Plan My Gap Year

Elephant Caretaker

Wasgamuwa, Sri Lanka show on map
If you love elephants then you will love this programme! Elephants in their natural habitat combined with meaningful research and conservation work. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Singles
Couples
Groups
50+

Head into the depths of the Sri Lankan jungle and encounter stunning Asian elephants in their natural habitat. Help to promote the protection and survival of these endangered elephants by playing an important role in the initiative to help elephants and communities live together.

Around 100 years ago there was upwards of 20,000 elephants that roamed the forests and grasslands on this beautiful island. Due to increased farming and habitat destruction, just 5000 of these gentle giants now live outside of captivity. Your role on this programme will be aiding the research and conservation techniques to stop this decline from becoming even more devastating.

Travel tips

You should arrive into Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo (airport code CMB) on the selected Saturday start date 09:30 AM onwards. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation a short drive from the airport where you will spend your first night. You will then travel to the programme on the Sunday morning fully rested and ready to go!

The programme ends on the Saturday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.

Can I use this program as part of a university or college placement? 

It is certainly possible to use one of PMGY’s programmes as part of your university or college placement. Project staff can sign off any paperwork required by your course tutors. PMGY regularly receives medical, childcare, psychology and nursing placement students at our projects around the world and we have ties with some of the leading universities.

If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programmes could meet the placement requirements for your degree course then please contact us.

Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?

Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.

The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions. 

In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances. 

When you join PMGY we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visa issues etc. Furthermore, our UK team are only ever a phone call away should you wish to discuss any aspect of your upcoming programme. When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive safety briefing during your orientation course by our local coordinators. We will go through everything from emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM card, something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. We will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.

All our local teams are experienced development professionals who have years of experience in hosting international volunteers. They are our representatives on the ground and will assist you 24/7 throughout your stay. Whether you need to call home, travel at the weekend or require urgent assistance – they are there to support you.

While we cannot guarantee your volunteer experience to be 100% trouble free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each programme is as safe as possible.

Typical day

Every day you will be working in the elephant’s natural habitat, where you will be getting hands-on with the ecological research and conservation. Your varied and exciting role will consist of a variety of tasks, including –

ELEPHANT & WILDLIFE MONITORING – During the afternoons you will be located high up in the jungle treetop in a purpose-built viewing tower/tree house, located within an elephant corridor and overlooking the elephants traditional grazing grounds. Here your tasks are split into two categories, the first is noting observations on how elephants and local villagers interact, the second is observing the passing elephants, collecting data on their spatial and temporal distribution. Keep an eye out for the elusive Sri Lankan leopard whilst you’re up in the trees, as you might spot him alongside a variety of other wildlife in the area.

Some of the technology you will get a chance to use here include remote sensors, sound traps, camera traps and GPS tracking in order to help develop strategies to conserve the local wildlife.

HUMAN-ELEPHANT CONFLICT – You will be heavily involved within the local communities to help them live in harmony with elephants, with the ultimate aim being to evaluate and subsequently decrease the conflict between the two. Over the past 100 years this struggle has been the main reason for the substantial decline of the Sri Lankan elephant populations, so your input on the programme will play a vital role in restoring the balance between animals and humans.

TRAIL MONITORING – Trekking through dense jungles and over wetlands you will be walking along an elephant grazing trail and recording any findings. The purpose of this is to understand the number of elephants residing outside of the national park, seasonal variations in behaviour and any preferences in their habitat or food selections. You will also get to observe wildlife and various habitats as well as visiting forest hermitages.

ELEPHANT ID – You will get to spend a session at the Weheragala Tank looking for Sri-Lankan elephants to then observe and photograph for ID purposes. You will also have to fill in an elephant identification data sheet, this not only to helps to build up a catalogue of elephant numbers, their movement both inside and outside the park and their social organisation, but also notes any different physical features of individual elephants themselves.

During this time, you will also get to monitor other amazing wildlife including mugger crocodiles, water buffalo, macaque monkeys, birds and maybe even leopards where data collected will be logged into the system.

