This very unique Elephant Experience enables you to spend time giving your care, love and attention to a working elephant who is being given a "holiday" or time to recover from an illness! Sometimes the elephants have been removed from their owners because they're ill and needs medical care, or perhaps has not been well treated and again needs care.

You'll spend time working with an elephant and its handler, helping with the day-to-day activities. You'll help the mahouts (elephant handlers) with their daily routines which include, but are not limited to, feeding the elephant, cleaning and bathing the elephant and cleaning the elephant enclosure.


Hi, I'm Karen, Project Coordinator for Sri Lanka, and I'll be working with you to arrange your ultimate experience here, so if you've any questions, please contact me:
+44 (0)1903 502595,
or email: info@travellers
Price: £845 (approx. US$1,080) for 1 week
£400 (US$510) for each additional week.
Excludes flights. Please see Full Price List & prices in other currencies
Duration: From 1 week to 12 weeks or longer, subject to visa requirements.
Start Dates: All year round – Programmes start on Mondays.
Requirements: Minimum age 18. No qualifications required, just lots of enthusiasm and a love of animals!
What's included: Arranging your Programme
Full pre-departure support and assistance
Payment Protection insurance
Meeting you at the nearest Airport
Transfer to your accommodation
Local in-country team support and backup
24-hr emergency support
Certificate of Completion
What's not included: Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas, Daily transport to and from your Project, Return transfer to the airport.
Who is this
Programme suitable for?
SOLO travellers or travelling with friends.
FAMILIES with children from 10 years old upwards
GROUPS (Read more ...)
GAP YEAR BREAKS from School or University.
GROWN-UP GAPPERS, career breakers and retired.
ANYONE interested in animal wildlife and elephants in particular, as well as animal welfare and care.
Also suitable as a summer placement or short break.
Open to all nationalities.


  • An exciting opportunity to travel, see the world and experience a foreign culture first-hand.
  • New skills, more confidence and invaluable personal and professional development.
  • An in-depth understanding of elephants and domesticalted elements in Sri Lanka, their care and protection.
  • An opportunity to take a break from the traditional academic track or your current career path in order to gain life experience and global cultural awareness
  • An entry on your CV or Résumé that will enhance your career opportunities and make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Make friends, form relationships and build memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Opportunities to enjoy some exciting adventure and cultural activities while on your programme.
  • And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!


This project to care for elephants is a rather unique one, and particularly satisfying. Many elephants have to work in Sri Lanka, and work hard. Sometimes they're ill and sometimes they're not treated so well. This project takes in elephants so that they can get medical attention, followed by a period to rest and recuperate - "on holiday". In other words, the elephants go there to get a well-deserved and pampered rest!

Most of the time there will be only one elephant on site, but occasionally there may be more. Elephants usually stay there for around three months, but if they are too ill to return to their owners, they could be there for up to a year.

The project works with the help of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department and they feel strongly that they're helping the elephants. They alsso monitor the elephants once they're released back to the owners.

You will provide hands on assistance to the mahouts (elephant handlers) to ensure these beautiful animals live a life as close as possible to their wild relatives. You will bathe and wash the elephants daily, walk them through the forests to forage, clean their enclosure and learn all about these magnificent animals.

You'll also learn about elephants and learn some of elephant commands the mahouts use on a regular basis.

If you can help just one elephant have a holiday, a time when he or she is enjoying living a good quality of life, then you're doing a good thing ... and elephants never forget a kindness.

Example Schedule:

Daily routines (Monday to Friday) include:

  • Feeding the elephants
  • Cleaning the elephants
  • Cleaning the elephant enclosures
  • Excursions where possible:
    (These may vary but can include trekking and walking in the village we stay during the program. There are many secluded and beautiful streams and natural pools where the participants can enjoy their time at. These streams are hidden in the wilderness and are extremely peaceful.
    There is also hiking the famous mountain called Bible Rock. It is called the Bible Rock because of its shape. It is about half an hour from the accommodation by Tuk Tuk. This is a great place for hiking and the views on top are mesmerizing.

