Have you ever wanted to work alongside an elephant?
Well, at this elephant safari you'll be able to get up close to these majestic animals at a luscious site on the outskirts of Kegalle. Care for Asian elephants whilst helping to safeguard the future of these gentle giants, their keepers and the local community. Get to know what elephants like to eat, give them exercise, find out more about keeping them healthy and relax in the river with these magnificent animals.
Two afternoons a week you can help the local community children by teaching them, playing various games and sports, and just simply interacting with them. This will help to increase their knowledge of the English language and improve their self confidence.
- Help care for Asian elephants
- Discover the beauty of Sri Lanka
- Experience the culture and learn to cook Sri Lankan-style
- Support local children by teaching English
- Spot kingfisher along the river banks
- Help tend the garden which produces fruit and veg for the elephants
What's not included
Day 1 (Sunday) - Arrive into Colombo International Airport (airport code CMB)
When you arrive at Colombo International Airport you will be met by a member of the in-country team carrying an i-to-i sign. From the airport (dependent on arrival schedules) you may be taken straight to the project in Kegalle, or you may be taken to the in-country team office in Colombo to wait for others to arrive.
Note: If you require an early airport pickup and accommodation before the project start date we can arrange this for you for an extra fee. You'll be taken straight to Kegalle and your accommodation will be at a homestay near the project. If there are multiple arrivals on the same day you may be taken to Colombo until everyone arrives and then head on to Kegalle. You will then transfer to your permanent accommodation on the project start day.
Day 2 (Monday) - Orientation
Today will start with a detailed orientation, explaining the project, an introduction to Sri Lanka, the teaching and the other trips that are scheduled. You will also have the chance to meet the other volunteers and the in-country team is always on hand if you need anything else.
After the orientation you will then head to Pinnawala to spend 3 - 4 hours walking around the elephant centre, watching the elephants bathe in the river and be amazed and their majestic size. You will also have an opportunity to do a bit of shopping.
Day 3 (Tuesday) - Kandy
This morning you will head off to Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka where you will visit the Temple of the Tooth, Buddha on the hill, Kandy Lake and in the evening watch a traditional Kandy dancing show. You will also visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniva as part of your tour of Kandy- where there are more than 4000 species of plant covering an area of 147 acres.
Day 4 (Wednesday) - Jungle trekking
Now that you have seen some of Sri Lanka’s cultural elements today you will be trekking into the local jungles for a chance to see some of the country's abundant wildlife such as monkeys, bird and insect species, many of which you won’t find anywhere else.
Not only will you have the great activities over these past few days but you will also be given lots of information about Sri Lanka and the basics of the language as you go.
Days 5 to 6 (Thursday to Friday) - Start work at the project
Thursday will be your first full day to really get involved at the project. You will start with the basics such as cleaning the elephant beds and washing the elephants before getting involved in other things. You will continue your time at the project; working in the garden, cleaning the elephant beds and working directly with the mahouts and their elephants.
Days 7 and 8 (Saturday and Sunday) - Free time
Your weekends are free to either relax or explore more of this amazing country.
The project is located in the town of Kegalle in the picturesque village of Rambukkana. The locals appreciate the help of volunteers so you will see many smiley faces as you go about your day.
Rambukkana is a convenient location offering easy access to some of the country's historical sites and the scenic route starts from Kegalle. You can catch an air conditioned bus to Kandy to visit the famous Royal Palace, or head off by train to Nuwaraeliya for beautiful views of the tea plantations, also known as little England. The ancient royal city of Sigiriya or Ravana Falls (one of the world's widest waterfalls), the ancient ruins of Pollonnaruwa are a few other places you can easily reach from the project. Whether you catch the train, the bus or even a tuk tuk, Kegalle is a central location to most places.
Over a weekend you can also catch the fast train to Colombo and then a connection down the south coast for Blue Whale watching, take on the waves at Hikkaduwa or simply relax by the beach. Travelling up and down by the coast line is very easy and there’s lots to see there. Some of the must visit areas include Mirrissa beach, the Dutch fort in Galle and Unawatuna beach.
Wherever you want to travel to your local project coordinator will be happy to help you with advice.
By now you'll really be starting to get the swing of things at your project.
You will rise early to meet the mahouts and assist with elephant health checks before leading the elephants to the water for a quick bath. After breakfast you will help out in the garden where some of the food for the elephants is grown; you'll be picking food (if it's available) for the elephants and for the tourists to feed them, as well as planting and weeding.
After a well-earned tea break you'll help to clean the elephant beds and make them a nice, fresh bed for the night. You'll then stop for lunch. After lunch you will help out with the tourist activities which include elephant baths and showers around 3pm down in the river. Although not all elephants go there at the same time they usually end up together for scrubbing and water splashing which you will be involved in.
After the elephant afternoon activities you will go on to learn Singhalese or teach English to the local kids. There will be a weekly Sinhala lesson, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be teaching English in the community, Wednesdays are for Sinhala cooking classes where you will be able to eat your delicious self cooked food for lunch and then help teach English to the local kids in the afternoon and Fridays you finish early ready for the weekend.
Please note: The aim is to keep you busy and entertained but please bear in mind that plans can change as they often have to when working outdoors and with animals! Remember, the more flexible you are, the more you will get out of the project.
Your last day (Sunday) - Time to go home
It will definitely be hard to drag yourself away from your new-found friends (that includes the people and the elephants). The in-country team will take you back to the airport to catch your flight home.
What does the project do?
