Our very own member of the marketing team, Ellie, recently visited The Great Elephant Project in Sri Lanka. She is now back in the office with some enlightening information to share with you all! Check out Ellie’s top tips for volunteering on The Great Elephant Project.
1. Prepare To Live Rustically
It takes a few days to adjust but the other volunteers and staff make it so incredible, and eventually, it just feels like one long sleepover with your friends!
2. Appreciate The View
You will get used to waking up the sun every morning and having a cup of tea while looking out at the misty mountains and verdant grasslands – but you’ll sure miss it when you come home! Make sure you spend some time to simply observe and listen to the nature around you.
3. Only Drink Bottled Water
You will see the locals drinking the water, but we can promise you that western stomachs will not appreciate it!
4. Shower Between Activities
The most strenuous activities are completed in the morning, with the late afternoons and early evenings spent located in a tree hut spotting elephants along an elephant corridor. By the time you return from the tree huts, you will have cooled down and a cold shower may not seem like the most inviting thing. However, after a morning’s hard work a cold shower is utter heaven, and when you get back from the tree huts, later on, you can tuck straight into dinner and relax for the evening.
5. Be Nice To The Spice
Don’t let spices put you off too much: Sri Lankan food is completely delicious, and milder spices are often used. If you really can’t hack the heat, there are always non-spicy options available.
Volunteers will be served pancakes once or twice a week. They are absolutely delicious! There are savoury and sweet options, one with jam and one with chilli – make sure you try both! They are even delicious on their own!
7. Wait A Second For Seconds!
When it comes to lunch and dinner, if the whole group have not yet returned from their activities, please don’t go up for seconds! There is always more than enough food, but there were two occasions where a group who had got back late had very small meals because everyone had gone up for seconds before everyone had eaten!
8. Get Involved With EVERYTHING
Some activities may seem a little out of the ordinary - dung trails - you can be sure to learn a great deal. Once you understand how and why you’re doing something, as well as the positive impact it has it becomes all the more fascinating!
9. Bring 2 Water Bottles With You For Morning Activities
It is extremely important to stay hydrated in humid conditions because you sweat so much, and your body relies on your intake of water to keep its fluids up! However, it is even more essential when you’re working in these conditions as your body is doing so much more. While it may be a little heavy to carry so much water, you will definitely be grateful for it, and the more you drink the less it weighs!
10. Sharing Is Caring
Volunteers like to buy lots of snacks from town and share them with each other, so make sure you bring some extra cash for some sweet treats throughout the week or an alcoholic beverage to share with fellow volunteers on the weekend!
11. Nighttime Fun
The staff like to play board games and volunteers play cards most evenings. The best way to bond and make the most out of your trip is to get involved! Sometimes putting yourself out there to try and get to know a new group of people is a scary and intimidating thing to do, but be brave! Everyone is in the same boat as you, and of the reasons you joined the trip in the first place was to meet new friends, right?
12. Stay In Touch
You are literally spending your entire trip with the people in your group and the field staff and naturally, you will form bonds with everyone. It’s not weird to ask to add people on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram – since returning home I’ve gained a whole new set of social media friends, volunteers and staff alike, from all corners of the world!
13. Explore On The Weekends
Sri Lanka is home to many iconic settings, including the cultural triangle. Volunteers are free to do whatever they wish during their free time, and public transport and hotels are so cheap, we would certainly recommend exploring more of the incredible country if you can during your stay. Volunteers often take trips together - another great way to bond!
14. Take A Dip In The Lake!
During your free time, it is possible to swim in the lake that surrounds the volunteer field house. It is safe to do so, and on a hot day it is so refreshing, so make sure you pack a swimsuit and take a dip!
15. Pack Different Types Of Clothes
When going out into town, you must have shoulders and knees covered as a sign of respect. Sri Lanka is mainly Buddhist along with some Muslims and Hindus, so please remember to be respectful to the culture at all times. However, the heat does get intense, and when you are at the volunteer accommodation it is acceptable to wear shorts and vest tops so make sure you bring a variation!
16. Flip Flops Are Essential
You will want a pair of walking boots or trainers for activities, but for trips into town and walking around the accommodation, a pair of flip-flops will be your best friend!
17. Bring Washing Powder
If you are staying for longer than a week, we would certainly advise bringing washing powder with you. You get extremely sweaty and you may want to change once or twice a day, and therefore may need to wash your clothes. If you do not wish to do so, or it is rainy season (clothes don’t dry well within the volunteer house so need to be hung outside), you can pay the staff at the field house or a nearby hotel between 300 – 500 Sri Lankan Rupee (around £2.50) and they will do it for you! Rest assured, your washing will return clean, dry, and even ironed!
18. Take Lots Of Pictures
As soon as you get to the airport to travel home, you will be looking through the pictures. When you are feeling down in the dumps, there is nothing like looking at a happier time to pick you back up again.
19. Have An Open Mind
it is truly remarkable to experience a foreign culture in the way that you do on The Great Elephant Project, so be sure to make the most of it. This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t let it pass you by!
So there you have it, Ellie's top tips for The Great Elephant Project. We hope this information is helpful - let us know in the comments below or get in touch if there are more tricks and tips you think we have missed!
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