Morning comes early at this elephant camp, and the elephant needs to be fed and bathed for the day. Bath time is in the river and it's pure joy for the elephant to play in the water!

Your duties will vary during the afternoon. Sometimes, you will have the opportunity to help children with their studies on request or to go for an excursion.

There may also be the opportunity to do other things, such as some maintenance and renovation work, etc., but that will be subject to the needs that arise during the time that you're there.

The mahouts enjoy working with the volunteers and will see to it that you have as much fun as the elephants do.

Some Background about Domesticated Elephants in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a sizeable population of elephants whose importance is magnified by the fact that the native elephants comprise a wholly separate sub-species. The Sri Lankan authorities recognise the cultural and natural significance of elephants and are working assiduously to ensure the survival and health of both wild and domesticated elephants on the island.

The current situation of domesticated elephants in Sri Lanka is rather a sad one. Around 75% of the elephants in Sri Lanka are forced to work from early morning right through until the evening. These beautiful creatures spend all day uprooting trees and pulling logs with little food, water and shade. A further 20% of domesticated elephants spend their days kept in a tourist riding facility, continuously carrying tourists to make money for their owners.

Elephants usually can live anywhere between 80-100 years. However, what we are seeing happen to our largest land animal and one of Earth’s most magnificent creatures because of the cruelty they are experiencing is resulting in them dying between 50-60 years old. Often a basket is placed on the back of the elephant which allows up to 6-10 tourists to ride at any one time. This is often the case in particularly touristic places like Sigiriya, Dambulla and Habarana. This continuous strain placed on these elephants, tragically, results in a lower life expectancy.

Sri Lanka used to have an abundance of domesticated elephants but this number has dramatically decreased, and it is estimated that we only have 240 left. This shocking realization shows that we have to protect the elephants we do have for our future generations.

Volunteers bathing an elephant in the river in Sri Lanka
Volunteers bathing an elephant in the river.
Volunteer giving an elephant a wash in the river in Sri Lanka
You'll bring back lifetime memories of this amazing experience!
An elephant feeds in the forest in Sri Lanka
The freedom to be able to forage in peace and quiet is invaluable for the elephants!


You will be accommodated in a local house (homestay), which is located close to the project location. In homestays, the available rooms can allocate 4-10 people on a single-gender basis. You will also have access to a shared bathroom with your roommates.

Facilities: The homestay will be in a village close to the Mawanella town, where you can find the basic items you may need. When you travel to the Mawanella town, which will take approximately one hour, you'll have access to both ATM and supermarket facilities.

Wi-Fi / Internet: Wi-Fi / Internet is not availale, however there are internet cafés available closer to the volunteer house and in the city.

Three meals will be provided which will be typical Sri Lankan food, including plenty of rice dishes on weekdays and two meals (brunch and dinner) during the weekends.

Breakfast is self-service with toast, fruits, tea and coffee. Sri Lankan foods include roti bread, dal (Lentil Soup) and curries, vegetables, salads, milk and yogurt. Meat is rarely eaten, except on festive occasions.

Weekends are free to relax, and to explore the local area.

Meals will be provided three times a day during the week and twice during the weekend (breakfast and lunch combine to become brunch during the weekend).

View from the Accommodation balcony on the volunteering project in Sri Lanka
View from the accommodation balcony.
Accommodation on the volunteering project in Sri Lanka
Elephants are amazing and we love them!


Read important information about the Support & Backup you receive before you leave and during your programme.

Read about the Safety and Security measures we take to ensure your safety and wellbeing while on our programme.

Once you have applied for a placement, we'll contact you and send you our Welcome Pack. You'll also receive Log-on details and password for our Volunteer Extranet where you'll have access to all the documentation and information which we've put together to facilitate preparations for your adventure! Your Project Co-ordinator for your country will liaise with you throughout the arrangements process, as well as while you're on your placement and on your return home.

