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Volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia that is a genuine haven for rescued elephants! The project’s goal is for you to come to Cambodia, have amazing time and to be highly knowledgeable elephant advocates after your visit, to help continue their work all over the world!
Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum two-week commitment):
Arrival Day, Saturday: Arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH). You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Phnom Penh. Spend the day acclimating to Cambodia and enjoying the beautiful city.
Day 1, Sunday: Early morning you’ll be transfer in a private taxi with other volunteers from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri, a 6-7 hour journey. Project staff will meet you in the town of Sen Monorom and then transfer you to the project site and join in a welcome briefing and introduction talk on the program. Have the rest of the evening to get settled into the sanctuary.
Day 2, Monday: Become acquainted with the elephant families while trekking through their natural jungle habitat. Learn about the elephant’s histories, the local people and the unique role they play in protecting these unique animals.
Days 3-5, Tuesday-Thursday: Go on a morning trek to visit and observe the elephants and spend your afternoon gardening, farming or assisting with sanctuary maintenance.
Day 6, Friday: Spend the morning with the elephants, and the afternoon trekking to a nearby waterfall if the season allows it. Friday evenings are usually spent in the nearby town where volunteers have the option to try to local restaurant cuisine.
Days 7-8, Saturday-Sunday: Relax in town for the weekend, where you have free time to explore the area until meeting at 3:00 PM on Sunday again to return to the project site for week 2 of the program.
Day 9-13 – Mon to Fri: Spend your second week immersed in sanctuary life. You will combine elephant observation, learn to complete elephant health checks and sometimes have the opportunity to help undertake research projects depending on the needs of the sanctuary at the time. You will leave the program understanding more about Asian elephants, their health and wellbeing and become a true advocate for their conservation.
Day 14, Saturday: Volunteers return to Phnom Penh. If you are are staying for additional weeks, you have free time to explore the area until meeting at 3:00 PM on Sunday.
Remaining Weeks: The remaining weeks will follow a similar schedule of volunteering Monday-Friday morning and having Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon off. Use your weekends to explore or learn more about the indigenous Bunong people through a range of experiences. Departures are on a Saturday.
Location of the Project: Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia
Project length: Minimum 2 weeks – Maximum 12 weeks
Arrival Airport: Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH)
Volunteer Work: Observation, research, reforestation, forest conservation
Age: 18-60. Age Exceptions: Anyone under 18 years of age must also be accompanied by an adult. Anyone over 60 needs to provide medical clearance, due to the remoteness and physical nature of the project.
Number of Volunteers: Up to 12 international volunteers (this is the maximum on the volunteer program, but there can be up to 30 people on-site, including the volunteer program, visitors and groups or research programs)
Accommodations: Shared dorm rooms on-site at the sanctuary, single rooms on arrival and on weekends. Volunteers have the option to upgrade to a private bungalow at the sanctuary for an extra fee, pending availability.
Food: 3 meals per workday are provided. Weekend meals in town are not included Fri night through to Sunday lunch.
Airport Transfers: Airport pickup is provided upon arrival
Orientation: Introduction and orientation on upon arrival at the sanctuary on the first Sunday
Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.
What’s not Included
Flights, visas (if required), travel health insurance, meals on the weekend (from dinner on Friday to lunch on Sunday), personal expenses
This project takes place in Cambodia’s most sparsely populated eastern province of Mondulkiri. “Mondulkiri” is Cambodian for “Meeting of the Hills” and the region is characterized by its rolling hills, lush landscape and thundering waterfalls. The province capital is Sen Monorom, also the only official town of the province, while the remainder of Mondulkiri is made up of natural forest, including three large protected areas.
This sanctuary prides itself on its ethical values; there is no riding, bathing with, hand feeding, performing with or abusing of the elephants in any way, shape or form. The elephants are returned to the forest and able to roam free. This haven is unique in that the elephants have 1500 hectares (3,700 acres) of natural forest in which they roam around and live as free animals – one of the largest areas of forest for captive elephants in the whole of Asia. There are currently 12, full-time retired elephants at the sanctuary.
As a volunteer at this project you allow the project to do what they do best: care for sick and abused elephants, protect the forests and provide vital jobs, healthcare, community assistance and vet care for the local indigenous population and elephant owners across Cambodia.
Volunteers at this project will be helping to monitor the health of the elephants, with observation and research, and help to develop and maintain the site as a care facility for these magnificent creatures. Most of the volunteer work is done at a distance to allow the elephants to roam free in their natural habitat and have as stress free lifestyle as possible. The chance to observe these elephants in their forest home is as close as you will ever get to see an elephant in the wild but in close proximity!
