Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary Frequently Asked Questions

You will find below answers to many frequently asked questions. If your question does not appear then please click here to open the 'contact us' page to ask us your question.

01. Is Cambodia safe?
Mondulkiri is a very safe and friendly province but, as always when traveling you must take the usual precautions to make sure you stay safe. Common sense and knowledge is the key phrase, and on arrival you will have an orientation meeting to advise you of any precautions you need to take. Visitors to the area should be aware that UXOs exist in Mondulkiri. It is believed that the area will never be fully cleared in the same way as UXOs are still being found in Europe from the 1940's. There are virtually no land mines in this area of Cambodia. Most visits to Cambodia are completely trouble free.
02. What languages do I need?
You need to be able to speak English as this will be the common language at the project. English does not need to be your first language but you will need to be proficient in English to be able to understand instructions on how to care for the elephant.
03. What are the living conditions at the project?
At the project volunteers stay in large individual lodges constructed in the traditional Bunong style with high quality western interiors, including toilet and solar heated shower. Each lodge contains a large double bed with mosquito net provided, seating, mirror and bedside tables. The lodges are located on the slopes of the elephant valley affording stunning views over the surrounding forest where many varieties of birds can be seen from eagles to hornbills.

Volunteers who want a cheaper option can choose shared dormitory accommodation on their application form.

The main project buildings are made from mostly recycled and salvaged materials. Sunset can be spent unwinding in the open air lounge, enjoying the amazing sounds of the nocturnal forest creatures and the gibbons calling as they prepare to sleep.

Accommodation at the elephant sanctuary.
04. What type of food will I be eating?
Three meals per day are provided for this project. Vegans can be accommodated and the variety and quality of food will suit all tastes. Volunteers dine in the main complex overlooking the elephant valley. Sunset can be spent unwinding in the lounge and at the bar in front of an open fire enjoying the amazing sounds of the nocturnal forest creatures and the gibbons calling as they prepare to sleep. All main meals except at weekends when volunteers are staying in the local town.
05. Is there access to E-mail and telephone?
The project location is in the elephant valley and therefore has very random access for mobile phones. A walk to higher areas or a visit to the local town will allow the use of mobile phones. The local town of Sen Monoron has internet access but it is probably not as quick as you may be used to!
06. What vaccinations will I need for Cambodia?
We recommend that our volunteers consult a doctor for up to date advise about vaccinations. Do this as soon as possible as some vaccinations take time to be effective. General advise is to be up to date with tetanus and diphtheria, Hepatitis A & B and typhoid.
07. Do I need a visa?
Visas are easily obtained on arrival at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh international airports. Visas are available at border crossings with Thailand and Vietnam but not always with Laos.

A tourist visa costs US$30 for 30 days and can be extended for another 30 days only. An 'ordinary' visa (previously called a 'business visa') costs US$35 for 30 days and can be extended for an indefinite period of time. 

Cambodia immigration authority ask that volunteers get an 'ordinary' (business) visa on arrival, even if they stay less than one month. By law, an 'ordinary' (business) visa permits visitors to volunteer. In reality, many volunteers get a tourist visa and the immigration on arrival will often tell volunteers that they only need a tourist visa unless they are staying for more than 60 days.

Be aware that a passport with at least 6 months validity is required. You will also need to provide immigration with a passport size photograph.

There is an online service to obtain a tourist visa via the internet which has an administration fee but will save time at the airport:
Note: As visa requirements can change and are different for nationalities, it is the volunteers responsibility to arrange entry visas.
08. What cultural differences must I consider?
Cambodians are very friendly and a smile will go a long way. Be respectful to elders. Shouting, or public displays of over emotion are impolite. Remove shoes before entering a temple or someone's home. Dress respectfully, especially when visiting temples. Do not point at someone with your finger or naked foot, do not touch peoples heads. For women, it is forbidden to touch a monk or even brush past his clothes. A woman may not directly pass anything to a monk, she must place it on a table for him to pick up.
09. Is there a dress code?
Yes, Cambodia is a conservative country and we ask that you respect them by dressing accordingly. The basic rule is to cover your knees and shoulders. T-shirts, sandals and anything that covers the knees are all acceptable.
10. Can I drink alcohol and smoke?
Of course, but we request that you use common sense. If you want to drink soft drinks, beer or other alcohol you will need to bring it with you from the local town. There is a bar at the project location for volunteers and staff. Please bring along a camera case or similar to dispose of cigarette butts responsibly.
11. Do I receive training and orientation?
Yes, on arrival you will receive orientation from our project coordinator, giving local information and advice. Training will be given to teach volunteers how to control the elephants.
12. Do I need travel Insurance?
We highly recommend that you have travel insurance arranged before arrival.To help make getting insured easier we have formed a partnership with award-winning travel insurers, World Nomads. They provide insurance to travellers from over 140 different countries and are the only insurer we have found that will allow you to take out a policy even after you have left your home country.
If you purchase an insurance policy from World Nomads through this link - Travel Insurance they will also make a donation to Globalteer and the many projects we support.
Please note that Globalteer can accept no responsibility for your travel or insurance arrangements and encourages you to fully research all travel and insurance options available to you.
13. Who usually volunteers at your projects?
This project attracts volunteers looking for an experience in pristine wilderness whilst still contributing to elephant welfare and forest conservation. The majority of volunteers are from the UK, United States, Canada and Australia. We also place volunteers from Holland, Germany, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand although all nationalities are welcome. The majority of volunteers travel alone to the projects, although we also accommodate couples and groups. The project averages 4 volunteers at any one time of all ages and nationalities.
14. Why is there a ring of rope on the elephants neck?
The ring around the neck is traditional and is used to temporarily secure the elephant to stop it running away. A long night chain is used to tie the elephant to a tree in the forest, this is needed to stop the elephant running away and going to a farm to eat all the crops as they are generally tastier than the normal forest fare.
15. Why don't volunteers ride the elephants?
The Elephant Project began as an initiative to improve the health and well being of Mondulkiri's captive elephant population. This meant visiting surrounding villages to document and assess elephants, as well as to encourage owners to rest and re cooperate sick elephants. After two years on the road, the project has realized that very few working elephants are healthy. Most have broken spirits and broken bodies, and many are covered in abscesses as well as being chronically underfed.

The project does not offer elephant riding, or any other form of elephant labour. Elephants at the project have the freedom to socialize in family groups, play in mud pits, and spray water around in the river. Elephants that are very sick will now be able to receive medical treatment in the new elephant hospital.
16. How do I get back to Phenom Penh after the project?
Volunteers are brought back to Phenom Penh on the Saturday, and normally arrive in Phenom Penh by 1-1.30pm at the latest. Volunteers will then need to take a short tuk tuk ride to the airport if they are leaving that day. 
17. What can I do on the weekends?
Volunteers who stay for longer than one week can spend their weekends in Sen Monorom (accommodation included). Sen Monorom is a very small town and after a week in the forest, volunteers often enjoy going out for dinner on the Friday night then heading off to visit one of the many waterfalls in the area on the Saturday, including the mightly Bou Sraa waterfall which is considered to be the most beautiful one in Mondulkiri. 
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