Elephant ConservationCambodia

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

You will help to carry out health checks on the elephants and assist in the daily running of the elephant sanctuary. The efforts of the project help to discourage the community from further domestication of wild elephants and demonstrate the value of elephants living freely. The sanctuary provides vital employment for the elephants’ owners, so that they do not need to work the elephants.

Experience a side of Cambodia beyond most tourists’ itineraries, learning about the local Bunong communities culture and exploring 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: Throughout the year
  • Duration: 2 – 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+ (7+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £1195 / €1360 / $1590 - 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 who have been rescued from working as tourist rides and in the logging industry. The project provides a safe haven for these elephants so they never have to work again. The elephants live a more natural jungle life and can gradually be rehabilitated to living a more wild life in the forest. 

Volunteer tasks may include:

  • Observing the elephants as they freely wander in the forest
  • Assisting with elephant health checks
  • Helping to grow and harvest banana and bamboo trees for the elephants food
  • Working in the plant nursery and planting endangered trees 
  • Maintainence and cleaning tasks at the elephant treatment area, bridges and trails to help maintain the sanctuary
  • Making edible medicine balls for the elderly elephants
  • Help on any current research projects

Volunteer time spent on observations and health checks helps the team to identify any concerns and the data is used to monitor the elephants’ long-term health and wellbeing. 

It is vital to conserve the forest in which the project is located as the wild elephant population is now over 140 elephants, which is a large proportion of the estimated 250-600 wild elephants who live in the whole of Cambodia. You will learn all about how to run an elephant sancturay in the Cambodian jungle! 

“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. Volunteer fees help us to provide vital jobs for the local population, care for their elephants and protect their local forest.”
Jack, Founder

Typical day

On your first day at the project you will meet the team, other volunteers and settle into the accommodation. During your first few days you will learn about the conservation project and meet the families of elephants. You will learn all about the elephants own stories, whilst also gaining knowledge on the forest and local Bunong community.  

Volunteers work a 5 day week, Monday to Friday. The day starts with breakfast at 7am overlooking the lush misty forest before starting work at 8.30am. There is a two hour lunch break and then work finishes around 5pm. Generally volunteers spend half of each day with the elephants and the other half assisting with tasks required by the sanctuary and the local community. The elephants live in the forest so volunteers hike 3-4km to see them. 

Volunteers have weekends off and are transported to the town of Sen Monorom on the Friday afternoon where you will stay until Sunday afternoon when you’ll return to the camp. There are plenty of free time activities to enjoy in town.

Other volunteers

There are usually 8-10 volunteers with a maximum of 30, but this varies considerably throughout the year.

Local support

Volunteers work alongside local and international staff. Chris is the project manager and will be your main point of contact and there to support you during your placement. There is also a volunteer coordinator based at the project site.

Accommodation

There are two options for accommodation at the sanctuary during the week; dorm rooms and bungalows which are both located on site in the forest camp, within walking distance to the elephants! The accomodation is built mainly from recycled materials and is located on the jungle slopes with stunning views. Volunteers often wake up to the calls of the wild gibbons from the forest! 

The dorm rooms are simple rooms shared between 1-3 volunteers with shared bathrooms which are within a shared house set in the forest hillside.

Dorm accommodation

There are four secluded, self-contained jungle 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. There is a supplement for this option.

The camp has a dining area where volunteers eat meals and a communal lounge area where you can relax and watch the sunset over the jungle. WIFI is not available at the forest camp.

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

Bungalow accommodation

Meals

From Sunday dinner to Friday lunch, 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 is 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. 

Getting there

You will need to fly into Phnom Penh (PNH).

You will be met on arrival at the airport and stay for 1 night in Phnom Penh before being transferred to the project, which takes 5-6 hours by road.

Location and free time

The project is based in the east of Cambodia in the Moldulkiri province, near the Vietnamese border.

During the week you will be located in the forest camp. In your freetime you can enjoy the quietness of the rural forest camp and spend time playing games, watching movies, reading and relaxing around the fire pit. 

Volunteers have weekends off which are spent in Sen Monorom.

Sen Monorom

This is an opportunity for volunteers to experience life of the Bunong community, who use the town as a place to trade. Whilst Sen Monoron is the capital of the province, it feels much 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!

Climate 

The Moldulkiri region has a tropical climate with an annual average temperature of around 23˚C. Temperatures peak in April and May and the coldest months are December to February, in the dry season. 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. 

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 
  • Learning 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

Dates

Saturday start dates every other week throughout the year.

2022: 1 Jan, 15 Jan, 29 Jan, 12 Feb, 26 Feb, 12 Mar, 26 Mar, 9 Apr, 23 Apr, 7 May, 21 May, 4 Jun, 18 Jun, 2 Jul, 16 Jul, 30 Jul, 13 Aug, 27 Aug, 10 Sep, 24 Sep, 8 Oct, 22 Oct, 5 Nov, 19 Nov, 3 Dec, 17 Dec, 31 Dec.

2023: 14 Jan, 28 Jan, 11 Feb, 25 Feb, 11 Mar, 25 Mar, 8 Apr, 22 Apr, 6 May, 20 May, 3 Jun, 17 Jun, 1 Jul, 15 Jul, 29 Jul, 12 Aug, 26 Aug, 9 Sep, 23 Sep, 7 Oct, 21 Oct, 4 Nov, 18 Nov, 2 Dec, 16 Dec, 30 Dec.

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 the project
  • Accommodation - a dorm room or private bungalow during the week and guesthouse in middle weekend(s)
  • Food - meals during the week (dinner on Sunday through to lunch on Friday)
  • Induction
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Donation to Pod Environmental Fund supporting solar lights in Ghana
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • Living costs - meals at weekends, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
2 weeks - Dorm £1195 GB Pounds
Extra weeks - Dorm £350 GB Pounds
2 weeks - Bungalow £1345 GB Pounds
Extra weeks - Bungalow £400 GB Pounds

Discounts

  • £400 discount for family members aged 12 and under; £100 discount for family members aged 13-17
  • £50 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 

“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 

“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 

“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 

“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 my time 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.”

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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

Alex

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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.”

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.”

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