Sri Lanka Elephant and Community Volunteers
2-4 weeks Call to Book!
- Help care for Asian elephants
- Get hands-on with the big fellas
- Experience Sri Lankan culture, learn to cook a curry and get to know local people
- Support local underprivileged children by teaching English
- Help to maintain the garden where fruit for the elephants is grown
- Slow your pace of life down - live the Sri Lankan way
- Relax by the river after a hard day’s work and enjoy a cup of Sri Lankan tea
This project was started because the owners of the elephants there could no longer look after them. It aims to care for the elephants and their mahouts who rely entirely on their elephants for their own survival. The project works to slowly and continuously improve the wellbeing of the elephants by educating the tourists who come to visit, the elephant keepers (mahouts) and the local community. The aim of the project is to promote humane behaviour towards the working elephants of Sri Lanka by improving their living conditions and working towards better elephant welfare.
As well as a hands-on experience you will learn about what it takes to look after an elephant including health checks and finding out how to weigh an elephant without even attempting to move it! A few days a week, you’ll have the opportunity of helping out at a home for disabled children and adults as well as supporting local underprivileged children by teaching English and other useful skills.
You will be working with domesticated Asian elephants, getting to know these majestic animals. You will work with the elephant keepers – locally known as mahouts - helping with the daily care that is essential to keeping these animals happy and healthy. You’ll also assist with tourist visits; bringing income to the project.
You will also support local underprivileged children by teaching English and other useful skills. You will be able to provide the children with not only English and Maths lessons but also to help with confidence, leadership and 'life' skills. In addition to spending time with local under priviledged children you'll also spend time at a local disabled home, you time spent at the home will be invaluable to the residents. You will be helping them with simple skills such as gardening,making handicrafts, and other little projects that the residents involve themselves in in order to generate income for the home.
In addition to all of this, you'll also received Sinhala language lessons, Sri Lankan cookery lessons and some fantastic excursions - a fantastic introduction to the incredibly beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!
When you arrive into Colombo you will be met by a member of the in-country team and taken straight to your home near Kegalle for your time at the project. Depending on what time you arrive you will either go straight to your room for a sleep or be briefly shown around and have introductions at the project.
After your orientation you'll meet the mahouts, the elephants and start your project activties.
The next day will start with a detailed orientation, explaining the project, an introduction to Sri Lanka, the home for disabled and also the other trips we have scheduled. You will have the chance to meet the other volunteers and the in-country team is always on hand if you need anything else.
During the week you will be taken on your excursions which also include the elephant orphanage just down the road from your project. You will have the chance to visit Pinnawala - just down the road - to spend 3 - 4 hours walking around the elephant centre and watching the elephants bathe in the river, if you're lucky. There is also the chance for you to do a bit of souvenir shopping. Please note that you will not be volunteering at the elephant centre.
You'll also head for Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka where you will visit the Temple of the Tooth, Buddha on the hill, Kandy Lake and in the evening watch a traditional Kandy dancing show.
Now that you have seen some of Sri Lanka’s cultural elements you will have a day trekking into the local jungles for a chance to see some of the country's abundant wildlife such as monkeys, bird and insect species, many of which you won’t find anywhere else.
Not only will you have the great activities over these past few days but you will also be given lots of information about Sri Lanka and the basics of the language as you go.
Please note: that excursions depend on the weather conditions and may be rescheduled if need be.
Your activities during the week will alternate between the elephant project and the home for the disabled, there will be days where you will be taking part in both projects, weather and time permitting. Friday is a short day at the elephant project and you are free to start your weekend excursions on Friday afternoon.Your weekends are free to either relax and explore more of this amazing country.
From now on you can truly immerse yourself in the project. You will rise early and have breakfast before you set of to meet the mahouts and assist with any elephant health checks that are required before leading the elephants to the water for a quick bath. After breakfast you will help out in the garden as well as planting and weeding (this is season dependent).
