Elephant ConservationCambodia

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. Assist the daily running of the sanctuary through farming and construction tasks which directly benefits the elephants. The efforts of the local team and 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+ (7+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £795 / €930 / $1020 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The sanctuary is a 1500 acre area of forest which is home to 10 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
  • Supporting the nursery and reforestation project
  • Farming
  • Road and trail maintenance

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 8-10 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 by working on jobs such as farming and construction. With the support of volunteers, the local team have the resources to work with the local Bunong community to discourage further domestication of wild elephants by demonstrating the value of elephants living freely in the forest.

The Forest Rangers 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

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.

Dorm accommodation

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. If you are staying in a dorm accommodation during the week, you will be allocated a twin room and share with another volunteer (on a single sex basis) with an ensuite bathroom. However, if you have opted for the bungalow option you will be given a private room for the weekend. WIFI is available at the guest house.

Bungalow accommodation

Meals

From Monday to Friday main meals are included and prepared for you by members of the local community. 

Here are typical examples of the food you will have: 

  • Breakfast – bread, toast, cereals, spreads, fresh fruit and eggs
  • Lunch and Dinner – a selection of traditional Khmer dishes such as noodles, curries and stir fries. Rice is a staple part of Khmer cuisine and will be a feature of most meals!

On weekends volunteers are responsible for their own meals, there are a selection of local restaurants in town.

Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for.

Drinking water is provided at the volunteer accommodation for you to use. 

Location 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.

Sen Monorom

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 small rural town! The town lies beyond most tourists’ itineraries, however it has been increasingly attracting visitors thanks to the spectacular Bousra 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, watching movies, reading and relaxing around the fire pit.

Travelling in Cambodia before or after your placement

Popular activities in Cambodia that you might like to combine with your project are:

  • Visiting the sites of Phnom Penh such as the Royal Palace and National Museum
  • Explore the stunning temples at Siem Reap including the iconic Angkor Wat
  • Visiting the beautiful towns of Kampot and Kep and the islands off this coastline 
  • Learn more about Cambodia’s turbulent history at the S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields

For more information on Cambodia and some of the things we loved when we visited there please see our Cambodia country page. This also features all our other Cambodia 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!

Angkor Wat

Climate 

The Moldulkiri region has a tropical climate. The annual average temperature in the Mondulkiri region is 23 degrees Celsius, temperatures peak in April and May at around 25 degrees Celsius.  The coldest months are December to February, coinciding with the dry season from December to April. There can be tropical rain showers at any time of year, but the main rainy season is from May to November, with the heaviest rains in July and August. 

Dates

Start dates are every Saturday.

What's Included

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Airport pick up (Phnom Penh) and return transfers
  • 1 night at a hotel in Phnom Penh
  • Transfers to and from project
  • Accommodation - a shared or private room
  • Food - all main meals during the week
  • Induction
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • Living costs - food at weekends, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
1 week £795 GB Pounds
2 weeks £1145 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £300 GB Pounds

Accommodation

There is an additional fee for the bungalow option – please contact us for details

Discounts

  • £75 discount for every additional project you book as part of the same trip
  • £100 discount for any family members who are under 18
  • £75 discount if you have previously volunteered with Pod Volunteer 

Where the money goes - financial transparency

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.

Book with confidence - financial protection

All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT). 

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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

Read volunteer reviews from the Elephant Conservation project

Anastasia – 2018

“My volunteering experience was amazing. I was volunteering for my first time and had no idea which volunteering organisation to go through, but I was glad I found Pod Volunteer because without them I don't think I would've had such a great and stress free time. They organised everything for me and everything ran smoothly. 

The project itself was also amazing, volunteering with elephants in the most ethical way. You don't just help the elephants but the community as well.

The people there are just as beautiful as the scenery, the mountains and the jungle. The project and the work you do is super rewarding and the food is just as good too!”

Gill – 2017

“This is a brilliant experience being able to get up close with the elephants to carry out health checks & observe them in their natural habitat. The Bunong people are wonderful - the guides & mahouts providing insights into to the elephants & their local region, the ladies serving up delicious meals. 

There is also the volunteering which can stretch you, physically mainly due to the heat, but not more than you can personally handle.

The Elephant Conservation project team are a great crowd - providing a wealth of knowledge about the project, each elephant, other local wildlife & Bunong people, they are friendly, chilled group that make the whole experience one never to be forgotten. Thanks to everyone!”

Jill – 2017

“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. 

Whilst on the project the day was split in 2 sessions which was either seeing the elephants or volunteering around the site. This was a good mix and therefore not too strenuous, with time to relax in the evening. 

The project is in the jungle and supported by the local community and you get to see the real Cambodia.”

Carly – 2016

“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.”

Read more reviews

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

Lucy has visited the project, apply and you'll hear from her 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