Volunteer with elephants in Laos
Head to the “Land of a Million Elephants”, where now only 400 elephants are living in the wild. Volunteer at an inspiring rescue and rehabilitation centre, dedicated to conserving the species and promoting the survival of these gentle giants.
For generations, elephants in Laos have been forced to work in the logging industry. This backbreaking work, which involves dragging several tons of timber for 8 – 10 hours each day, leaves the elephants exhausted, weakened and often injured. The intensity of this work has meant that the elephant birth rate has plummeted, and within generations the population in Laos could die out entirely unless something is done. You can be part of the solution at one of Laos’ leading animal welfare and conservation centres.
This project is a haven for rescued elephants. There are currently 7 elephants in permanent residence here, although many others pass through for hospital treatment, convalescence and to give birth in the elephant nursery. Elephants are encouraged to live a life as close to the wild as possible, bathing in the lake and roaming the land, which extends over 100 hectares.
What will I be doing?
The first three days of your time here you will be getting to fully understand the workings of the centre, and the background of the elephants. This will enable you to comprehend the complexities of elephant conservation, so that you can further help as a volunteer to make a genuine contribution. The induction will open you up to:
- learning about the background of elephants in Laos and those here at the centre
- seeing the veterinary clinic and the work that goes on there
- watching the elephants bathe and roam in the wild
- basic interaction with the elephants
- learning about caring for rescued elephants
Once your induction is complete, volunteer tasks may include, but are not limited to:
- creating enrichments for the elephants, helping to promote mental stimulation and encourage wild behaviour
- monitoring the elephants, observing their behaviour and interactions
- basic maintenance around the centre, such as painting, building, clearing leaves, checking fences, reforestation, cutting grasses for the elephants, repairing the elephant swimming areas etc.
- assisting with the biologists and other members of the elephant care team
- helping with marketing and promotion
- making poo paper (dry season only)
Accommodation and food
You will be living on-site in a typical Lao style wooden cabin. You should expect to share a room. Mosquito nets and bedding are provided. You will be sharing bathrooms with western toilets and hot and cold showers with your fellow volunteers. There is a lovely balcony with views out over the mountains, the lake and the centre.
The centre has a small on-site restaurant where you will be enjoying your three meals each day. Breakfast usually consists of fresh bread, eggs, noodle soup and fruit. Lunch and dinner are delicious Lao-style dishes with lots of soup, rice, noodles, seasonable vegetables and meats. All dietary requirements can be catered for, however vegans should expect a much more limited diet. The food is delicious, and a real highlight of your trip.
There is a small bar overlooking the lake and the centre where you can relax and play games or read with other volunteers in the evenings.
When should I 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.
- Help with a leading conservation initiative aiming to protect elephants in Laos.
- Work closely alongside these gentle giants, learning about them and getting to know their personalities.
- Live in a stunning corner of the world, surrounded by cloud-clad mountains, verdant jungle and a glittering lake.
- Make a genuine contribution to maintaining the elephant population in Laos.
- The elephants roam through the forests, bathe in the lake and interact in a way that they have never been able to do before. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be part of.
Whyshould I do this?
Volunteering with elephants is inspiring in itself – these are some of the world’s most loved animals after all. It is for that reason that this project is so important; elephant numbers in Laos are declining with terrifying rapidity, and it is estimated that, if nothing is done, the population will all but disappear within a few generations. This project is leading the way in finding a solution to this decline. The centre is rescuing elephants from the logging and tourism industries, and providing them with a safe haven to enjoy living a life as close to the wild as possible.
Taking part in this project will enable you to learn all about elephants and their conservation, and also help to create a future for the elephants of Laos.
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
- Shared volunteer accommodation 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)
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.