Laos Wildlife Sanctuary

Join the incredible team at Laos’ first wildlife sanctuary and help care for animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trafficking trade.

Located just 60km north of Laos’ peaceful capital, Vientiane, lies a wildlife sanctuary buzzing with activity. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 400 animals, with many having suffered a lifetime of cruelty before being given a second lease of life.

Unfortunately, animal cruelty is commonplace in Laos and this is most notable in the prevalence of the wildlife trade. Laos is a major gateway for this illegal trade, and each day thousands of protected animals are smuggled in and out of the country. Recognising a need for intervention, a small group of conservationists sought support from the local government and other wildlife organisations to found what we know today as the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary, having transformed an old zoo into a place where animals could seek protection and receive care.

For many years, Laos Zoo had functioned without the expertise to care for such a wealth of animals, meaning proper nutrition and mental stimulation was not always available. However, since the current team started transforming it into a wildlife sanctuary, the site has become a suitable - and necessary - home for many of Laos' in-need species; in fact, the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is the first and only wildlife rescue and conservation organisation in the whole country.

While great efforts have been carried out to provide care for the animals resident at this former zoo, further help is still required. Your time spent volunteering will see you contribute to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of many vulnerable and endangered animals, and you will also help to provide ongoing care for those that sadly cannot be released into the wild. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary serves as a pillar of hope for many of the country’s most in-need animals, and your contribution to the project will have a meaningful and lasting impact for many years to come.

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Activities

Animal Feeding @ Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Animal Feeding The sanctuary is home to over 400 animals of all species and sizes, and each of these animals needs to be fed! You will help to prepare a range of meals every day, in the correct portions and with the right nutrition for each respective animal. You will also help to distribute the food, making this a great opportunity to get up close to some of Asia’s most amazing species, such as monkeys, bears and pangolins!
Volunteers Creating Enrichment at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Enrichment Ensuring the physical, and also mental health of the resident animals is vitally important. Enrichment enhances the mental health of the animals by alleviating boredom, reducing stress, and stimulating their natural behaviours. To help increase the chance of release, the team have implemented an enrichment schedule which will see you creating puzzles and tasks for the animals, with each enrichment item designed to stimulate their minds and bodies and equip them with the skills they would need in the wild.
Building a Wall at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Construction Projects The wildlife sanctuary is ever-expanding and striving for improvement, which means new areas are being developed alongside older areas which are in need of repair. You will help the project team to work through their construction schedule by helping to build or improve enclosures for the animals, and you may also assist in the construction of other structures such as climbing towers, shelters, and even swimming pools for the animals to use throughout their rehabilitation.
Volunteers Cleaning Enclusres at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Husbandry & Maintenance In addition to creating new suitable homes for the animals, you will also assist with the maintenance of the existing enclosures. Providing the sanctuary’s animals with a comfortable and clean place to eat and sleep is part of delivering a high standard of care, and volunteers assist the team with these husbandry tasks which also provide an incredible opportunity to see the animals up close.
Volunteers Relax at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Free Time When the working day is done, you are free to relax as you wish. There are no mandatory activities, and you may choose to socialise with the rest of your group over a board game or take a little alone time to read a book in the comfort of your own room. Often, the team arrange an evening dinner by the river or a movie night, and on days off, you can take the opportunity to visit some of the local shops, markets, or bars. There is also a nearby hotel with a pool located riverside that a member of the team can drive you to.

Itinerary

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: After arriving at Vientiane International Airport, you will be collected and transferred to the project site (approximately 2 hours away), stopping at a Western-style shop along the way to pick up any snacks that may not be available in the smaller town where the sanctuary is located. Once you have arrived, you will be shown to your room to settle in before being taken on an orientation tour of the grounds to learn more about the facilities and resident animals.
Day 2 to 14 - Project Days: These are your project days, which typically run from 7am to 4pm. Each morning will begin with a briefing to discuss the day’s schedule, which will include some time to feed the animals and clean their enclosures. The remainder of your day will consist of construction activities or special projects, such as enrichment, and you will enjoy a 1-hour lunch break at around midday. Sundays are elected as days off, and you are free to spend this time as you wish!
Day 15 - Final Day: Today is your final day at the project, so after saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers, the staff and the animals at the sanctuary, you will be transferred back to Vientiane International Airport in time for your return flight home, or to continue with your onward travel plans.

Start Dates & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your start date.

Flexible Payment Options: If you select a start date more than 3 months in advance, we offer convenient payment plans, allowing you to pay off your balance in instalments.

Select a duration below to see the available start dates and book your place today!

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.

