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Elephant Welfare Volunteering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Welfare Volunteering in Sri Lanka

Boost the wellbeing of elephants
Start dates
Programs start every Monday
Choose from 2-12 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 5 hours a day
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Dormitory style hotel
Program fees
From $1010 for 2 weeks
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
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Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

This program is ideal for:

Enthusiastic volunteers who love animals, want to help elephants, and are open minded to the different values and beliefs of the Sri Lankan people.

Project details

Dreaming of volunteering with elephants in Sri Lanka? International Volunteer HQ’s Elephant Welfare project gives you the chance to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Randeniya. You will help local staff to care for domesticated elephants who have been subject to harsh working conditions. By helping feed, bathe, and treat the elephants, you’ll help boost their mental and physical wellbeing. You’ll also have an opportunity to teach English at a local school and raise awareness of elephant welfare with the students.

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

As a volunteer on the Elephant Welfare project, you’ll be helping local staff at an elephant sanctuary where the sole purpose is to care for the wellbeing of domesticated elephants. Located in Randeniya, the project creates an ethical space for elephants who have been subjected to harsh working conditions while being part of tourist attractions. The sanctuary also takes in ‘working elephants’ — these animals have been living in tough conditions, made to work long hours with limited food and water and often controlled by force.

The sanctuary provides as many elephants as they can with an ‘elephant vacation’ from their daily routine of hard work. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka the owners of the elephants are not willing to sell them due to the large profits they make so the sanctuary rents the elephants for an agreed amount of time to provide them a well-deserved rest, be cared for properly and be mentally and physically healed.

On this project, your main role will be to provide care for the elephants with tasks including:

  • Gathering and collecting multiple types of foods, leaves and trees for the elephants in the jungle, ensuring they get all the vitamins and minerals needed to help with their rehabilitation
  • Walking along different grazing paths to ensure that routes have a surplus of different grazing opportunities
  • Cleaning the elephant enclosures
  • Overseeing the elephants bathing
  • Assisting the veterinarian with any tasks if the elephant needs medical attention/treatment

On the program you will also learn about Elephant Conservation covering the following topics;

  • Introduction to Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka
  • The ecology, biology and physiology of elephants
  • The role of elephants in the religion and culture of Sri Lanka
  • Nature, causes and symptoms of human/elephant conflict and possible mitigation measures

You will also be given the opportunity to teach English at the local school giving you the chance to discuss with the students the importance of domesticated elephant conservation.

Please note that the project is closed from the 10th-24th of August, 2024 due to the festival period.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface and around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Nature is critical to our survival. We must promote kindness to animals and use regenerative techniques to combat deforestation, conserve biodiversity and protect wildlife.

Why do Elephant Welfare 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:

  • Helping care for mistreated elephants
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining experience caring for elephants
  • Immersing yourself in Sri Lankan culture
  • Exploring the Sri Lankan countryside

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16 or 17 on their program start date are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional document 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
  • To respect the local culture and customs in Sri Lanka, volunteers should be aware that they’re unable to have anything obstructing their face while at their volunteer placement.
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply for free

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'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Jessica O'Bryan
19 Jun 2024

I feel I have gained a deeper insight into Sri Lankan culture and made a valuable contribution to the volunteer project by working with and supporting the turtles and the team who care for them. I would tell anyone who is hesitant to join that there is no need to be hesitant at all! You will have so much fun and learn so much, I cannot recommend it enough.

Louise Walsh
04 Jun 2024

The pre-departure support and guidance was amazing, I felt well supported and all my questions were promptly answered.

The local team in Sri Lanka were absolutely wonderful. Warm, accommodating and they went above and beyond! I could not have hoped for a better experience.

The meals were healthy and they looked after me not being able to eat gluten. It is awful to have the need for dietary requirements and they didn’t make me feel bad about it. Overall, I am glad I took the leap of faith - it was the best way to experience the real culture and people of the country and to be able to give something back .

Josephine Vasanthan
04 Jun 2024

The Women's Education project in Sri Lanka needs volunteers. The organization & local people were very grateful to IVHQ. I gained knowledge about local Sri Lankan healthcare settings.

The program was rewarding and the local team were helpful to all volunteers when they needed support.

Sharon Elder
04 Jun 2024

I gained so much insight about Sri Lanka , and had a deep feeling I had made an impact. The experience will stay with me for a long time and I will certainly be seeking out other IVHQ experiences.

Holly Huckstadt
23 May 2024

Do not hesitate to join this program! Everyone in Sri Lanka was so nice, welcoming, and friendly. I always felt safe and comfortable there. Make sure to do the week long introduction if you are able. I got to experience a lot of the culture that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. It was amazing to volunteer on the sea turtle conservation project. They do a lot of good work for the sick and injured sea turtles. The locals also care for a lot of the stray dogs and cats as well. It was nice to be around so many people who cared for animals. I highly recommend the Sri Lanka program. I was there for 3 weeks and was not ready to leave!

