Help at this unique elephant
sanctuary in Cambodia
A 1,500-acre natural sanctuary in the Cambodian jungle
Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary
Help elephants in their natural habitat at this unique elephant sanctuary located deep in the Cambodian jungle. Dedicated to helping rescued elephants, you’ll trek into the jungle every day to observe and care for the 10 Asian elephants that call this 1,500-acre forest home.
The 100% ethical and responsible sanctuary provides an alternative lifestyle for the rescued elephants as close to their natural living conditions as possible. You will get to experience elephants acting naturally, foraging and interacting together. The elephants can be seen bathing in the natural rivers and bulldozing trees to get to the best luscious leaves.
The project is based in the east of Cambodia in the Moldulkiri province, near the Vietnam border. See a side of Cambodia beyond most tourists’ itineraries, where you can learn about the local Bunong culture and explore the nearby waterfalls and tropical forests during your free time.
"I volunteered in Cambodia for several months and saw first-hand the immense positive impact the programme has on the rescued elephants and the local indigenous Bunong community. No matter how long you go for, you will have the best time ever where you will learn about the elephants and the local culture and contribute to a meaningful and sustainable project."
There are many domesticated elephants in Cambodia that are threatened by a broad array of factors. This can range from physical abuse and misuse from activities such as logging and providing rides to tourists. Unfortunately, these domesticated elephants cannot be released into the wild as they have little fear of people and will start to raid crops, endangering their lives and the people around.
Not only this, but the wild population of elephants in Cambodia is hugely threatened by loss of habitat. As with many areas of Cambodia and other developing countries, the region of Mondulkiri is being rapidly deforested.
As human populations grow, new houses and farms are being developed and are encroaching on what was once the elephants natural home or pathway. This has resulted in an increase of human-elephant conflict, as elephants wander into farms and small towns and damage buildings or eat / ruin crops. This often results in retaliation, with many elephants getting injured or killed by traps and other weapons.
The elephant sanctuary was founded in 2006 with the aim to improve the health and welfare of the captive elephants in Eastern Cambodia, work to conserve the wild elephant’s natural habitat and to support the local people who work with these magnificent creatures.
By volunteering, not only will you get an unforgettable jungle experience, but you’ll be helping the rescued elephants that are recuperating from their previous work lives of exploitation. This is done by taking a hands-off approach to the elephants and a hands-on approach to education and welfare improvement, working as much with the local community as with the elephants.
The sanctuary also works in the protected forest to assist in the conservation of the wild elephants in Cambodia. By protecting this vast area of forest from destruction, we can ensure the conservation of traditional habitat for the Bunong people, elephants and the huge variety of other creatures here.
Surveys have put the wild elephant population of Seima Forest in Modulkiri at over 120, making it one of the largest in Cambodia and therefore one of the most important to protect. The forest rangers that roam these forests, are tasked to protect it from illegal activities such as logging, hunting, trapping and land clearance. A proportion of the funds from volunteers contributes to their operation which would not be possible without the support from you and other volunteers.
You will work 5 days a week, from around 7:45am to 5pm Monday to Friday. The daily schedule will differ and generally volunteers spend half of each day with the elephants, observing them or assisting with their health checks and the other half of the day assisting with tasks required by the sanctuary and the local community.
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.
You will also support the upkeep of the sanctuary by working on jobs such as farming and construction. This can range from harvesting banana and pineapple trees for the elephants, supporting the nursery and reforestation project, farming and road / trail maintenance.
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.
Accommodation & meals
Accommodation & meals
During your time in Cambodia, you will be staying in the volunteer accommodation that has been constructed in the traditional Bunong style and mainly from recycled materials.
Located on the slopes of the elephant valley, you can enjoy the stunning views over the surrounding forest where many varieties of birds can be seen.
There is a large communal area where everyone comes together each night to play games, watch movies and share stories – all while listening to the jungle noises that around you.
You will be staying in basic but comfortable rooms with up to four other volunteers in single sex rooms. Each room has a shared bathroom and all bedding and mosquito nets are provided.
There are also four secluded, self-contained bungalows that you can opt for, but there is a small additional weekly fee. The bungalows are basic, but comfortably furnished with a double bed, tables and a chair and have en-suite bathrooms. Please note these are subject to availability.
During the weekends, volunteers live in a guest house in the local town of Sen Monoron. If you are staying in a dorm accommodation during the week you will be allocated a twin room and share with another volunteer. However, if you have opted for the bungalow option you will be given a private room for the weekend. Wi-Fi is available a the the guest house.
During volunteering days, you will be provided with three main meals per day. The local chef provides high quality local and international meals to suit all tastes. You will dine in the main complex that overlooks the elephant valley.
Some of the typical meals you will be provided include:
Breakfast – bread, toast, cereals, fresh fruit and eggs
Lunch and dinner – rice, noodles, curries and stir fires
On weekends volunteers are responsible for their own meals, there are a selection of local restaurants in town.
Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for with prior notice. Drinking water is available at the volunteer accommodation for you to use.
All of the below prices exclude the £149 registration fee. The total price payable is the below price + £149, as will be confirmed in the application process. To find out exactly what's included as part of fees, please click the What's Included box on the programme page.
The fees you pay go towards the structure and support put in place in order to provide you with an organised and safe environment in which to volunteer. The programme fee goes directly to our local team in Cambodia and is used towards the following:
- Airport transfers
- First night's stay in Phnom Penh
- Three meals (on volunteering days)
- In-country orientation
- 24-hour in-country support
The registration fee that you pay to confirm your place on the volunteer programme is retained by our team in the United Kingdom. This fee is used towards the following:
- 24-hour UK based emergency support
- Unlimited telephone and email support
- A comprehensive volunteer handbook
- Assistance with all aspects of your trip
- 100% financial protection
- Regular programme inspections
- Certificate of completion
What's not included
There are still some parts of your trip that will need to be funded by yourself, these include:
- Flights to Phnom Penh (£400 - £800)
- Travel insurance (£18 per week)
- Visa (£20 - £110)
- Criminal background check (£25)
- Spending money (estimated at £50 - £100 per week)
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 18 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it does not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive into Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) on your selected Saturday start date.
The programme ends on the Saturday of your final week and our local team will transport you back to the airport.
Are there any age restrictions?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 18 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 - 25, although this is by no means definitive.
What is the minimum age for travelling with my family?
If you are travelling with family and at least one member is aged 18 years old or over, then we welcome anyone from 7 years and up.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise all volunteers to apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates.
Generally speaking, you need to book at least 60 days before your programme start date, although if you are wanting to apply after this, please contact us and we will do our best.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback, we believe 4 - 6 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved in the placement. This also allows you to make the most of free time and explore the local areas and participate in any activities.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are.
The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
You can travel and volunteer with friends, family and / or your partner.
If you are wanting to request to stay in the same accommodation please outline this in the special requirements section within the application form.
Is it safe to travel to these destinations?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of £149 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due no less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application was successful.
How do I arrange my travel insurance?
We have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy that is suitable for all of the programmes we offer. You will receive information about this policy along with your volunteer handbook.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try our best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that affect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that £50 - £100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.