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Elephant Welfare Volunteering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Welfare Volunteering in Sri Lanka

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.

  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from £836 for 2 weeks
  • Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help care for mistreated elephants at a local sanctuary

  • Explore Sri Lanka’s untouched landscapes and tea plantations

  • Stay with other volunteers in a local hotel

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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.

Key information

Boost the wellbeing of elephants
Based at a sanctuary in Randeniya
Volunteer hotel accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Fully hosted experience from £836 for 2 weeks
Durations from 2 - 12 weeks
Introduction Week orientation available
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

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.
Who is this program suited to?

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.

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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

Femke Roelofs
15 May 2024

I learned so much about Sri Lankan culture on this project. The introduction week was amazing and jam-packed with activities. The volunteering itself was life-changing for me, it was heartwarming to work with such gentle creatures, and a truly humbling experience. We mainly worked towards short-term goals like turtle feeding, cleaning of the tanks and tidying of the site of the sanctuary and neighboring beach. As far as I could tell this was a very ethical volunteering project, the care for the turtles was excellent, and besides us volunteering at the shelter it was not open for tourists or visitors. I have seen some other turtle sanctuaries in the area that were very tourist-oriented and put the health of the turtles second (e.g. hatchling releasing in the middle of the day, people wearing sunscreen touching the turtles, etc.) this place was much more authentic and put turtle care at the highest priority. I would recommend this project to anyone.

Amelia Fantham
30 Apr 2024

I feel I have gained a greater perspective on life and found a way to travel that allows me to explore new places and cultures as well as make an impact on the community I am visiting, making the overall trip very satisfying. While the food and accommodation may different to that at home, it was such a great authentic experience which wouldn't necessarily get from staying at a hotel in a touristy place.

Amy Perkins
24 Jan 2024

This program was the most amazing thing I have ever done, and I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in it. It is so eye-opening being immersed in another culture, particularly being guided by the locals adds a deeper sense of learning. The turtle conservation program was so special, and very rewarding being able to give back to the local wildlife and community. I would 100% recommend people to join the program, I am already looking into doing more with IVHQ!

António Costa
26 Sep 2023

I would like to express my gratitude and share my incredible experience as a volunteer in Sri Lanka. My journey as part of this project was unforgettable and enriching in various ways.

First and foremost, I want to highlight the wonderful team that welcomed me from the moment I arrived in Sri Lanka. Their hospitality and warmth made me feel at home from day one. They were incredibly attentive and helpful in every aspect, making my adaptation to the new environment and culture much easier.

The volunteer work itself was a transformative experience. Contributing to local initiatives, whether in education, medical assistance, or environmental conservation, provided a deep sense of fulfillment. It was rewarding to see how our collective effort was making a difference in people's lives and in the community as a whole.

Furthermore, the opportunity to immerse myself in Sri Lanka's culture and daily life was truly enriching. I learned so much about the history, traditions, and values of this amazing country, which significantly broadened my worldview. Interacting with local residents and learning from them was one of the most valuable parts of my experience.

I also want to highlight the organization of the volunteer program. The logistics were well-planned, and all my concerns were efficiently addressed. Communication with the coordination team was always clear and effective, contributing to a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Lastly, I believe that my experience in Sri Lanka not only enriched my life but also gave me a broader perspective on global issues and the importance of volunteering. I am inspired to continue working for the common good and to share what I have learned with others around me.

In summary, my experience as a volunteer in Sri Lanka was extraordinary in every aspect. I sincerely thank you for providing me with this unique opportunity. I look forward to continuing to support this project in some way, and I hope that others can enjoy the same transformative experience I had.

Thank you once again.

Ivaila Valcheva
06 May 2022

Sri Lanka is an incredible country; the people are friendly and welcoming, you are surrounded by beautiful wildlife from elephants to sea turtles and the volunteer programmes are worth every minute. Turtle conservation gives you the chance to feed, wash and handle disabled sea turtles, on a stunning beach with overhead palm trees. If lucky you may end up releasing baby turtles into the sea, a once in a lifetime moment. I cannot recommend this country enough, the local team made my safety their priority and ensured I saw the most Sri Lanka has to offer whilst I was there!

Dave Moore
01 Apr 2022

I have only volunteered once before. It wasn’t with IVHQ. But it was still a great experience. Now, based on just the one experience with IVHQ. I would highly recommend them. I for one, would look at them first for any future volunteer projects!


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

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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 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 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 £74 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 £74 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 £74 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
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 £272) 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
  • Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • 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.

Check what's required to visit Sri Lanka

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

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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