The documents you'll have access to also include a Country Factfile, Safety Guide and any manuals that may assist you on your particular programme (e.g. Teaching Guide, Sports Manuals, Enrichment Suggestions for Animal Care, etc.). We do all we can to make your stay one that you'll never forget. This is a truly awesome, elegant and beautiful country.

On Your Arrival: When you arrive you will be welcomed by a member of staff who will take you to your accommodation and introduce you to everyone. During your first few days you'll be given an induction so that you can learn about the country and its culture, as well as other useful information, like how to use the transport system, banks, safety issues, tipping, and lots more.


We cannot BEGIN to tell you how beautiful this paradise island is! Nor how cheap to live and get around. It is almost too good to be true! But it is true.

Towering Pagodas, Hindu temples and ancient fortresses to holy rivers and sacred mountains. The local people are very welcoming and friendly, especially in the rural areas. The tea plantations are a must, the lace making, monuments and architectural splendours, etc., but the most appealing is the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala. Not to be missed! It's an emotive sight that you'll never forget!

Mawanella, which is located along the Colombo – Kandy road, is a town that belongs to Kegalle district. While the town area of Mawanella has some modern characteristics, the inner areas are rural in nature. The locals living in the inner areas of Mawanella lead simple lifestyles.

Mawanella is also a town with historical significance and has many temples that are visited by the locals throughout the year.

Some of the places to visit during your weekends could include:
• Aluth Nuwara Dedimunda Devalaya, which is an ancient temple visited by the locals from all over the Island.
• Saradiel village, a location which is built to depict the traditional setup of a village. This is located in the birth village of a person who was known as the Robin Hood of Ceylon.

Climate: In the lowlands the climate is typically tropical with an average temperature of 27OC in Colombo. In the higher elevations it can be quite cool with temperatures going down to 16OC at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres. Bright, sunny warm days are the rule and are common even during the height of the monsoon - climatically Sri Lanka has no off-season.

Sri Lanka has miles and miles of amazing beaches. Some of our favourites are:

MIRISSA: Perhaps a contender for the most beautiful beach in the world. Long, deserted and hot. You know you have got away from it all as you sit and watch the sunset over this horizon…The snorkelling is also incredible here.

NEGOMBO: To the north of Colombo lies Negombo, a busting fishing town with golden beaches and a pallet of colour provided by sails and boats against the deep blue of the ocean.

UNAWATUNA: A sleepy peaceful cove with deep still water and a temple overlooking the bay from the protecting cliffs.

HIKKADUWA: A long stretch of beach with plenty of hostels, restaurants and some nice bars, not forgetting the impromptu beach parties held on the beach front bars blaring Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Led Zeplin and many other classics! Sri Lanka is a conservative island brimming with culture and Hikkaduwa offers an exciting opportunity to holiday for the odd celebratory weekend! Many a volunteer birthday has been seen in over Hikkaduwa cocktails. You can also body board and even surf on this beach.

ARUGAM BAY: This tiny fishing village is Sri Lanka’s newest hot spot and hosts the best surfing and an easy going happy party atmosphere. With its wide sweeping beach in front of the village and year round gorgeous swimming it is no surprise that this bay has developed into a low budget travellers haunt.

White Water Rafting:
Sri Lanka’s boulder stream rivers are the ideal setting for white water rafting. This is the best way to see the stunning environment what this region has to offer. Many tours are available and many begin with days of action, rafting the white waters. This high adventure is suitable for fish time ‘go for it’ rafters and experts alike. Rafting has become a very popular exciting yet safe adventure sport option.

Rock Climbing and Mountaineering:
Mountaineering is an adventure sport that requires skills and levels of fitness that few other adventure sports can match. The mountain ranges in Sri Lanka offer breath taking, enthralling, climbing routes. Climbing is all about discovering the natural world around and with you.