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Payment breakdown


Accommodation

Accommodation

During your time on the project, you will stay in one of five bungalows located on-site. Each bungalow will be shared on a same-sex basis (with the exception of couples, friends or families), with two people allocated to each. All rooms come equipped with fans and electrical outlets, and fresh linens are provided. Laundry facilities are also available free of charge. Just a few steps away from the bungalows, there are shower blocks that are separated by gender and fitted with western toilets and both a hot and cold shower.

Meals & Beverages

All meals and beverages are provided during your stay at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary. You will prepare your own breakfast using the items bought in for you by the sanctuary team (such as bread, eggs, cereal and milk), while lunch and dinner will be cooked for you at a local restaurant and delivered each day. You will have a range of traditional Laos and Thai dishes to choose from, all of which are vegetarian, and drinking water is also readily available throughout the day.


Project Details

When is the best time to volunteer?

As this project is based at a wildlife sanctuary, there are animals here year-round, which means there is no favourable time to volunteer regarding wildlife. That said, the weather may impact your decision on when to travel, and the seasons are explained in more detail below.

March to Mid-June: This period is considered the hot season, and you can expect temperatures of up to 33°C (91°F) and high humidity levels which reach approximately 75-90%.

June to October: This is considered the wet season, and though brief but heavy rain showers can be expected, temperatures are still high at up to 32°C (90°F).

November to February: This is the cooler season and is also the driest, with temperatures of around 28-30°C (82-86°F) during the day and dropping further below at night.

Average Monthly Weather in Vientiane, Laos

Getting there

You will need to fly into Wattay International Airport (VTE) in Vientiane, where you’ll be met in the arrival’s hall between 9:30am-10:00am by a member of the project staff and transferred to the sanctuary. Transfers are only available between 9:30am-10:00am, to ensure that you arrive at the sanctuary in time for lunch, where you will meet the team and be given a tour around the project site.

As flights are limited, we strongly recommend booking a flight that arrives the day before your start date and spending the night in Vientiane. Your transfer to the sanctuary can then be arranged from your accommodation.

For your departure, you will need to book a flight from midday to allow enough time for your transfer and flight check-in.

Visa Requirements

To join this project, you will need a tourist visa and most nationalities are able to obtain a 30-day tourist visa on arrival into Laos or apply online through the E-Visa Portal. You must bring two passport-sized photos with you and pay US$50 dollars for this visa if arranging on arrival.

If you join the project for longer or plan to be in Laos for more than 30 days, you can visit the immigration office in Vientiane and extend your tourist visa twice to a maximum of 90 days.

Fitness & Skills

As a large focus of this project revolves around construction and maintenance, we recommend that all volunteers taking part have a moderate level of fitness. No specific skills are required but we do ask that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with every activity, that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty and that you have a respect for the wildlife and sanctuary staff who you will be working alongside.

Vaccinations

There are no other specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project and as such, any other vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We, therefore, recommend that you consult your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination needs.

No Contact Policy

The sanctuary has a strict ‘No Contact Policy’ and anyone found touching any of the animals will be asked to leave immediately. This policy is in place so that the team can ease the integration of wildlife with their own species, facilitate future releases back to the wild, and ensure the safety of the staff and volunteers.

Unfortunately, most of the animals at the sanctuary have already had too much contact with humans as most are victims of the illegal wildlife trade. Due to this, some may look like they want attention, but it is important that you do not touch them. Animals appearing to give social interaction are NOT trying to be friendly and in the majority of cases, this behaviour is a sign of significant stress and submission. There is also a very real risk of disease transmission, some with obvious symptoms (if you have a cold or cough) and some without.



Reviews

Pauline Forrester, 2024
         

The Sanctuary is going through a traumatic experience. They have limited months to build a new Sanctuary from scratch and transfer everything - animals, equipment and staff. Their efforts to raise the funds necessary whilst building, and still giving all the animals the care they needed is beyond impressive. The next few months will be a very hectic period, and they need as much help as possible, both financially and physically on location.


Christina Gentile, 2022
         

I had an amazing 3-week voluntary work experience. The staff were very welcoming and it was lovely to feel like part of the team. I learnt so much about the animals, their diets, behaviours/traits and how best to build enrichment to stimulate them. It was great to see the staff's passion on rehabilitating the animals and releasing them back into the wild where possible. It was fun to work on ways to enrich the animal's lifestyle and ensure their quality of life is stimulating. I would highly recommend this experience.


Nicola Lawrence, 2020
         

Met some amazing people who were so passionate about what they do. Great coordinators. Very welcoming team from management to other volunteers.



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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day & drinking water
  • Airport transfers
  • An English-speaking facilitator
  • A donation to the project
  • Laundry facilities
  • Wi-Fi

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas