, may also get to learn further research techniques and take on additional responsibilities.
“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
Volunteers normally work 4.5 days a week with Friday afternoons and weekends off. Generally volunteers start around 7am and finish at 5.30pm with breaks and lunch. In your first few days you will be given an introduction to the volunteer role, research and the elephants.
Volunteers staying 3 weeks + may also take part in specific weekend, early morning or night roles, such as night time elephant observations.
For volunteers staying 1 week on Friday evening they join the team for a traditional South African braai and on Saturday morning, they can participate in a breakfast walk with the elephants. From Friday afternoon to their departure, volunteers can interact with the elephants.
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.
You will be working alongside the local team of local and international staff including researchers and guides. There is a volunteer and research coordinator and together they are the first point of contact for volunteers who are located on-site.
The volunteer accommodation is located within the elephant park. Volunteer rooms are shared with 2-3 volunteers on a same sex basis. Each comfortable 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.
As meals are not included volunteers buy food from local supermarkets to prepare meals or eat in the on-site restaurant. Here is an example of volunteers typical daily meals:
There are vegetarians and vegans meal options are available.
The water at the park is from a borehole and tap water is safe to drink.
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.
For 1 week volunteers, exploring the Garden Route area is a fantastic way to finish up at the project and enjoy this amazing part of the country! Volunteers staying 3 weeks+ can use the weekends to explore much of this area; 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.
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:
For more information on South Africa and some of the things we loved when we visited there please see our South Africa country page. This also features all our other South Africa volunteering projects as you might like to consider combining this project with one of the others we offer to make a trip of a lifetime!
The project is located in the Western Cape, where the warmest months are usually December through to March at around 28 degrees Celsius during the day. ‘Winter’ runs from June to August when daytime temperatures are usually around 20 degrees Celsius (though it can feel much colder than this with the wind!) and night-times fall to around 10 degrees. The wettest months are June July and October but there can be showers throughout the year.
2021: 11 Apr, 2 May, 23 May, 13 Jun, 4 Jul, 25 Jul, 15 Aug, 5 Sep, 17 Oct, 7 Nov, 28 Nov, 19 Dec
2022: 9 Jan, 30 Jan, 20 Feb, 13 Mar, 3 Apr, 24 Apr, 15 May, 5 Jun, 26 Jun, 17 Jul, 7 Aug, 28 Aug, 18 Sep, 9 Oct, 30 Oct, 20 Nov, 11 Dec
2021: 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
2022: 17 Jan, 7 Feb, 28 Feb, 21 Mar, 11 Apr, 2 May, 23 May, 13 Jun, 4 Jul, 25 Jul, 15 Aug, 5 Sep, 26 Sep, 17 Oct, 7 Nov, 28 Nov, 19 Dec
|1 week||£895||GB Pounds|
|3 weeks||£1395||GB Pounds|
|4 weeks||£1795||GB Pounds|
|Extra weeks||£300||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
"My experience on my placement on the South African Elephant Research project was fantastic and a truly unforgettable, inspirational experience. The people I got to meet & work alongside were so passionate & helpful, where everyone works day & night to ensure the welfare of the Elephants and other animals from the Zebras to their rescued dogs and cats.
My advise to anyone considering placement is: Go! It is such an incredible experience, and if you’re truly passionate about learning about & helping with conservation, this is the place for you."
“My volunteering experience with Elephant Care and Research project was incredible. As someone who plans to work in animal protection, you learn so much about elephants and their care over the weeks that you stay.
This volunteering project stands out as one in which the presence of volunteers has a genuine real impact on the progress of the elephant research centre. Because you are there volunteering, the elephant research can be conducted to the highest quality, and the centre can conduct certain observations and research tasks that would not be able to be done if there were not volunteers present to help."
"Having the opportunity to be part of the Elephant Care and Research team, to work with the team members, as well as with all the other wonderful volunteers, was one of the most amazing things I've done in my life.
The whole time I felt that I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other thing or place in the world. Nothing I have lived so far was more fulfilling, inspiring or gratifying than leaving my mark in the world of the most complex animals that ever walked the earth.
I am grateful for the trust and responsibility that I have been given, and I definitely plan to go back and experience more beautiful things in the very near future."
"Volunteering with the 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 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! Overall, it was an incredible experience with memories to last a lifetime."
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
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“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