Hiking and Trekking:
There’s no better way to explore the natural scenic beauty of this island with diverse climatic zones. Trekking is an excellent way to explore a country, people, their traditions and beliefs. Paths and campsites have been set up to give nature lovers the experience of a lifetime. All possible steps are taken to ensure local community benefit and nature conservation in keeping with all international camping guidelines.

Canoeing & Kayaking:
This relatively new sport is rated as the most adventurous of all adventure sports. It involves descending a stream as it drops over waterfalls and boulders. In Sri Lanka they have low waterfalls for beginners and some as high as 700 feet for the very experienced - all surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

The coastal stretch south of Colombo is filled with palm-lined sandy expanses as far as the eye can see. The Kandyan dances, a procession of elephants or the masked devil dances. Then there are the ruins, ancient and inspiring architecture in the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to satisfy any archaeologist.

Volunteer Paul White with elephant in Sri Lanka
Volunteer Paul White taking time out to get up close and personal with an elephant!
Volunteers on the beach, sitting in a palm tree in Sri Lanka
It's not all work - there's lots to do and see, like these volunteers spending some free time on one of Sri Lanka's glorious beaches.


Make the most of your time there! To help you do that, we've put together some exciting activities, courses and tours that you can add to your itinerary. These are designed to be fun, but also to enable you to learn, and expand your personal and professional development enjoyment ... but mostly for your enjoyment! :-)

Body and Mind: Meditation and Yoga in Sri Lanka

Price: £495 for 1 week
£795 for 2 weeks
includes food and accommodation, transfers.

The Body and Mind week combines Yoga and Meditation with Ayurvedic treatments to work on a fitter, healthier and more positive you. Located in a beautifully set-up spa, Body and Mind Week will help you to gain psychological and physical well being, will help you to understand the basics of Yoga and Meditation and also educate you about the human body. In addition, you'll enjoy the luxury of Ayurvedic treatments which will deal with any physical aches and pains you may be experiencing at the time.

During the program, you will be taught the Surya Namaskar, commonly known as the Sun Salutation. This contains 12 consecutive postures or Asanas. It is essential for students to master this before moving on to the second stage of Yogasana.

Meditation is the art of focusing your mind, restraining your thoughts and looking deep within yourself. Practicing it can give you a better understanding of your purpose in life and of the Divine. It will also provide you with certain physical and mental health benefits.

PROGRAMME SCHEDULE - Monday to Friday:

  • Early Morning Yoga
  • Breakfast
  • Meditation
  • Head massage. These messages will change every day and include foot massage, back massage, front massage and full body massage.
  • Meditation - Walking meditation
  • Lunch and a relaxed afternoon

This schedule can be changed and/or amended depending on weather conditions, local conditions and unforeseen circumstances.

Book Now

Terms and Conditions apply for Add-Ons, please see here.




An Elephant Experience: Care for an Elephant needing Rest and Recuperation, Sri Lanka

Hi Karen, All going brilliantly thanks, I will be very sad to leave. In terms of how the day runs, it's very relaxed with periods of waiting (as the project is about the elephant's needs - if she's eating, then we wait!)

Average day:
7:30 breakfast
8:30ish leave house, 3 buses to project site
Morning - walk with Mali and Samandha (her mahout) to wherever food is to be sourced that day.
Assist with gathering food.
12-ish - lunch
1-ish - walk to the river. Mali lies in the river for around 45 mins while Samandha has lunch.
Help to wash Mali using coconut shells. 2-3ish - walk back to main road to catch 3 buses home

Timings are very approximate. It's so wonderful to see Mali grazing and being relaxed - I really feel that this project is absolutely centred around the welfare of the elephant, exactly as it should be!

All the best, Helen.


Sustainable and ongoing development of local communities is always the primary aim of our volunteer projects and this project is no different. You'll take up where others before you left off and thus helping to continue making this project sustainable.

We are passionate about mutually beneficial interaction with the local community. The team members are locals and very community-minded. We work closely with the local community to achieve maximum benefits and emphasis is always placed on doing what is best for the local environment. To this end, information on how to leave minimal negative impact on the environment is given to you prior to your departure as part of your documentation from Travellers Worldwide. This is also highlighted in your induction on arrival.


