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Wild Elephant Conservation Volunteer Program in Sri Lanka

Elephants hold great cultural and religious significance in Sri Lanka; however, they’re viewed as a nuisance by many rural people, as they invade farms looking for crops. The aim of the Wild Elephant Conservation project in Sri Lanka is to develop effective measures to resolve human-elephant conflict and to ensure wild elephants are no longer being killed by farmers.

Wild Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka with IVHQ

This unique and exciting project gives you the chance to directly help wild elephants in Sri Lanka. Together with the local wildlife conservation society, you’ll assist in observing the behavior of wild elephants and carry out research-related tasks within the Wasgamuwa region, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.

By volunteering with elephants, you’ll help with a range of tasks, including:

  • Observing wild elephants and human-elephant interactions
  • Monitoring the behavior of wild elephants and observing birds and other wildlife
  • Trekking to observe wildlife and birds, looking for signs of leopard and elephant activity
  • Observing various habitats and visit forest hermitages
  • Birding and observing nature 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’ and using honey bees as an elephant deterrent.

These initiatives all aim 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

It’s important to note you won’t be interacting with elephants directly, but rather observing their movements in the jungle.

The Elephant Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks. All volunteers take part in introduction week in Kandy from Monday to Friday, before traveling to the project site on Sunday. You must apply for the Elephant Conservation project no later than 2 weeks before you wish to begin.

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Project Highlights
What you need to know
  • Affordable fees from $990 for 2 weeks
  • Help to boost the numbers of Sri Lankan elephants by preventing conflict with humans

  • Monitor elephant and other wildlife behavior in the wild

  • Suitable for fit volunteers who are passionate about animals

  • Based in Wasgamuwa National Park

  • Minimum duration of 2 weeks

  • Volunteering for up to 7 hours per day

Destination Highlights
Sri Lanka at a glance
  • Based in and around the city of Kandy, with some projects run from rural locations

  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support

  • Accommodation in a volunteer house or local homestay

  • Between 10 and 40 volunteers start in Sri Lanka each month

The Sri Lanka volunteer program is based in the sacred city of Kandy with volunteer projects located in and around the city, and further afield. The Rural Community Development project is located in Hanguranketha, in the Nuwara Eliya district and in Dambulla, in the Central Matale District. The Wild Elephant Conservation project is based in the Wasgamuwa area, close to the Wasgamuwa National Park, and the Turtle Conservation project is based in Ambalangoda in the southern coast. Volunteers on the Cultural Immersion project are based in Dambana.

The IVHQ Sri Lanka volunteer program begins every Monday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks. The Wild Elephant Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks.

Sri Lanka Volunteer Project Locations:

  • Childcare (Kandy)
  • Teaching (Kandy)
  • Medical (Kandy)
  • Construction and Renovation (Kandy)
  • Wild Elephant Conservation (Wasgamuwa)
  • Elderly Care (Kandy)
  • Special Needs Care (Kandy)
  • Rural Community Development (Hanguranketha, Dambulla)
  • Cultural Immersion (Dambana)
  • Turtle Conservation (Ambalangoda)

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 traveling 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.

Orientation is run by the local team in Kandy, beginning on the Monday morning of your start date. Volunteers can choose to join a one-day orientation or Introduction Week, with the exception of volunteers joining the Wild Elephant Conservation or Turtle Conservation projects who must join the Introduction Week. Either orientation option provides you with all the key information you need, plus the chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing. The Introduction Week is a fantastic way to start your volunteer experience in Sri Lanka and gives you the time to dive deeper into the culture and activities, whereas the one-day option is perfect for volunteers that want to jump straight into their volunteer work.

The first day of the Introduction Week involves a standard IVHQ country orientation, which includes an introduction to Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan customs, rules and expectations, safety in Sri Lanka, travel opportunities in Sri Lanka, introduction to your volunteer project and placement, Kandy city tour, cultural show and basic Sinhala language lessons. After the first day, volunteers who have selected the one-day orientation option, begin their projects straight away, while the remaining volunteers continue with the full Introduction Week.

If you are joining the Introduction Week before volunteering on the Wild Elephant Conservation, Turtle Conservation or Rural Community Development projects, you will be transferred to your project location on the Sunday prior to your second week.

Introduction Week Schedule

Monday Initial Sri Lanka Program Orientation (Introduction to Sri Lanka and your program, Sri Lankan culture and language lesson, travel and tour opportunities), city tour and cultural show in the evening
Tuesday Visit the Ranawana Buddhist Monastery, a local spice garden with Lunch and boat ride on Kandy Lake
Wednesday Sri Lankan cooking lesson and Buddhism lesson at the monastery
Thursday Visit the Temple of Tooth and a local Hindu temple. Enjoy an Indian Lunch and Ayurveda massage
Friday Sri Lankan Batik lesson and lunch with a local Sri Lankan family

If you wish to participate in the Introduction Week, you can indicate this on your application form when you apply for the program or let your Program Manager know at least 2 weeks before you begin the program. Your IVHQ Program Manager will then add this to your file, as you need to book a place prior to departing for Sri Lanka.