Rathigka Subramaniam
23 May 2024

The place I volunteered was definitely such a heartwarming place with lots of lovely people. The kids and ladies were really adorable. I had a good time feeding them and of course cleaning the big home and doing laundry. The residents were all so helpful and engaging.

If you are intending to reach out for people in need, this is the best platform. Don’t hesitate, get started. It warms your heart knowing that you gave something valuable to someone in need.


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

Learn about course credit


Volunteer Abroad in Sri Lanka with IVHQ


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 centers 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 Elephant Welfare project is based in Randeniya, which is around 90 minutes from our main volunteer center in Kandy.

Arrival and orientation

Orientation is run by the local team in Kandy, beginning on the Monday morning of your start date. Volunteers on the Elephant Welfare project spend their first 5 days on the program on the Introduction Week.

On Sunday you will be transferred to the Elephant Welfare project and as this transport is not included in your program fee, you will need to budget around US$45 for a taxi or US$35 for a Tuk Tuk.

Introduction Week Orientation: This 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. It will include 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. as well as visits to a Buddhist monastery, a spice garden and the famous Temple of the Tooth. You’ll also get to take a Sri Lankan cooking class, and a Batik lesson.

Volunteer schedule example


Volunteers can expect to work 5 hours a day with 3 hours in the morning followed by a lunch break then 2-3 hours in the afternoon.

A typical daily schedule is as follows:

7:00 - 8:00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation
8:45 AM Volunteers are transported to the placement and begin work on their project
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch
1:30 PM Travel back to the volunteer placement and join local placement staff to begin afternoon shift
3:30 PM Transfer back to the volunteer accommodation
7:00 - 8:00 PM Dinner

Weekends: On the weekends volunteers are free to explore the surrounding area or travel further afield. There are many activities to do nearby such as local waterfalls, museums, yoga retreats, hiking and visiting temples.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers on the Elephant Welfare project are accommodated in the hotel which is right across the road from the project coordinator’s house allowing you to have privacy but also allowing you to interact with his family during meal times.

Volunteers can expect to share rooms with up to five other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with fans. The hotel has electricity and western style bathrooms, however showers are usually cold/tepid. The hotel is around a 30 minute bus ride to the elephant project.

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 hotel.

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.

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.

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.

Private rooms are available in Kandy while on the introduction week and at the Elephant Welfare project. Private rooms are a popular option for couples or older volunteers. This option can be requested via the ‘Add ons and Tours’ section of your checklist and costs $90 per week/per person.

Families with younger children who wish to volunteer in Sri Lanka are required to book a private room at an additional cost of $90 per person, per week. If your family has more than four members, two rooms may be required to accommodate all family members.

Private rooms are available in the hotel and this can be requested via the ‘Add ons and Tours’ section of your checklist and costs $90 per week/per person.


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.Bottled water is readily available in Sri Lanka and volunteers should budget approximately $5 per week for 2 liters per day. There are also water filters in the volunteer houses. 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.


  • USD

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately $329) you secure your spot and unlock all our preparation and training tools.

You don't need to worry about paying your Program Fee until you get closer to your start date.

Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
2 weeks $1,010 Equivalent to $72/day
3 weeks $1,495 Equivalent to $71/day
4 weeks $1,980 Equivalent to $71/day
5 weeks $2,465 Equivalent to $70/day
6 weeks $2,950 Equivalent to $70/day
8 weeks $3,920 Equivalent to $70/day
10 weeks $4,890 Equivalent to $70/day
12 weeks $5,860 Equivalent to $70/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately $329) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$50 per week to be sufficient for expenses.
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Airport pick-up
  • Transport to and from your volunteer placement each day
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Return to the airport when your program finishes
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Free-time experiences & tours in Sri Lanka

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Sri Lanka! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Sri Lanka program.

Lion's Rock Fortress and Safari - 1 night/2days
Lion's Rock Fortress and Safari - 1 night/2days

Embark on an unforgettable weekend getaway to Sigiriya, where ancient history and breathtaking nature await.

Trekking Week
Trekking Week

Discover the best of Sri Lanka on this week-long tour. Enjoy the diverse flora and fauna, take in stunning hilltop views, and ride the world’s most scenic train. Climb Lion’s Rock to explore the ancient kingdom’s ruins from 500 AD.


Check what's required to visit Sri Lanka

Safety and support

Safety and support with IVHQ

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.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Essential country information

Capital Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte
Population 21.8 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.

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