After a well earned tea break you’ll help to clean the elephant beds and make them a nice fresh bed for the night. You’ll then stop for lunch before assisting the mahouts with the tourists. During the afternoon you will have a chance to bathe the elephants and help feed them. You’ll help the mahouts with further care of the elephants and tourist activities before tucking the elephants in for the day and going on to learn Sinhalese or teach English to kids in the afternoons. There is also a question and answer time with the mahouts which will help you to know your elephant better. You will be amazed as to how unique each elephant is with their own personalities.
Elephants cost a lot of money to keep. Most elephant safaris actually rent the elephants including mahouts and food supplies. To pay for keeping the elephants substantial funding is required. Traditionally this income is generated from offering elephant encounters to tourists which can include riding the great giant, but volunteers visiting the project also create a form of income. All elephant riding is carried out within the animal welfare guidelines and is in the elephants natural habitat; there are no Howdah’s used to ride on the elephant as it causes them discomfort and pain and stresses the animal out. Instead a simple cushion which does not irritate the elephant's skin is used for people to sit on..
As the project receives paying tourists your role will be to help the staff, assisting with the work of the mahouts when required. By the time you have finished your time at the project you should have a good understanding of the life of mahouts and elephants in Sri Lanka, plus some basic elephant communication skills too.
Important note: Please note that transport to and from the girls home and home for the disabled is not included in your programme, however it is cheap and a great opportunity to try out local tuktuk transport.
Please note: The aim is to keep you busy and entertained but please bear in mind that plans can change as they often have to when working outdoors and with animals! Remember, the more flexible you are, the more you will get out of the project.
- Project experience as described
- Airport transfers in Sri Lanka
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner - Monday to Friday
- Accommodation throughout your programme
- Detailed orientation
- On site project coordinator
- Travel insurance
- Meals at weekends
- Drinks and snacks
- Local transport to afternoon community projects
- Any excursions other than those listed in the itinerary
During your time at the project you will be staying in a volunteer house. The accommodation is purpose-built and you will be sharing a room with other volunteers in bunk beds (maximum of 6-8 to a room) with access to shared bathrooms with shower facilities.
There is an open living area at the volunteer house. Your accommodation has a washing machine and internet facilities (although connection can be sporadic) with Wi-Fi for your own equipment (this should not be used for streaming etc though). In rural areas such as this there can often be power cuts so you should be prepared for this; there is emergency lighting at the house so you’ll still be able to see!
A member of the project team lives on site in the same house.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included from Monday to Friday. The menu will be both local and western-style meals. At weekends, meals are not provided as volunteers are encouraged to travel and see more of Sri Lanka - the local team will be able to give you lots of information and advice on what to see and where to go. if you would like to stay at the volunteer accommodation at the weekend, this is absolutely fine and meals can be purchased locally from Kegalle town.
To get a flight quote simply use the form below, or contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037.
Get Flights Quote
Your flight to Sri Lanka should arrive at Colombo International Airport (CMB) on your programme start date, and your return flight should be arranged for your programme end date.
To arrange your flights, contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037 or email them at [email protected] They will be able to search for the best flight offers to your chosen destinations, so you can plan and organise your trip in one place. Just make sure you give them your full name, as stated in your passport, along with your chosen departure dates, return dates, and any other details you want to include.
It is important that once you have booked your flights you add these details to your online account or alternatively you can contact us with your departure date, the flight number and arrival time at your destination.
The minimum age for this project is 18 years old.
You need a tourist visa to enter Sri Lanka. All nationals (except those from Singapore and the Maldives) requiring a visa can apply for their 30 day tourist visa online (ETA).
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service)
On this particular programme, you’ll also be spending time working with children, so you’ll need to undergo an enhanced DBS check.
DBS checks may list past convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings, and if applicable will show whether or not you have been barred from working with certain vulnerable groups. Non-conviction information such as fixed penalties may also be included.
There is an additional cost for the DBS check, please speak to your travel advisor at the time of booking. The DBS process is in three stages:
- Once we receive your booking payment, you will then be sent an online application link for the DBS check, which you will need to complete.
- Once you have completed the application, the DBS will need verification of your identity – to do this you will need to take three original documents to your nearest crown post office and use their DBS and ID verification service. This costs approximately £5 and is payable directly to the Post Office.
- It can take up to two weeks for your DBS to be processed, which will be sent to you directly in the post.