Volunteer with Elephants in the Forests of Cambodia

An opportunity to volunteer with elephants at an Elephant Sanctuary in the forests of Mondulkiri, located in the remote Eastern Cambodia. The elephants are retired from their previous hard-working lives in the trekking and tourism industry, and now roaming free in their natural habitat. Volunteers will observe and learn about the elephants, while also contributing to construction and reforestation projects.

You can join for 1 week up to 8 weeks and we have places available all throughout the year.

Individuals, groups, families and students all welcome.

Cost for food & accommodation during the project, transport, backup and support starts at £640

Observing elephants from a distanceElephants roaming free in the forestVolunteers doing farm work at the Elephant SanctuaryElephant enjoying the green Volunteers ready for the day's work Elephants bathing in the riverVolunteers together by the river running through the forestBungalow accommodation at the Elephant SanctuaryDelicious food served every day Enjoy a stunning view of the forest from aboveRelax in the hammock after working in the fieldElephants getting a health checkMondulkiri is known for its powerful waterfalls
Elephants roaming free in the reserveThe locals at the project looking after the elephantsVolunteers observing elephants from a distanceTrekking in the forestPlanting new trees and plants for future generations

About the Project

Volunteers observing elephants in Cambodia

This Elephant sanctuary was created to make a home for injured and overworked elephants in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. It currently looks after and cares for ten elephants that are retired from working, and now roam free within the 1,500 hectares of natural jungle habitat. The vast amount of space allows the elephants to roam and escape from human activity during most of the day. In exchange for retiring their elephants, the owners receive a monthly compensation. This way, the project supports the freedom and care of elephants, and also the local communities in providing work and protecting their natural resources.

It is a vast eco-tourism site surrounded by protected forest and local farms. This sanctuary has been developed in close partnership with the local indigenous Bunong community of Pu Trom, and sits within their community forest. Regular tourists also come to visit the site during the year. No riding, feeding or swimming with elephants are taking place, and you will mainly be watching and learning about the elephants from a distance.

A typical week at the Elephant Volunteer Project

Volunteers will be staying at the project site for five days, of which one is a full day volunteering with elephants, while the remaining four days will be split equally between visits with elephants and volunteer activities. Volunteer activities can include the reforestation projects, planting seeds and looking after the nursery, farming or construction work.

Volunteers cutting grassA typical day at the project begins at 7 AM with breakfast, and around 8 AM volunteers will either head out to visit the elephants or get into some volunteer work. The structure of the days can vary depending on staffing and short-term visitor numbers. Lunch is served daily and the lunch breaks are long with plenty of time to read or have a nap in a hammock. Following lunch, volunteers will either go out to see elephants or do volunteer activities depending on the schedule. The days end in the late afternoon from which time volunteers are free, with dinner served around 6:30 PM.

Please note this is a dynamic project and this schedule may change. Sometimes there are opportunities to attend cultural festivals with the village, or work projects off-site. However, we cannot guarantee that any of these events will occur during your time volunteering. For those who stay for more than one week, the weekend is free time spent in Sen Monorom.


Dates & Costs

Observing the elephants from a distance

2nd February to 16th February 2019
16th February to 2nd March 2019
2nd March to 16th March 2019
16th March to 30th March 2019
30th March to 13th April 2019
13th April to 27th April 2019
27th April to 11th May 2019
11th May to 25th May 2019
25th May to 8th June 2019
8th June to 22nd June 2019
22 June to 6th July 2019
6th July to 20th July 2019
20th July to 3rd August 2019
3rd August to 17th August 2019
17th August to 31st August 2019
31st August to 14th September 2019
14th September to 28th September 2019
28th September to 12th October 2019
12th October to 26th October 2019
26th October to 9th November 2019
9th November to 23rd November 2019
23rd November to 7th December 2019
7th December to 21st December 2019

Please note that the above dates are flexible, and you can join the project starting on any Saturday throughout the year. The minimum duration is 1 week, and the full work week starts at 8 AM on Monday through to Friday at 5 PM.

