Elephant Conservation

Cambodia

The Elephant Conservation team provide a sanctuary to rescued Asian elephants.

You will assist the local team in conducting observations of the elephants and learn how to carry out health checks which helps to identify any concerns. Support the local Bunong community through farming and construction. Volunteers help to discourage further domestication of wild elephants and demonstrate the value of elephants living freely. The sanctuary provides employment for the elephants’ owners, so that they do not need to work elephants.

See a side of Cambodia beyond most tourists’ itineraries, learn about the local Bunong culture and explore the nearby waterfalls and tropical forests during your free time.

Help to rehabilitate the elephants and enable them to experience a more natural life.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: Eastern Cambodia, 6 hours from Phnom Penh
  • Start dates: Every Saturday
  • Duration: 1 – 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+ (13+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available, limited until January
  • Cost: From £725 / €850 / $930 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The sanctuary is a 650 acre area of forest which is home to 9 Asian elephants, rescued from a variety of backgrounds. Here they can live a more natural life and be rehabilitated.

The daily schedule will differ and generally volunteers spend half of each day with the elephants, observing them or assisting with their health checks. Volunteer observations and health checks are vital in identifying any concerns regarding the elephants.

You may also be involved in research tasks such as monitoring and recording the feeding habits and preferences of the elephants. This is important in guiding decisions as to which plant species should be grown for the elephants to feed on in the forest.

The other half of each day is spent assisting with tasks required by the sanctuary and the local community. These tasks may include:

  • Harvesting banana and pineapple trees for the elephants
  • Construction jobs such as fixing or making handrails or steps for the journey down to the elephants
  • Farming
  • Road maintenance
  • Assisting with community development initiatives

Working days and hours

Volunteers work a 5 day week from around 7:45am-5pm Monday to Friday. Volunteers have weekends off which are spent in Sen Monorom. There are plenty of free time activities for volunteers to enjoy in the town.

Other volunteers

There are usually 5-15 volunteers with a maximum of 30, but this varies considerably throughout the year. Volunteers work alongside local and international 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 Elephant Conservation reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers assist the elephants’ mahouts in observing the elephants as they freely wander in the forest. The information you collect will be collaborated to monitor the elephants’ long-term health and wellbeing.

Volunteers also support the upkeep of the sanctuary and help benefit the local community by working on jobs such as farming and construction. The efforts made in the local community assist the project in achieving its goal of discouraging further domestication of wild elephants by demonstrating the value of elephants living freely in the forest.

The Wild Elephant Protection team are tasked to protect the forest from illegal activities such as logging, hunting, trapping and land clearance. A proportion of funds from the volunteer fee contributes to their operation which would not be possible without the support of volunteers.

“The elephants of Cambodia need help, there is little education on the care of captive elephants and few possibilities of veterinary assistance when required. When you come and volunteer, that allows us to do what we do best: to care for sick and abused elephants. Volunteers fees help us to provide vital jobs for the local population and care for their elephants and protects their local forest.”
Jack, Founder and Manager

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

The project is based in the east of Cambodia in the Moldulkiri province, near the Vietnam border. Whilst at the project you will be located on site in the forest camp. Volunteers have weekends off and are transported to Sen Monorom on the Friday afternoon where you will stay until Sunday afternoon when you’ll return to the camp.

This is an opportunity for volunteers to experience life for the Bunong community, who use the town as a place to trade. Whilst Sen Monoron is the capital of the province, it feels more like a large rural village. The town lies beyond most tourists’ itineraries, however it has been increasingly attracting visitors thanks to a local waterfall, bird watching tours and zip-lining facilities!

During the week, volunteers will have a chance to relax and enjoy the quietness of the rural camp in their free time and spend time playing games, reading and relaxing around the fire pit.

Accommodation

There are two options for accommodation during the week; dorm rooms and bungalows which are both located on site.

The dorm rooms are simple rooms shared with 1-4 volunteers with shared bathrooms.