This project has been set up to care for elephants whose previous owners could not afford to look after them. The well-being of elephants focuses on three key areas; their direct living conditions, their health and their mahout or elephant keeper. You'll work with the mahouts and help them to look after the elephants. Apart from the veterinary support, the well-being of the elephants relies upon the care they receive from their mahouts. It stands to reason that a well-cared for mahout will in turn care well for his elephant. A mahout's life can be a stressful one and it is directly linked with the elephant; they need to earn enough for their families and there is a constant worry over job security.
The project aims to slowly and continuously educate tourists who visit the site to take an elephant ride, the elephant keepers and the community alike about better ways to look after the elephants and to understand the importance of protecting the species. The project aims to change attitudes towards elephants so that they are seen more of an asset than a nuisance.
Elephants cost a lot of money to keep. Most elephant reserves actually rent the elephants including mahouts and food supplies. To pay for keeping the elephants substantial funding is required. Traditionally this income is generated from offering elephant encounters to tourists which can include riding the great giants.
The project, just like many many others, sees tourists visiting throughout the week. The money brought in from tourists helps greatly to sustain the project site and guarantee that the elephants have a better place to live than without these funds.
Two afternoons a week, you’ll support local children by teaching English and other useful skills in various settings. These could be at a school, disabled home or other community centre in the area. You will be able to provide the children with not only English and Maths lessons but also to help with confidence, leadership and 'life' skills. The assistance you give these children will come from your energy and enthusiasm and you can shape your own lessons and time spent with them. You'll need to use your initiative as you will often be flying solo.
What's the project like?
A love for animals and willingness to work and learn is needed for you to make the most out of this volunteering project. An open-mind and a relaxed attitude is also useful. You won't always be told what to do, you'll need to have a can-do attitude and accept that things run differently in Sri Lanka.
The community element of this programme does involve speaking English, therefore you will need to be able to speak the English language fluently.
Volunteers must be able to work independently. Patience and perseverance are essential, although above all enthusiasm and a willingness to accept another culture will mean you get the most from your volunteering experience. After all, what you put into the project will be what you get in return. Each volunteer brings different ideas that can make a real impact on the project.
The project is based in Kegalle which is close to all amenities and also offers luscious green surroundings.
Why does the project need volunteers?
On this project you will be immersed in elephant life by working with a mahout helping on the daily care essential of keeping these animals happy and healthy. You will learn the importance of caring for the welfare of the elephant and its mahout.
The project has a garden where it grows pineapple, bananas and other vegetation which is used to feed elephants. You'll get involved in this as long as it's not too hot!
As the project receives paying tourists as a key way to earn money for the elephants and mahouts, your role will be to act as extra members of staff assisting with the work of the mahouts when required. By the time you have finished your time at the project you should have a good understanding of the life of mahouts and their elephants.
What type of accommodation will I be in?
During your time at the project you will be staying in a volunteer house which overlooks the river on the safari site itself. The accommodation is purpose-built with a nice balcony to chill out on. You will be sharing a room with other volunteers (maximum of 4 to a room) with access to shared bathroom and shower facilities. The accommodation is right at the project site and the elephants are kept within the grounds so you can always keep an eye on them.
All volunteers are expected to help keep the house clean and tidy as part of regular duties.
Bed linen and mosquito nets will be provided. Bathrooms have Western-style toilets and shower facilities. Toilet roll is not provided as it is not used by Sri Lankans normally and is considered to be expensive. You may wish to bring some of your own toilet roll for weekend trips etc.
There is an open living area at the volunteer home overlooking the river. Your accommodation will have TV, washing machine and internet facilities (although connection can be sporadic) with both Wi-Fi for your own equipment or a computer for those of you without. In rural areas such as this there can often be power cuts so you should be prepared for this; there is emergency lighting so you'll still be able to see.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner from Monday to Friday is included but you will need to cater for yourself at weekends.There's filtered water available and a kettle for hot drinks.
Things to bring from home
You don't need anything specific for this trip, but here are some general items that you may find useful:
- Walking shoes
- Flip Flops
- A hat to protect you from the sun
- Rain coat
- Clothes. Long sleeve shirts and trousers are great. Remember to bring beachwear for beach time.
- Clothes worn around the local community should be respectful of culture and long trousers and sleeved t-shirts, shirts should be worn
- When visiting places of religious worship you should wear long white clothes
- Antibacterial soap gel (does not need water to rinse off)
- Travel wash for clothes
- Small medical kit containing plasters, medicine for diarrhoea, head ache tablets, anti-histamine cream and any medication you will need.
- Mosquito repellent
- Toilet roll
- High factor suncream
Remember only to bring luggage that you can comfortably carry yourself, usually a backpack or suitcase and a day bag, you may also want to wait to some buy clothes in Sri Lanka as they are relatively cheap.
Where is the accommodation?
The project is on the outskirts of Kegalle; a town with a picturesque setting offering both luscious surroundings and convenience to all the modern amenities. Kegalle is a relatively short distance from the last capital city of Sri Lanka, Kandy. Kegalle is also known for its large rubber plantations, and crops such as coffee, cocoa, pepper and nutmeg and about 1km away from Mawanella, a town known for its spice plantation, a sign points to ‘Soora Saradiyel’ the Robin Hood of Sri Lanka. The local train station offers connections to some of the islands best sites as well as the fast train to the financial capital Colombo. You will easily be able to get a tuk tuk or bus from the project site to Kegalle.
How far is it from my project?
The accommodation is at the elephant safari which means while it may be an early start you won't have to go far to start your volunteer work in the morning.
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there. More
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard. More
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them. More
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support. More
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year. More
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Big Giving initiative to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
The intangible benefits
Volunteering through a company like i to i has a lot of intangible benefits to developing overseas communities and the individual projects that we work with. To find out more about our placements. click here
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.