The following is a summary of some of the activities that you will be getting involved in whilst volunteering with elephants in Wasgamuwa. Please keep in mind however that this is only a rough guideline, and volunteer activities are dependent on the needs of the project:
Human-Elephant Conflict Observations
This is the signature activity that you will be involved in during your time here. Volunteers spend their afternoons and an evening in a tree hut located within an elephant corridor. The purpose of this is to collect data on the spatial and temporal distribution of passing elephants and observe how villagers and elephants interact, as both factions use the area. You will also be able to spot other wildlife should it walk past! All of this collected data is essential for wider Asian elephant conservation.
This activity involves spending a session walking along a trail and recording dung found alongside the trail. The aim of the trail transect is to investigate Sri Lankan elephant abundance outside the park, seasonal variation and habitat preference.
Electric Fence Monitoring
Each team will check the state of the solar powered electric fences, which have been erected to stop elephants from entering villages. Once checked, the status of their conditions will then be relayed to the local fence committees, who maintain and operate the fences. This process also enables volunteers and the project staff to see what can go wrong with the fences so that their design and management can be improved.
This is another important part of the project and involves checking around water tanks (irrigation reservoirs) situated outside Wasgamuwa National Park for the presence of elephant dung or tracks. The aim of this is to find out whether there are single males and/or herds present outside the National Park, what their patterns of dispersion might be and what kind of food source they may be eating.
Each team will spend a session at the Weheragala Tank looking for Sri Lankan elephants and then observing and photographing them. Elephant Identification Data sheets will be filled by observing different physical features of individual elephants. The aim of the elephant ID is to build up a catalogue of individuals as a basis for numbers, social organization and movement inside/outside the park. As you observe elephants you may also be able to observe other wildlife present in the area, which include sloth bears and even leopards!
Sustainable Land use and Livelihood Project Monitoring
Agriculture is one of the main contributing factors in human – elephant conflicts. This elephant conservation project has established several sustainable land use and livelihood projects with local communities to develop agriculturally based measures that are compatible with the elephants. You will learn how important the involvement of communities is for sustainable elephant conservation. What's more, you will also help to monitor and evaluate innovative landscape management systems designed to help buffer communities from elephant raids.
Wildlife Observation and Data Logging
You will spend time in your teams either at the water tank, where you can look for Sri Lankan elephants and other wildlife including peacock, mugger crocodiles, water buffalo, macaque monkeys and leopards and the extensive collection of birds within the area. The information collected will then be logged in the system.
During your time on the project you will spend time observing wildlife and various habitats, as well as visiting forest hermitages and looking out for signs of elephants for wider Asian elephant conservation and other wildlife.
Please note that the itinerary detailed below is only a rough guideline and is subject to change.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will be collected from your hotel in Colombo by the project’s site facilitators who will take you to the Fort Railway Station. You will be collected by 6 am on the day your program starts to catch the train at 7 am. After the train journey you will arrive at the cultural capital of Kandy. You will have an hour or two to visit Kandy before taking a bus directly to the field site. After you have settled in your orientation will begin and you will get to know your fellow volunteers!
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
During these days your group will be split into 2 teams and you will each engage in a wide variety of different wildlife and elephant conservation tasks in Wasgamuwa National Park. You will also get to visit local villages to observe human-elephant conflict resolution projects. There will also be time off when you can relax or visit cultural sites nearby (such as Sigiriya and the Temple of the Tooth).
Day 15 - Final Day:
Today will be your final day and after saying goodbye to the project staff and the friends you have made here you will be transferred back to Colombo for your returning flight or to commence your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
This project is the first participatory community-based Asian elephant research and human-elephant conflict resolution project in the world. It is also highly respected, so much so that the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Equator Initiative awarded the project an Equator Prize in 2008. Volunteers here will get to experience a number of field research and conservation activities designed to help develop measures for elephant conservation, sustainable land use, and to mitigate human-elephant conflicts.
The monetary contributions of the volunteers is what makes it possible for the wildlife research, elephant conservation, and community development programs of this project to sustain themselves over the long term. These funds make it possible to conduct research, maintain field equipment, pay salaries of field staff, hire local youths to work on projects, help maintain electric fences, and provide villagers with innovative land use measures which help to alleviate the human/wildlife conflict.