The price for 1 week is £640, 2 weeks is £958, 3 weeks is £1240 and 4 weeks is £1490. This covers all your food while at the project (from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon), water and accommodation (shared dorm) at the project, pick up in Phnom Penh airport, first night in Guest house in Phnom Penh (with all meals), return transport from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom, accommodation in Sen Monorom over the weekend(s), project training and supervision and WorkingAbroad Projects backup and placement support

For more details on the cost of staying at the project from 5-8 weeks, or if you are interested in staying in a private bungalow for an extra fee, then please contact charlotte@workingabroad.com

Your airfare to and from Cambodia, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included within this price. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project. Airport drop-off is not included, which means that you’ll be transferred to a location in Phnom Penh from Sen Monorom on Saturday.

We can also accept families with children and large groups for this project. Please email us if you are interested. To find out more about family volunteering abroad click here.

How about also joining the Bear Sanctuary project?Bear Sanctuary project in Cambodia

We have two great sanctuary projects in Cambodia that are both working hard for the further protection and conservation of wildlife. The Bear Sanctuary, located in a Wildlife Rescue centre near Phnom Penh, is rescuing endimic bears to Asia from horrible conditions, the illegal wildlife trade etc., so they can live a life free of pain. Joining them before/after your stay at the Elephant Sanctuary will provide you a full sense of what wildlife conservation and protection is all about in Cambodia learning from local staff and conservationists at both sanctuaries! Read more about the Bear Sanctuary project here and please don’t hesitate to reach out to Charlotte for further questions on charlotte@workingabroad.com

Lodging & Travel

Accommodation and Food

Volunteer accommodation

Volunteers will be staying at the Elephant Sanctuary site for 5 days in shared dorm style accommodation. The accommodation is placed on the slopes of the valley providing some great views over the surrounding forest and wildlife that inhabits it like certain types of birds, such as eagles and hornbills.

All meals are prepared by the chefs and are delicious and plentiful. Meals depend on seasonal products available at the market, but include a wide variety of beef, pork, fish and vegetable dishes. Every meal ends with a platter of fresh fruit. It is possible to accommodate Vegetarians, Vegans, and other dietary preferences. Free and safe drinking water is readily available from the kitchen.

Room view

The base camp’s electricity supply is powered by a generator from approximately 6 PM until 9 PM, when you will have lights and be able to recharge your electrical equipment. It is essential that you bring a torch for all other times, and for walking between the bungalows and the kitchen/lounge/dinning area. There is no internet once at the Sanctuary in the forest. You will be able to access Internet during the weekends in Sen Monorom. Housekeeping will make up the rooms each day, and there is a free laundry service available for volunteers. 

On the first night (Saturday to Sunday) upon arrival in Phnom Penh, volunteers will be staying at a guest house in the city. Dinner, breakfast and lunch for the road the next day is provided for the volunteers. On the last night (Friday-Saturday), volunteers will stay in shared accommodation in the town Sen Monorom, before being transferred back to Phnom Penh early Saturday morning. Dinner on Friday night is not provided, but volunteers usually go out to eat together.  

The project is closed during weekends for the elephants to have some peace. Thus all volunteers will go back to Sen Monorom on Friday afternoon together and stay in the shared accommodation. Volunteers have the weekend free until Sunday afternoon, where they will go back to the Elephant Sanctuary.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers in the forest

Volunteers should be aged 18 years or over*, be moderate to very physically fit (capable of walking several kilometres per day in varied/hard terrain), and speak English. Volunteers should have a strong motivation to help and contribute to the community and animal welfare, and be able to cope with living and working in hot (and sometimes wet) conditions.

*We can also accept families with children under 18 years for this project.

Visa to Cambodia

You can stay in Cambodia on a Tourist visa for 30 days. You can apply for this online before departure, and the 30 days starts when you enter the country. Your passport needs to be valid for minimum 6 months upon entry. It is only possible to extend your visa once for another 30 days and you would need to pay an extra fee. It is not recommended to overstay the allowed time of your visa, as this could involve a penalty fee and/or not being able to enter the country again.