We have local staff in each destination where we have Programmes and where we work with local partners, again the staff employed are locals. We have long-standing relationships with local people, making this a sustainable, on-going project. Your work here contributes to, and helps to continue, the long chain of worthwhile achievements in this community. You'll also be directly influencing the local economy and supporting international tourism, an important part of the country's general economy. So, by living in the local area, you're bringing in income through tourism and education through cultural exchange!

The accommodation on this project is locally owned and all the staff are from the neighbourhood. Where food is provided, produce is purchased in nearby shops, helping provide authentic local cuisine. Where you've chosen host family accommodation (where available), families are selected based on their desire to provide real cultural exchange and at the same time a warm family environment.

Social Responsibility: The information we provide prepares you for your placement and how to deal with the local people. It also briefs you on the Do’s and Don’ts and makes you aware of the possible impact of your behaviour. However, you are also expected to do research on the country you're going to and their customs and culture. The research you do will help you to gt the most out of this exciting travel and experience opportunity.

Cultural sensitivity: Volunteers receive an induction and orientation on arrival which covers things like being sensitive to the culture you’re in, everyday processes which will be different to what you’re accustomed to, how to have the maximum beneficial imprint and the minimum negative impact.

We stress the importance of responsible tourism, cultural differences and acceptable/unacceptable conduct. Where appropriate, volunteers are briefed on local customs, particularly those that are different to the volunteer’s accepted norm.

Economic Responsibility: By living in the volunteer house provided by the project you’ll, again, be providing much needed income and employment to the local population. The house is simple and built from natural materials and you are actively encouraged to recycle, be efficient with energy and water usage and preserve the natural surroundings. All food is provided and sourced locally. Your transport to and from the project will usually be either on a bicycle or walking again contributing to green efforts.

For 25 years our volunteers have lived in local communities around the world, spent their money with local traders and brought funding to the projects they work with. Travellers employs local staff and works with local support staff. This helps to fund the project directly and through bringing money into the local community.

In general, the organisations we work with around the world often struggle to financially support and maintain the work they do, so every penny raised makes a real difference.

Our aim is to create always a Win-Win-Win situation in terms of the benefits for, (a) the local communities and institutions you work in, (b) our Volunteers, i.e. you, and (c) for Travellers. We do not embark on any project that is not beneficial to all three of these stakeholders.

The impact of pollution: Where transport to and from the project is required, it is left up to you to choose. Public transport is always recommended by us and all nearby public transport routes are shown to all new arrivals. If taxis are required, you'll be encouraged to share with other volunteers in order to lessen the impact of pollution wherever possible.

Having regard for the local community by being consciously aware of your impact is encouraged in all our documentation for all our projects in all our destination countries. This is because we feel very strongly that many countries are subject to, for example, water shortages, high cost of energy and high impact of energy usage, the negative impact of litter and general pollution. Thus we encourage you to be aware of these possible impacts so that they contribute positively and not negatively to the community in this respect


We provide you with many tips on how to be a responsible traveller regarding the environmental impact you have.

We want you to be immersed in the culture, by living and working with local people. We work with local communities, local charities, local government bodies and local schools. We also often partner with local organisations whom we have vetted to ensure that they are committed to the projects they run, that they have the same responsible attitude to the local community that we do, that they are eco-friendly and have ethical policies.

In our projects and in our headquarters offices, we take an environmentally responsible attitude towards recycling and reusing of waste products. We encourage all participants to offset their flight emissions via a carbon offset scheme. Our volunteers are given pre-departure Information that encourages them to minimise waste and reduce their use of water and electricity, in other words, to live sensitively in the environment that they’re working in.

Travellers also give donations as and when required by projects. This is often done through our charitable arm, The Bridge The Gap Foundation. Our projects enable vital conservation, research, care and education work to take place directly where it is most needed. Our volunteers contribute, all over the world, to projects that would not exist without them.