Wild Elephant Conservation Volunteer Program in Sri Lanka
Ready for a big experience as a Wild Elephant Conservation volunteer in Sri Lanka? International Volunteer HQ’s Wild Elephant Conservation project is a unique and exciting opportunity for volunteers to help protect the enormous creatures from being killed by farmers. Elephants hold great religious and cultural significance in Sri Lanka but are also seen as destructive pests by rural people who want to protect their crops and food sources. Volunteers gain conservation experience while helping local initiatives develop effective measures to resolve human-elephant conflict and to ensure their survival in the wild.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$1419 for 2 weeks
- Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Protect elephants by preventing conflict with humans
Discover Sri Lanka’s amazing wildlife and environment
Stay with other volunteers near the beautiful Wasgamuwa National Park
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Wild elephants are a protected species in Sri Lanka and are important in both cultural and religious ways; however, they’re viewed as a nuisance by many rural people as they invade farms looking for food and often eat and destroy crops. The aim of the Wild Elephant Conservation project is to develop conservation strategies focused on mitigating human-elephant conflicts and conserving elephants, leopards, other wildlife and their habitats in the central and north-central provinces of Sri Lanka.
As a Wild Elephant Conservation volunteer you’ll be able to help make a meaningful difference to the survival of wild elephants in Sri Lanka. Together with the local wildlife conservation society, you’ll assist in observing the behaviour of wild elephants and carry out research-related tasks within the Wasgamuwa region, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. These may include:
- Observing wild elephants and human-elephant interactions
- Monitoring the behaviour of wild elephants
- Trekking to observe wildlife and birds, looking for signs of leopard and elephant activity
- Observing various habitats and visiting forest hermitages
- Birding and nature-watching around the volunteer camp
- Monitoring electric fences erected to stop elephants from raiding village homes
- Meeting with community leaders and members to monitor human-elephant conflict resolution projects
- Gaining experience in the use of GPS
- Getting involved in initiatives such as Project Orange Elephant which plants citrus trees around farms as an elephant deterrent
It’s important to note you won’t be interacting with elephants directly, but rather observing their movements in the jungle. Your exact tasks and project work will depend on the season and the needs of the project at the time.
The Elephant Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks. All volunteers take part in the Introduction Week orientation in Kandy from Monday to Friday, before travelling to the project site on Sunday. You must apply for the Elephant Conservation project no later than 2 weeks before you wish to begin.
Why do Wild Elephant Conservation volunteering in Sri Lanka with IVHQ?
When you volunteer with elephants in Sri Lanka you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Protecting wild elephants and other wildlife
- Improving human-elephant interaction
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining conservation experience
- Immersing yourself in Sri Lankan culture
- Exploring the Sri Lankan countryside
- Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
- All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
- All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Sri Lanka photo gallery
”Volunteering with this conservation project is one of the most inspiring and exciting things I have ever done. The work being done on the project perfectly balances the line between human safety and elephant well being. I was able to spend every day doing work that had a real impact, plus I had the added opportunity to observe elephants in the wild. This program is absolutely amazing and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is interested in conservation!”
Read reviews from Wild Elephant Conservation volunteers in Sri LankaSee more reviews
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka is an island nation set off the south-east coast of India. Famous for its tea plantations, cinnamon exports and cricket rivalries, it also boasts a vast array of beaches, Buddhas and big wildlife like elephants and whales.
While Sri Lanka is a well-developed country which has made great strides towards making sure its residents don’t live in extreme poverty, there is still many places outside of the main centres where people struggle to access good quality education, healthcare and earn a decent living to support themselves and their families. Volunteers can help in these areas by providing important support to local initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life for people in these disadvantaged areas.
The Wild Elephant Conservation project is based in the Wasgamuwa area, close to the Wasgamuwa National Park and ten minutes from the nearest village.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Colombo anytime on the Saturday or Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) on Saturday or Sunday. Your airport pick-up over the weekend is included in your program fee. We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
After you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Kandy. Your accommodation is covered by your program fee and includes the Sunday night before your program orientation.
If you are travelling in Sri Lanka prior to your volunteer program, you can meet the local team at the airport in Colombo on the Sunday before your program begins, or make your own way directly to the local team’s office in Kandy.
Volunteers joining the Wild Elephant Conservation will take part in the Introduction Week Orientation before being taken to the placement location on the Sunday prior to their second week.
Introduction Week Orientation: This is a fantastic way to start your volunteer experience in Sri Lanka. It provides you with all the key information you need, plus the chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising. It includes an introduction to Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan customs, rules and expectations, safety in Sri Lanka, travel opportunities in Sri Lanka, an introduction to your volunteer project and placement, Kandy city tour, cultural show and basic Sinhala language lessons. You’ll also get to tick off some key Kandy experiences including visits to a Buddhist monastery, a spice garden and the famous Temple of the Tooth, as well as taking a Sri Lankan cooking class, a boat ride on Kandy Lake, a Batik lesson and getting a relaxing Ayurveda massage.