As a volunteer on this project you will be volunteering at an ethical elephant sanctuary whose main goal is to allow rescued elephants the opportunity to live in their natural habitat and live as free animals. Work will consist of tasks that are solely for the benefit of the elephants and their forest home. Volunteers will only engage with the elephants in ethical ways.
Some of your tasks may include:
A typical day: A typical day begins at 7:00 AM with breakfast served in the group dining room. After breakfast, around 8:00 AM, volunteers will either head to observe the elephants or engage in some volunteer work. Volunteers are trekking out into 1,500 hectares of beautiful forest to find the elephants, therefore there is a lot of hiking (five-seven kilometers per day) on difficult terrain and volunteers need to be prepared accordingly.
A delicious buffet lunch is served daily and the lunch breaks are long with plenty of time to relax. Following lunch, volunteers either go out to observe the elephants or partake in more hands-on work, depending on the schedule. The evenings are free for relaxation. Dinner is always a highlight with delicious local dishes and beer or soda for sale.
Please note: The project schedule is subject to change based on the project’s current needs.
Weekly Schedule: Volunteers will be picked up from Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) on Saturday and stay the night in Phnom Penh. Volunteers will be provided a dinner voucher that night as well as breakfast Sunday morning (please pre-order the breakfast by 06:30 PM the night before) and then transfer to Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri, in the east of Cambodia. The transfer will leave Phnom Penh at 7.00 AM and take five to six hours to reach Mondulkiri. You will stop for lunch along the way which is included.
The program will begin officially at 3:00 PM on Sunday, when volunteers meet the project staff in Mondulkiri at their center and journey out to the project site. Volunteers will spend all week on-site and return to town on Friday at 5:00 PM. Friday night dinner will be at volunteers’ own expense. You then will be staying in Mondulkiri for the weekend and returning to the project site again on Sunday at 3:00 PM. Weekends are then free to explore the beautiful Mondulkiri province, or relax and chill in town.
At the end of week 2 volunteers will stay Friday night in Sen Monorom town, Mondulkiri, and be transported back to the city of Phnom Penh at 7:00 AM on Saturday, where volunteers will need to arrange their own transport to the airport for departure, stay in Phnom Penh or onward travel.
Internet: There are Internet cafes in town, but please note that there is no internet or cell phone reception at the project or accommodations – volunteers should be sure to advise family and friends that you will be out of contact during your stay at the sanctuary.
Laundry: Laundry service is included onsite at the sanctuary.
Accommodation in Phnom Penh: Volunteers will be placed in single hotel rooms in Phnom Penh on the Saturday of their arrival, and be transferred to the project Sunday.
Accommodation at the sanctuary: From Sunday until Friday afternoon, volunteers will be staying in a mixed-gender, shared dorm on the sanctuary site, overlooking the beautiful forest. Accommodations have been built mostly with recycled materials. Volunteers have the option to upgrade to private bungalows with en suite bathrooms for additional fees – please note there are only four private bungalows on-site.
Accommodation on the weekends: On Friday evening, volunteers will be placed in single rooms at a hostel in Sen Monorom.
Food: All meals from dinner on the first Saturday in Phnom Penh until the following Friday lunch onsite the sanctuary are provided. Friday night dinner is not included allowing the volunteers to choose where you have dinner in town on your return. Meals often include meat and vegetable dishes, but may vary from season to season. Vegetarian, vegan and special diets can be accommodated onsite at the sanctuary. For volunteers staying longer than one week, all meals over the free time on the weekend at the volunteers’ own cost.
Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:
Mondulkiri is an ideal location for volunteers who enjoy sightseeing and embracing nature. The rolling hills of the province provide a delightful, scenic view that is complemented by the many waterfalls of the province. If volunteers stay for two weeks or more, you will have free time on the weekend to explore some of this beautiful province. A few suggested travel highlights for the Mondulkiri area are as follows:
Bou Sra Waterfall
The Bou Sra Waterfall is made up of three magnificent falls that create a pool and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. The site is also home to one of the highest ziplines in Cambodia. Take a swim in the falls pool and then zipline through the Cambodian jungle for an thrilling experience!
Phnom Doh Krokom Pagoda & the Sea Forest
There are a number of look out points around the town, for an amazing view of the sunset over Sen Monorom and the “sea forest,” take a trip to the Phnom Doh Krokom Pagoda. This is a popular destination for sightseeing as it overlooks the region’s rolling hills.
Responsible Tourism Day Projects:
Jahoo Gibbon Camp
The community-based ecotourism initiative is a joint venture between the indigenous Bunong village of Andong Kralong and the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation (SVC), where visitors have the chance to see yellow-cheeked crested gibbons and black-shanked douc langurs, as well as rare bird species.
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