How to get there

Volunteers should fly to Phnom Penh airport (PNH). From here you will be picked up by local staff and taken to the Guest House in Phnom Penh, where you will spend your first night. The next day, you will be transferred by local staff to the city Sen Monorom, which is about 12 km from the Elephant Sanctuary. You will be transferred by local staff from Sen Monorom to the santuary on Sunday afternoon.

You should arrive in Phnom Penh on a Saturday. If you arrive in Phnom Penh earlier than this, you would need to arrange your own airport transfer and accommodation until Saturday. If arriving 1-2 days before Saturday, we are able to assist you with arranging accommodation at the same guest house for extra night(s) at the same rate. 

Health Information

No health certificates or vaccinations are officially required for entry to Cambodia, unless arriving directly from Africa or a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. Generally advised are vaccinations against Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A + B, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. Consider anti-malaria tablets as the project is located in the mountain forest, which in particular is prone to mosquitos during and just before the end of the rainy season. 

Interactive Map & Background




Angkor Wat Cambodia

The Kingdom of Cambodia is a Southeast Asian nation bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north, Thailand to the northwest, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. While the Angkor Wat commemorates Cambodia's glorious history, the country has been ravaged by colonialism, the Indochina Wars, and the Khmer Rouge regime, and is today one of Asia's poorest countries.

Mondulkiri, "Mountain of Mandala", is a province of Eastern Cambodia with Sen Monorom being the capital. Bordering the provinces of Kratié to the west, Stung Treng to the northwest, Ratanakiri to the north and the country of Vietnam to the east and south, it is the most sparsely populated province in the country despite being the largest in land area.


The weather is hottest (40+ degrees) in March and April, whereas the high-season from November to February offers cooler and more windy days, with almost Mediterranean temperatures. The low season is from May to September, as this is also the rainy season, yet still frequently visited by Westerners on their Summer holidays.

The text has been taken from Wikitravel and you can read much more about Cambodia here: https://wikitravel.org/en/Cambodia

Volunteer Testimonials 


Elizabeth Roe, from the UK, joined the project as a volunteer for 1 week in August 2018: 

I volunteered for 1 week, which was an incredible experience. The location is beautiful with the added bonus of gracefully magnificent elephants. It is incredible to see them in their natural environment, see and learn about their different personalities and how we can do more to help support them. It is right in the heart of the Cambodian jungle and the project is run in partnership with the local village people. The project really puts its elephant's wellbeing at the heart of everything it does. Over the week we had the opportunity to meet all of the elephants, which includes light trekking, volunteering activities and to carry out health checks on the elephants.

The volunteering activities included working in the seed nursery, clearing pathways, building bridges, making medicine balls for the elephants and some indoor jobs for when it was raining. The staff were all really friendly and helpful. The accommodation was cleaned every day, it is in the jungle so be prepared for a few creepy crawlies. The weather was very changeable and they would adapt our volunteering activity to reflect this. It can be very muddy and slippery, plus you are asked to not wear revealing clothes, cover shoulders and wear long trousers to respect the locals. I would highly recommend this volunteering experience, there is never a dull moment always something to do and if you do have some downtime you can relax in a hammock overlooking the outstanding jungle.

Volunteer making a lamp

Grainne Finnegan, from Ireland, joined as a volunteer for 2 weeks from July-August 2018: 

I had an amazing time at the project, everything was organised so well. My flights were messed up and I ended up coming a day late and they were so accommodating and helped me make my way out to the project. Working at the project was different everyday helping out with the maintenance side of the project and then more elephant based volunteering, but there was a chance to see the elephants everyday and learn so much about them.

Since I stayed for a second week I then got a chance to work with Paul making bamboo lamps which I enjoyed so much and learned so much from him as he is an architect and I am an architecture student. I honestly can’t express how much I learned about elephants and Cambodia culture and people during my time at the project, it is something and somewhere I will remember for the rest of my life. I honestly can’t express how special of a place it is and I am so glad it is where I got the opportunity to see and learn so much more about elephants.

How to Join the ProjectElephants in the forest

To secure your placement on the project, please complete and submit the form with your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, you will be required to pay the final balance 2 months before arrival. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive an information package on the programme, the work you will do, suggested items to bring, how to travel there etc.

Apply Now

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