FENCE MONITORING – The local fence committees regularly require updates on the state of the solar-powered electric fences that have been erected around local villages to stop elephants from trampling through them, so checking that they are still working is a really important part of your volunteering role.

TANK MONITORING – Another important task is to check around water tanks (reservoirs) situated outside of the national park for the presence of any elephant activity, including dung or tracks. The aim is to see whether there are single males and/or herds present outside the national park and what their patterns of dispersion might be and what they are eating.

TEACHING – A major part of conserving elephants is teaching environmental awareness in local schools around the project sites. You will get to become involved within the local communities where you will help to teach English and explain why elephants are so important.

Details on Arrival

We have 2 start dates per month - the 1st & 3rd Saturday of every month.

Free-time activities


Water Sports
Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Safari/Zoo
Hiking
Yoga/Meditation

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 17 years old on the program start date.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Criminal Background Check
required
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You should also be physically fit, as volunteering overseas can be quite strenuous. If you have any medical/mental health conditions that may affect your participation overseas then these must be declared to us during your online application.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Included Services

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Plan My Gap Year cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Plan My Gap Year.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
Plan My Gap Year (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

Services by Plan My Gap Year

Your fee includes both your registration fee and programme fees.

Your programme fee includes; accommodation, all meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner), airport pickup (09:30 onwards), in-country orientation, private transport to projects, 24 hour in-country support.

Your registration fee includes; 24 hour UK based support, comprehensive volunteer handbook, live pre-departure webinars, 100% financial protection, regular programme inspection.

Airport Pickup at Bandaranaike International Airport

You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation a short drive from the airport where you will spend your first night. You will then travel to the programme on the Sunday morning fully rested and ready to go!

Accommodation

Volunteer House

During your time with us on the programme, you will be staying on the project site that offers some of the best views we have ever seen. Based in the lush forests of Sri Lanka, you are surrounded by a ring of striking mountains where you will look out onto a large reservoir where elephants love to bath!

With lots of rooms and the ability to accommodate up to 30 people, where you will stay is very spacious with a high roof, which helps to cool the property as gentle breezes blow along from the neighbouring lake. Although basic, it is comfortable and clean. You will be staying with other volunteers from around the world, so you can be sure to make new lasting friendships.

You will be sleeping in shared single sex rooms with up to 8 people per room in single beds. There are shared bathrooms that have western style toilets and cold showers. This will not be much of an issue though as the pipes are warmed by the sun and after a long walk in the wilderness you will appreciate the freshness of a cold shower!

All of the essentials are provided for you, such as mosquito nets, electric fans, pillows and clean bed sheets. However towels are not included, so please remember to bring your own.

There is a large communal area where everyone normally congregates of an evening. There are many board games to play and you can also get involved with some of the lectures.There are safes provided where you can store all of your valuables.

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

You will be served three meals per day at the Volunteer House. Most meals are traditional Sri Lankan dishes that can be typically quite spicy. Sri Lankan cuisine consists of a lot of rice and the meat is mainly fish or chicken – vegetarian options are always available. All meals are freshly prepared each day.

Here is an example of the meals you can expect:


Breakfast – Cereals, toast, fruit
Lunch – Salad, fruit
Dinner – Chicken, fish, vegetables, rice

* Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements but there may be instances where you may need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense.


Internet Access
Sorry, no access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Colombo. We assist you to find cheap flights to Sri Lanka.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Sri Lanka provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in Sri Lanka you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Sri Lanka.
Costs: Prices in USD
1 week (min. stay)
$ 909
2 weeks
$ 1,089
3 weeks
$ 1,344
4 weeks
$ 1,704
6 weeks
$ 1,944
8 weeks
$ 2,259
10 weeks
$ 2,604
12 weeks (max. stay)
$ 3,039
Average fees
$ 581 /week

You can volunteer at the project site in Wasgamuwa/Sri Lanka between 1 week and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Plan My Gap Year will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Sri Lanka.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Plan My Gap Year during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
  Asia Southern Asia Sri Lanka  Wasgamuwa, Wasgamuwa

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Reservation
The project site is open in: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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