There are four secluded, self-contained bungalows available, built in traditional Bunong style. The bungalows are basic, but comfortably furnished with a double bed, tables and a chair and have ensuite bathrooms. Please note that these are subject to availability and there is a weekly supplement for this option.

The camp has a dining area where volunteers eat meals and a communal area where they can relax in the evenings. WIFI is not available at the forest camp.

During the weekends, volunteers live in a guest house in the local town. These are twin rooms (shared on a single sex basis) with an ensuite bathroom. WIFI is available at the guest house.

Read volunteer reviews from the Elephant Conservation project

Jill

“Volunteering at the Elephant Conservation Project in Cambodia I found was very rewarding and came away with a real sense of achievement and felt like I’d really made a difference. The project is relaxed but run very efficiently by a great project team and they have a great ethos to ensure elephants and their natural habit are conserved.

The project is in the jungle and supported by the local community, this makes it a beautiful location and you get to see the real Cambodia. Most rewarding elements were spending time with the elephants and knowing that my hard work was making a direct impact on their or the communities lives.”

Carly

“This placement far out lived all of my expectations and I would highly recommend it. I wanted to get close to and understand elephants in an ethical way without encroaching on their natural lifestyle and the Elephant Conservation project is the place to do that.

I spent a week getting my hands dirty with hard manual labour as well as trekking in the jungle to learn about the elephants at the project. It was a perfect combinations for me. Evenings were spent relaxing in a tranquil surrounding with beautiful food cooked by the local mountain people and a comfy bed to collapse into. I can’t wait to get back and do it all again as soon as I can!”

Kaitlyn

“Volunteering at the Elephant Conservation Project in Cambodia was nothing short of amazing. The staff were all friendly and welcoming. The food was excellent and if anyone had any dietary restrictions the cooks were extremely accommodating. It was great to be able to learn the histories of all of the elephants as well as actively work to make their lives better.

Volunteering consisted of clearing fields, harvesting bamboo, adding stones to roads, fixing handrails, planting trees, and more. It was extremely hard work, but it was well worth it. The most rewarding part of my experience was to see Darling, one of the elephants at the sanctuary taking a bath all on her own. With most of the elephants, their mahouts had to get into the water to help them bathe, but Darling was extremely independent.”

Jennifer

“I had the best time of my life. I was apprehensive that I may be disappointed but it was everything I could have a hoped it would be. This is not least down to the lovely staff that work there who could not have been nicer, the elephants are just as wonderful as you would expect them to be! Wonderful to have the opportunity to learn about what the project does and albe able to contribute to such a deserving cause.

Camp is great fun, being fully immersed in the forest without electricity or hot water, hearing the noises at night, doing physical work and chilling out with the elephants really gives you the opportunity to get away from real life. Oh and the girls in huge kitchen make delicious food! Spring roll night was a highlight. Thanks to everyone, could not recommend more”

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 volunteering placement
  • Airport pick up (Phnom Penh) and return transfers
  • 1 night at a hotel in Phnom Penh
  • Transfer to project by car
  • Accommodation - a shared or private room
  • Food - all main meals during the week
  • Induction and training
  • Onsite support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office by phone and email
  • 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 at weekends. 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 £725 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £345 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

50%

of local families benefit from employment at the project

"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder

Lucy

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Lucy soon!

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 Elephant Conservation volunteer – Georgie

    “It was an incredible experience. Getting up so close to the elephants was breathtaking and all who work there are amazing. All are so passionate about elephants and the project and work with the local people.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Elephant Conservation volunteer – Houlu

    “I spent a week there and it was one of the best things I did in 3 months in Asia. The staff were amazing, caring and attentive, going out of their way to make sure you learned as much as possible, while having a great time.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Cambodia Elephant Conservation volunteer – Kimberly

    “One of the best experiences of my life. It taught me so many things about elephants and Cambodia that I did not know before. The way the elephants are treated was incredible and a beautiful experience to be a part of.”

    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