Volunteer schedule example
On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Weekdays - A typical volunteer day is as follows:
|6:00 - 7:30 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.|
|7:45 AM||Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements.|
|9:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.|
|9:00 PM||Dinner at the volunteer house.|
During the weekends, volunteers are free to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Kandy and Sri Lanka. Kandy itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has an exciting selection of things to see and do. You can visit a number of beautiful and ornate temples including the Temple of the Tooth - an important shrine housing a canine tooth said to belong to the Buddha; wander in the grand and impressive Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya; tour a tea plantation and factory; sample the tasty and widely-regarded local cuisine; or take a walk up to the biggest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka and be rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of the city. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Colombo, Galle or even Southern India.
Our local team also offers some great travel packages for volunteers over the weekend and after their volunteer program finishes. They can help you arrange trips and have some special packages available for volunteers, including Trekking Week (a week of hiking some of Sri Lanka’s most famous treks and mountains), Beach Week (a week of activities on Sri Lanka’s coast) and Body and Mind Week (a week of yoga and Ayurvedic massage at a retreat in Sri Lanka). All of the above can be enquired about directly with our program staff after registering on the IVHQ Sri Lanka program. These packages cost approximately AU$604 for the week (including meals and accommodation) and can be paid for in Sri Lanka to our program staff.
Accommodation and WiFi
Volunteers on the Elephant Conservation project are accommodated onsite in a volunteer camp located 15 minutes from the entrance of the Wasgamuwa National Park. Volunteers can expect to share a room with two to six other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with electric fans and mosquito nets. The volunteer house within the camp has 24/7 solar power and western bathrooms.
To access the internet during your program, we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Sri Lanka, as WiFi is not available in the volunteer accommodation.
While you’re on the Introduction Week Orientation in Kandy you’ll be accommodated in a volunteer house. Bedrooms have bunk beds and you can expect to share a room with four to 12 other volunteers.
Homestay accommodation is also available in Kandy and is a popular option for couples or older volunteers. This option can be arranged with our local team according to availability and volunteers may either have their own room or share with one or two others of the same gender, depending on how many other volunteers have requested homestay accommodation. Alternatively, private rooms and matrimonial rooms can be arranged for an additional $35 per person, per week, subject to availability at the time.
Living is comfortable and all accommodation has electricity and running water. Bathrooms in the volunteer houses and homestays are all western style with a shower that has warm water, a toilet and basin. Bedding is provided which includes a pillow with pillow case and top and bottom sheets. You will need to bring a towel, toiletries including hand soap and toilet paper, and a mosquito net if you wish to sleep with one.
Families who wish to volunteer in Sri Lanka are required to stay in a homestay during Introduction Week at an additional cost of US$35 (approximately AU$49) per person, per week. If your family has more than four members, two rooms may be required to accommodate all family members.
Volunteers on the Sri Lanka program are provided with three meals a day during the week and brunch and dinner during the weekend. Breakfast includes toast, eggs, fruit, tea, coffee and milk. Sri Lankan foods served for lunch and dinner include roti bread, dhal, curries, vegetables and salads. Meat is rarely eaten except on festive occasions. Authentic Sri Lankan meals are cooked by a local chef and most are prepared with an array of spices and coconut milk.
Bottled water is readily available in Sri Lanka and volunteers should budget approximately US$5 per week for 2 litres per day. There are also water filters in the volunteer houses and homestays. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can discuss this with you. However, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home. The local team will do their best to see that you are well taken care of, but as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible. If you wish to supplement some of your meals with home comforts, there are basic kitchen facilities available to use.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|2 weeks||AU$1419 Equivalent to AU$102/day|
|3 weeks||AU$1728 Equivalent to AU$83/day|
|4 weeks||AU$2037 Equivalent to AU$73/day|
|5 weeks||AU$2346 Equivalent to AU$68/day|
|6 weeks||AU$2656 Equivalent to AU$64/day|
|8 weeks||AU$3274 Equivalent to AU$59/day|
|10 weeks||AU$3892 Equivalent to AU$56/day|
|12 weeks||AU$4511 Equivalent to AU$54/day|
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of AU$420 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transport to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$30-50 per week to be sufficient for expenses.
Check what's required to visit Sri Lanka
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Capital||Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte|
|Languages||Sinhala and Tamil|
|Currency||Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)|
Weather and climate
The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Mean temperature ranges from 17°C (62.6°F) in the central highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of 33 °C (91.4°F) in other low-altitude areas.