Family volunteering with elephants in Laos
Laos, once known as the “Land of a Million Elephants”, is now home to just several hundred elephants living in the wild. You and your family will come together with other animal lovers to help bring more elephants out of captivity to live in this wonderful haven. Witness the babies at the nursery, laugh as the adults splash in the lake, and marvel as they roam in their newfound freedom.
Dates: All year round for 7 days
Suitability: You know your children best, but we would suggest a minimum age of 8 for this project. You need to be prepared to walk relatively long distances over relatively steep inclines, be happy with basic accommodation and be up for a very different experience.
How do you fancy working closely with Asian elephants, living in a stunning lakeside centre and immersing yourself in elephant conservation? If the answer to these three questions is positive, this could be the family adventure for you. Not only will you get to know these gentle giants, their personalities and their histories, each member of the family will play a vital role in their care and recovery. For all of these elephants that are lucky enough to call this place home have been rescued from the cruel logging trade, and have been brought here to live a life as close to the wild as possible.
Your family will become fully integrated in the volunteer community here. The project is sociable, and allows all of the family to play their important part. From creating enrichments to monitoring elephant behaviour, from learning all about the plight of elephants to watching the babies frolic in the nursery, every day will offer different wonders and experiences.
What will we be doing each day?
The first three days of your time on the project will be spent getting to fully understand the workings of the centre, and the background of the elephants – and most importantly, getting to know the elephants! The induction covers, amongst other things:
- learning the background of the elephants at the centre, and in Laos as a whole
- visiting the veterinary clinic, and learning about the work that goes on there
- learning about caring for rescued elephants
- witnessing the elephants bathing and roaming in the wild
- seeing the baby elephants at the elephant nursery
- basic interaction with the elephants
Once your induction has come to an end, your tasks may include, but are not limited to:
- assisting with the biologists and other members of the elephant care team
- creating enrichments for the elephants, creating mental stimulation and wild behaviour
- monitoring the elephants as they roam freely, or whilst they tackle their enrichments
- basic maintenance around the centre such as clearing leaves, painting, checking fences, reforestation, painting, cutting grasses or the elephants etc
- making poo paper (dry season only, generally March – May)
Where will we be based?
This project is based only 2 – 3 hours drive from the vibrant UNESCO city of Luang Prabang, and many families choose to spend a few days here before or after the project. The centre itself is in rural Laos, located on the edge of a lake overlooking rugged mountains and sprawling rain forest. Its rural nature allows for kayaking on the lake in the evening, chilling out in a hammock, taking walks around the area, or simply enjoying a game or two in the communal areas.
Accommodation and food
You and your family will be living on-site in Lao-style wooden cabins. Usually parents share one room and children another, although this varies depending on the size of your family. You will be sharing bathrooms with western toilets and hot and cold showers with your fellow volunteers. There is a lovely balcony with views over the lake, the mountains and the centre itself. Often you will see the elephants passing by your window!
The centre boasts a wonderful on-site restaurant where you will enjoy three meals per day. Breakfast usually includes fresh bread, eggs, noodle soup and fruit. Lunch and dinner are hot, with a range of soup, rice, noodles, seasonable vegetables, meat and fish. All dietary requirements can be catered for, however vegans should expect a more limited diet. The food is delicious, and a real highlight.
There is a small bar overlooking the lake and the centre, a small play area and hammocks where you can relax with a book or a game.
When should we book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Assist a leading conservation initiative which is aiming to protect elephants in Laos
- Get to know these gentle giants, working closely alongside them on a daily basis
- Immerse your children into a genuine conservation effort, to which they can make a valuable contribution
- Enjoy the stunning location in your free time, from kayaking on the lake to simply relaxing in the hammocks
Whyshould I do this?
Families who have taken part in this project before have really enjoyed working together to contribute to a valuable cause. The contact with the elephants is of course a highlight, but the real beauty of this project is to be able to understand the plight of elephants, how the centre is helping, and how you have played a part in their conservation. It is inspiring for all of the family, and particularly allows children to feel part of something important.
Elephant numbers in Asia are declining with shocking rapidity, and it is estimated that Laos’ elephant population will disappear in several generations unless something is done. This project is leading the way in finding a solution, rescuing elephants from the tourism and logging industries, and providing them with a sanctuary in which to live in freedom.
You will fly in to Luang Prabang (LPQ). The transfer day to the sanctuary is a Monday. You will be collected from a central meeting point in Luang Prabang at 8am. The drive to the centre takes about two hours through the city and then into the countryside. You will be dropped off at a jetty where you will be met by a boat to take you on the 15 minute journey over the lake to the centre.
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure briefing
- Advice on visa requirements
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- Transfer from Luang Prabang to the project site
- Return to Luang Prabang after your project
- Accommodation in family rooms with western toilets and hot and cold showers
- Three meals per day
- Linen and towels
- Mosquito net in your accommodation
- Oyster will prepare you thoroughly before you leave and support you while you are out there
- ATOL financial protection (if Oyster books your flight)
- Free access to InterHealth’s Travel Health Advice Service
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A full passport valid for a minimum of 6 months after your return date
- Flights to Luang Prabang (Oyster can help you to organise these)
- Insurance covering your project time and any planned independent travel, we can introduce you to a policy
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Cost of your transfer from the airport to your first night accommodation
- Cost of a hotel in Luang Prabang for your first night
- Any further travel costs once you are returned to Luang Prabang at the end of your trip
- Independent travel costs and return to the airport
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow maybe £30 per week depending on lifestyle)
- Visa costs – you should not need to apply for a visa in advance if you are from the UK and most western European countries. You will receive a visa on arrival for about £30. Advice given on longer stays – there will be costs associated.