Picture by Cova.foto
Volunteering: 7 days / 6 nights
This programme is your gateway to feeling like a part of the Elephant Conservation team! It will give you a more in-depth insight into what it takes to look after elephants.
During the week, you will share in the life of our staff and learn more about the Lao culture. You may even pick up a bit of Lao language!
You will start by following our 3 day ‘Exploration’ program. Then you will be asked to assist us in the Centre’s development by participating in current projects on site.
During your visit at the center you will spend a lot of time walking through our protected area. The area is forested and might not always be accessible without you getting dirty. Activities in the forest vary during the rainy season between May and September.
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeFamily, Jungle, Trekking, Wildlife
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Large Group
This eco volunteering programme is your gateway to feeling like a part of the team of the Elephant Conservation Center! A group of people that has been working for the elephants in Laos since 2001. It will give you an in-depth insight to what it takes to look after elephants responsibly.
Starting every Monday, we offer you the opportunity to share in the life of our staff and learn more about our projects. To start your immersion, you will follow our 3 days ‘Exploration’ programme. Then you will play a crucial role in the Center’s development by helping out in our daily work.
Our Team welcomes you all year round.
- 5 – 10 years old: 50% discount with no supplement single
- Over 10 years: full charge.
- Transfer from Luang Prabang to the Center both ways,
- English speaking team on site,
- Set menu meals: Day 1 (L, D), Day 2 to 6 (B, L, D), Day 7 (L,D)
- Unlimited drinking water refills,
- Accommodation: a wooden dormitory with bunk beds and communal wash facilities (hot shower),
- Activities as described.
- Personal expenses (Soft drinks, snacks, tips, etc.)
- Travel insurance
- Bank transfer fees
- Anything not mentioned in ‘The price includes’
Exploration Day 1
When you arrive at Nam Tien Lake, we will transfer you to the Center by boat.
You will have time to settle into our traditional dormitory before your guide takes you to the forest.
After enjoying a Laotian style picnic on a lakeside platform, you observe the elephants bathing at the nursery, an area in the forest reserved for our youngest elephants and their mothers.
When the elephants have drunk enough and returned to the forest, you will take the boat back to the Center for the hospital visit.
Our Laotian vet assistant or our biologist will introduce you to their world and tell you more about common and uncommon injuries and their respective treatments.
You will then observe one of the elephants’ daily baths and learn more about our giant guests’ playful characters.
The bath is a time to socialize and strengthen ties in the herd through playing together.
Elephants & Mahouts
After the elephants have washed themselves, you will have the opportunity to see them up close.
Their ears flapping, tails swatting while they use the trunk and the trees for a good scratching.
Meanwhile, the guide will tell you a little about the background of each elephant. They have all been worked hard before they came here.
Back to the forest
Now it’s time for them to walk back to the forest.
After a short trek the mahouts will decide on a place where the elephants can graze for the night.
On the way back, our guide will show you one of our plantation and the tree nursery.
Before dinner, take in the surroundings from one of our viewpoints.
You can also go for a swim in the lake, take out a canoe, or visit the museum.
At 6 pm one of the staff will give a presentation on our conservation efforts, feel free to ask your unresolved questions. After diner you can relax at the bar.
Exploration Day 2
On the second day, you will pick up the elephants in the forest.
Enjoy strolling together with these magnificent animals through their natural habitat.
After spending the night in the jungle, it is time for the morning bath.
The Socialization Area is an area where the elephants can freely interact during a big part of the day, recreating a semi-natural living environment.
Here the elephants can enjoy being elephants.
Follow the guide to the different platforms to see how a new herd is being formed, something which is very special about our program and difficult to find anywhere else.
Lunch is served at the Center. You have some time to relax before the elephants come down for their afternoon bath.
You will meet our Laotian vet assistant or the biologist again as they will conduct a Target Training Session. All our elephants are being trained using ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques to facilitate any necessary treatments and to reduce the stress that these treatments or routine checks can give to them.
We offer you the chance to follow their work from a safe distance.
Exploration Day 3
To give the elephants mental stimulation and work closely on specific relationships we provide cognitive enrichment in the form of hidden food, toys, a mud bath etc.
On the third day, our guide and biologist will explain the Enrichment Activities. It is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments to their specific needs.
We invite you to take part in this amazing experience by helping our team to prepare this area by cutting and hiding the food. Make sure you to give the elephants a challenge.
Once they arrive, you will observe how the elephants try to find what you have hidden! This is a novel and unique way to interact with our elephants, contributing directly to their well-being.
After lunch, you will start to become a volunteer!
You will spend your remaining days supporting the work of the ECC on current projects. These volunteer projects will not be directly with the elephants but help them a lot indirectly.
Please keep in mind that you are working in a developing country with minimal access to western tools. Activities can be influenced by the weather, i.e. rain or heat. We are looking for flexible, motivated, and autonomous volunteers.
Your activities may include, but are not limited to:
• Development and maintenance of the socialization area (cleaning, cutting grasses around the electric fence, protecting the trees etc);
• Observing and recording of elephant behaviour;
• Enrichment activities;
• Tree Nursery and Reforestation;
• Maintenance work (painting, construction, cleaning, gardening);
• Produce elephant dung paper (Dry Season only);
• Create handicrafts with the paper to sell in our shop;
Of course, we are always open to project ideas you might have yourselves.
On your final morning you will complete your last volunteering session with us.
After lunch, the boat will return you to the Nam Tien Lake pier, where our minivan will be waiting to take you back to Luang Prabang or to drop you off at the Sayaboury bus station for your next destination.
Picture by Tibostudio
Picture by Paul Wager
Picture by Paul Wager
The Elephant Conservation Center tries to minimalize its impact on its surroundings. We have our own solar installation and work a lot with bamboo as a renewable building source.
You will be spending your night in a traditional mahout house turned into a dormitory. You can take hot showers in our communal washing facilities. We will provide biodegradable soap and shampoo.
Feel free to take one of the canoes out on the lake to enjoy the best view of the sunset. If you are not a fan of water, you can spend some time on our viewpoints at the tip of the peninsula. If you want to take a refreshing dive in the lake, you can do so in our swimming area.
The staff will serve a set menu Laotian style dishes, but without the spiciness. If you have any food restrictions, please let us know while making your reservation. The cooks will be more than happy to adapt their meals.
What would an experience in Laos be without an ice-cold Beer Lao. You can find a lot more at the bar in the restaurant.
Booking in advance is necessary. Nobody can come inside our protected area without authorisation.
What to bring at the ECC?
- A cap (you can buy the ECC Cap at the Center)
- A big bottle of water to refill (you can buy the ECC Bottle at the Center)
- Long trousers and long shirts or a jacket to go to the forest (to avoid scratches and insect bites)
- Sun screen
- A bag to carry your belongings during the activities
- Good quality trekking shoes (recommended)
- Raining jacket, especially during the rainy season (June to November)
- Mosquito repellent
During all your stay, you will be accompanied by a local English speaking guide.
The meeting point is at the post office on Chao Fa Ngum road before 8:00 AM. It is close to the crossroads with the tourist office. Our minivan will be waiting for you in front of it and will take you to Xayaboury. When you finish your program, we will bring you back to the same place at about 5:00 PM. The journey between the two towns takes about 2,5 hours.
Bungalows: accommodation is in a wooden bungalow with shared washing facilities.
Dormitory: you will be spending your night in a traditional mahout house turned into a dormitory. You can take hot showers in our communal washing facilities.
Lodge: the lodge has 4 vast rooms and private washrooms and terrace.
The area is forested and might not always be accessible without you getting dirty. Activities in the forest vary during the rainy season between May and September.
Medical Care of the elephants at the Elephant Hospital is only carried out by qualified vets. You won’t be able to participate in this activity. Thank you for your understanding.
Open – Closed
The Center is closed 4 days during Lao New year in April and 2 days during the boat festival in October.
Payment / Currencies
You can pay either by master card, visa card or by cash ($, € or Kip)