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Elephant Valley Project

Sen Monorom, Moldulkiri Province, Cambodia

T: +855 (0) 99696041 (in Cambodia) / E: evpbookings@gmail.com

www.elephantvalleyproject.org

The Elephant Valley Project is great, both as a sanctuary for previously badly treated domestic elephants, and as a provider of jobs for the local Bunong community in northern Cambodia. I definitely recommend you stay for at least a week and volunteer, but it’s worth pointing out what’s involved…this is hard work, in a remote location!

The project was founded by Englishman Jack Highwood – reassuringly enthusiastic (and mildly eccentric to do such a thing), he doesn’t suffer fools and (rightly so) expects everyone to get their hands dirty helping with the various jobs around the place. Do not moan about the lack of mobile phone reception, spiders in your bungalow or that it’s too hot to work (as two Aussie princesses discovered to their regret!). However beautiful the valley is, and awesome the elephants are, this is not a holiday resort!

Work: Get stuck in to whatever jobs Jack tells you to do as you’ll have a much more rewarding experience anyway. We spent several happy afternoons working with the rest of the volunteers (around 12 at any one time) sorting out reclaimed timber to build a new bungalow, therefore expanding the opportunities for eco-tourism (a vital way to raise funds). The deal is, you work at least 3-4hrs each day then you can spend the rest of the day at leisure or (more importantly) watching the elephants in their natural environment. You can follow the mahouts routine and depending on the time of day, you could be watching them bathe in the river or being fed. On your first day Jack will introduce everyone to the project, the elephants (there were about seven in their care when we visited) and the mahouts. He’ll no doubt get you chopping up banana plants to feed them, but by no means expect to be touching or riding the elephants – this isn’t a zoo and Jack (and his team, including a vet) believe it’s cruel. These elephants have been mishandled in the past and they’re being cared for in a safe, natural environment and encouraged to act like elephants again.

Volunteering stints vary but can include anything from a day trip or one week stay, to a month or more. Jack welcomes anyone willing to help out but do let him know if you have any special skills that may be of use.

Accommodation: The cute, thatched bungalows were a very pleasant surprise, and worthy of any eco resort! Jack has installed western-style plumbing, fans and a generator that remains on for 3hrs a night. Just don’t be scared of the creepy-crawlies that you may be staying with (with had at least three large Huntsman spiders and a brown scorpion – all part of the fun!). If you pay less (or offer to work full-time in exchange for food and board) you’ll be sleeping in a hammock in the living room.

Food: All food is included and the local chef cooks a communal meal every night (mostly excellent Khmer cuisine) and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast is also communal and involves the excellently strong Cambodian coffee.

Recommended for… A real and genuine experience (there is no fake feel of ‘voluntourism’ on this project) of working with local people on a great project – and the wonder of observing (now) happy elephants!

Be aware that… We booked a week’s stay but you only get to live on the project for 5 out of the 7 nights (first night in Phnom Penh and final night in a bizarre hotel in Sen Monorom). All accommodation is paid for but it would have been nice to stay in the valley for as much as possible (especially if staying for much longer-term placements – fellow volunteers who were there for several weeks found the to-ing and fro-ing a little wearing…).

‘Good’ credentials:

  • The project provides much needed employment for local people in this very rural area
  • Visitors and volunteers are never allowed to touch or ride the elephants, ensuring that the animals are free from stress and allowed to behave naturally
  • The project is part of the ELIE (Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment) which provides veterinary care for domestic elephants and education and support for the people who rely on them. Supporting the local communities helps them keep the forest and therefore the elephants habitat. More info about ELIE can be found here
  • The project provides free universal medical coverage to the village of Putrom and aims to employ one adult from 50% of the families in the village
  • They continue researching, monitoring and providing veterinary care to the elephants across the Moldulkiri province.

 

Date of visit: January, 2011

 

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Kerry Law (Founding Editor, Goodtrippers): I'm a PR and writer living in London. Since taking my first trip aged 2yrs (all the way from from NZ to the UK) I've loved travel. As a keen advocate of ecotourism and responsible travel, I decided to start Goodtrippers...
  1. Roy Reply
    I'm traveling in Cambodia at the moment and would really like to volunteer . How can I get in touch with this program ?? I'll be arriving in sen monorom 3-4 days from now
    • Kerry Law Reply
      Hello - you can get in touch with the Elephant Valley Project via T: +855 (0) 99696041 (in Cambodia) / E: evpbookings@gmail.com or visit the website www.elephantvalleyproject.org. I'm sure they'd be very pleased to welcome you - hope you have a great experience! (say 'hi' to Jack, it would be much appreciated if you can mention Goodtrippers as the site where you found out about them!)
  2. Wandering Albatross Reply
    looks like a great project, thank you for sharing.

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