The project also offers an excellent location for special elephant conservation programmes and studies (particularly for university dissertations and other research projects).
Sri Lanka is coming into its dry season, which means that the level of human-elephant-conflict is increased. This among many other reasons, is one of the most prominent reasons that The Great Elephant Project is in dire need of volunteers this summer. We still have spaces left on this incredible project too!
Are you thinking about heading over to Sri Lanka in the next few months? Or are you volunteering on The Great Elephant Project very soon? Either way here is what you could be getting up to in your spare time in this incredible country. From celebratory Buddhist festivals, or whale and dolphin watching in one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, there is something for everyone here!
Here at The Great Projects, we have received an update from The Great Elephant Project in Sri Lanka and unfortunately the people and the elephants have been having a rough time due to some weather anomalies. This has resulted in some eleraids! Elephants have been raiding village homes for food stores and the night watchman got a shocking surprise...
Is this trip for you?
Whilst on the project you will stay in the volunteer field house, unless there is a group of fourteen participants or more (when the Field Camp will also be used).
The house is very spacious with lots of room and has a high roof to catch the cooling breezes from the lake. You really feel like you are in the wilderness! The design of the house is perfect for the climate and terrain it is situated in and it helps to keep the house relatively cool during the hot days and nights and dry during the rainy season.
The house has two modern bathrooms with flush toilets, showers and sinks. However, there is only cold water (though this isn’t much of an issue as the water pipes will have been warmed in the sun most of the day). There are five bedrooms sectioned off for privacy and they are situated around the two communal social areas of the house.
The rooms are very basic and rustic but have comfortable beds. Electric fans, mosquito nets, pillows and clean bedsheets are provided, but please remember to bring your own towel.
Three fresh meals per day are prepared for you at the volunteer house. Food is prepared in the local style, with milder spices if preferred. Most meals will be vegetarian, with egg, fish and soy for protein.
This project does not involve much in the way of physical labour, but you will usually be working in fairly humid conditions. Therefore, all volunteers should have a basic level of fitness when taking part. No specific skills or experience are required, just commitment to the project and its aims. You must be prepared to work alongside other members of the team, and to bring an upbeat, positive attitude to the endeavour as a whole.
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
For this project there is not a stand out best time to volunteer, however, if weather is a factor for you then February to September is certainly drier. Wildlife sightings of elephants and leopards occur all year round, and you can still have some fantastic sightings even in the monsoon season.
If you are interested in birding the best time would be from November to March as this is the migration period and you can see the resident and migrant birds.
To experience both culture and nature the best time would be from April through to September. This is because in April there is the Sinhala New Year followed in May by the two largest Buddhist festivals: The Wesak and Poson festivals and in August, there is the Esala Perahera, better known as the Kandy Temple of the Tooth celebration festival.
You will need to arrive into Colombo via Bandaranaike International Airport, around twenty kilometres north of the city centre. As you will need to leave for the project at 7am from Colombo's Fort Railway Station, you will need to arrive the day before your project start date and check into a hotel nearby. A project facilitator will then collect you in the morning from your hotel of choice at 6am and take you to the train station. You will then travel by train to the cultural capital of Kandy. You will have an hour to have a look around and then will take a bus directly to the field site.
you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team
will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
You will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Short stay visas of thirty days can be obtained online via the Electronic Travel Authority, found here. These can be extended for up to three months once in Sri Lanka from the Department of Immigration & Emigration. However, it is advisable to contact the Sri Lankan High Commission in your country of origin at least one month before travel. Please note that your passport must be valid for at least six months before travel.
Currency, Exchange Rates and ATMs
Sri Lanka's currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee. For up to date exchange rates, please click here. There are no ATMs in Wasgamuwa National Park or in the immediate surrounding area. We recommend you bring cash with you (and a debit/credit card as a backup).
What's included in the price of the project?
- A contribution to the project
- Transfers between Colombo and the project site
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Accommodation and all meals
What's not included?
- Travel Insurance
- Expenses of a personal nature (soap, laundry, snacks etc.)