First Day: 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 to 7.30 AM​ Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.

7.45 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at.

12.00 PM Lunch

3.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.

6.45 PM Dinner at the volunteer house.

Please be aware there is a curfew at 8.00 pm every night for all volunteers. This curfew is in place to ensure the safety of our volunteers. Volunteers who wish to go out past 8.00 pm must discuss this with the local staff and arrange alternative accommodation for that night.

Volunteers in Kandy are accommodated in a volunteer house with other volunteers. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds and you can expect to share a room with four to 12 other volunteers. Homestay accommodation is also available in Kandy, which 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, toilet and basin. Bedding is provided which includes a pillow with pillow case, bottom and top sheet. 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 at an additional cost of $35 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 Rural Community Development project who are placed in Hanguranketha are accommodated in a large volunteer house within the village. Volunteers can expect to share their room with 4-10 other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with fans. The home stay has electricity and western style bathrooms. It is located within walking distance to local shops.

Volunteers on the Rural Community Development project who are placed in Dambulla are accommodated in a rural volunteer house in Dambulla, which is situated in an idyllic setting alongside a river and organic garden. Volunteers can expect to share their room with up to nine other volunteers of the same gender. Electricity and fans are provided at the volunteer house, which also has western style bathrooms. The volunteer house is ten minutes bike ride from the nearest shops. It is important to note that bicycles are the main mode of transport to and from placements on this project and bicycles are provided for volunteers to use.

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 - 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 solar power (24/7) with western bathrooms and is located ten minutes from the nearest village.

Volunteers on the Cultural Immersion project are accommodated with a host-family, living in the Vaddah community in Dambana. Volunteers can expect to share their room with other volunteers of the same gender. You can expect very basic living conditions, with outdoor showers, squat toilets, and a woodfire oven. It’s a unique insight into rural Sri Lankan living and volunteers should come with an open mind.

Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation project in Ambalangoda are accommodated in a large volunteer house. Volunteers can expect to share rooms with up to seven other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with fans. The homestay has electricity and western style bathrooms, however showers are usually cold. It’s a 5-minute walk to the local beach and the volunteering placement.

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.

Volunteers on the Sri Lanka program are provided with three meals per day during the week (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and twice during the weekend (breakfast and lunch are combined as brunch during the weekend). Breakfast includes toast, eggs, fruit, tea, coffee and milk. Sri Lankan foods served for lunch and dinner include roti bread, dal (lentil soup), curries, vegetables, salads. Meat is rarely eaten, except on festive occasions. Authentic Sri Lankan meals are cooked by a local chef and most meals are prepared with an array of spices and coconut milk.

Bottled water is readily available in Sri Lanka and volunteers should budget approximately $5 per week for this (2 liters 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, we need to stress the point that 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.

“This project is so rewarding and I highly recommend it to anyone. I will always remember the smiles of all the elderly people in the home and playing my music and dancing to them.” - Cathy Binua (Teaching Volunteer in Sri Lanka)

Read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Sri Lanka here

Sri Lanka

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
1 week $315
2 weeks $425
3 weeks $555
4 weeks $685
5 weeks $810
6 weeks $940
8 weeks $1,200
10 weeks $1,460
12 weeks $1,720
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$30 to be sufficient for weekly expenses

Sri Lanka: Turtle Conservation Project

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
2 weeks $550
3 weeks $790
4 weeks $1,030
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$30 to be sufficient for weekly expenses

Sri Lanka: Wild Elephant Conservation Project

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
2 weeks $990
3 weeks $1,190
4 weeks $1,390
5 weeks $1,590
6 weeks $1,790
8 weeks $2,190
10 weeks $2,590
12 weeks $2,990
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$30 to be sufficient for weekly expenses
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • Deals on flights and travel insurance
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Kandy and Sri Lanka. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Colombo, Galle or even Southern India. Our local team also offer some great travel packages for volunteers over the weekend and after their volunteer program finishes.

Our local team in Sri Lanka can help you arrange any trips you wish to do in Sri Lanka, with 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 $430 for the week (including meals and accommodation) and can be paid for in Sri Lanka to our program staff.

See our Sri Lanka Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Sri Lanka!

Capital Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte
Population 20.33 million
Languages Sinhala and Tamil
Currency Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Time zone UTC+05:30

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.

Volunteers who are under 18 years old will be required to provide IVHQ with parental consent and two character reference letters in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check, this must be uploaded to your MyIVHQ profile prior to arriving in Sri Lanka. Additional requirements apply for Medical and Teaching volunteers, please read the project descriptions above.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!