Trip Details

Working as a volunteer, and interacting, with the majestic elephants in their natural habitat, through this conservation project you will have the opportunity to participate in caring for rescued elephants at the country’s first elephant hospital. This is a unique opportunity to work alongside Mahouts in their various activities caring for the well-being of the elephants – something that you would not experience as a tourist.

Join this program to work up-close with mahouts, the ancient elephant caretakers of Asia, and get up close to the elephants as well as contribute to their well-being through various activities like bathing, trekking and assisting them at the elephant nursery, hospital, museum and more!

You will also share the life of the mahouts and learn more about the lifestyle of their centuries-old culture. Your program begins with our 3 days ‘Exploration’, then you will be asked to assist us in the Center’s development by participating in the many activities on site such as:

  • Helping the vets and mahouts prepare elephant food
  • Produce elephant dung paper
  • Create handicraft with the paper
  • Help clean the breeding area
  • Assist in the kitchen and receive Lao cooking lessons
  • Help our staff learn some English
  • Maintenance work
  • Gardening
  • Photography and artwork
  • And any other activities depending on the Center’s needs!

You’ll spend time with the Mahouts, who will be happy to share some of their secrets with you and offer you the chance to ride their elephant, bareback, to experience the creatures and feel the world from a mahout’s viewpoint. Hold on and try to get used to their swaying steps!

You will have the opportunity to take the elephants back to the forest where they spend the night grazing and sleeping. As you stroll together with these magnificent creatures into the dense forest of Nam Tien, remember to take a moment to appreciate your surroundings! This is the REAL land of elephants! Your guide will also give you an overview of the biodiversity of our protected forest.

You’ll have opportunities to attend the elephant’s’ daily bath and learn more about our giant guests’ playful characters. Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers and love water. During bath time you will also get to witness the full display of the unique bond between the mahout and his elephant!

After a short boat trip on the lake, you will then discover our nursery. It is located in the forest where the baby elephants are learning how to sustain themselves, closely watched by their mother.

At sunset, board our boat for a relaxing cruise on the Nam Tien Lake. Enjoy fresh drinks and snacks, go for a swim or simply stare at the amazing environment around you. An unforgettable and entertaining experience with our friendly staff!

Our veterinarians and biologists will take you into their world and they will explain the field and research work they undertake in Laos and the region. Through the visit of the only Elephant Hospital in Laos, you will uncover the conservation efforts being made by ElefantAsia NGO.

You will have free time to walk the elephants back to the forest, visit the elephant museum, cruise on the lake on kayaks and go for a swim everyday. You can also choose to watch a movie on elephants or simply sit on a viewing platform and observe baby elephants as they graze and socialize!

Aims & Objectives

  • Assist the efforts of conserving these endangered elephants in the wild
  • Give you an authentic experience in a jungle setting
  • Help you appreciate and bond with these beautiful animals

Trip Itinerary


Arriving at Sayaboury Bus Station, you will be met by a member of the project team who will take you on a boat trip. You will then be given lunch before having a guided tour of the centre, introducing you to the facilities and the projects taking place there. Other activities include your first encounter with the elephants and a meeting with the veterinarians and the mahouts. The mahouts will share some of their elephant interaction secrets with you before you experience an Elephant bath and follow the elephants on a trek through the forest, with a chance to ride the elephant bareback. Getting used to their swaying movements will have you holding on tight! After returning the elephants to the forest of Nam Tien, the breathtaking land of the elephants, where they graze and sleep through the night, your guide will give you an insight into the biodiversity of this protected forest area.

In the evening, you will return to the centre where you will have dinner with the staff.


After breakfast, you will return to the forest with the mahouts where you will take part in their morning ritual, getting close to the wonderful elephants as you return them from the forest. You will discover the creatures’ playful characters as you bathe them and they reveal to you their love of water and their amazing swimming ability. The bond between the mahout and his elephant will be evident as you witness their interactions today.

Following lunch, you will be taken on a short boat trip to the nursery, again located in the forest. In this replica of a natural habitat, you will see the baby elephants nurtured by their mothers as they learn to look after themselves.

You will participate in an elephant bath before setting off on a relaxing cruise into the sunset on the Nam Tien Lake. The time is yours to enjoy fresh drinks and snacks, swim in the lake or relax and absorb your new and incredible environment. Guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience with the friendly staff at the centre!


A day of immersion into the work of the veterinarians and biologists awaits you. They will guide you through their work, explaining their field and research work, not only at the centre, but across Laos and the region. Experiencing first-hand the conservation actions implemented by ElefantAsia NGO, your morning visit to the only Elephant Hospital in Laos will leave you awe struck. In the afternoon, you will participate in your first community work on the site. Your evening will end with dinner in the company of the centre staff.

Wednesday to Saturday

As the centre adapts to the natural activities of the elephants your schedule for these days is not set in stone. You will need to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the animals. However, you will have an itinerary of workshops available to you which will be explained to you fully by an English speaking guide. For all your activities with the elephants you will be accompanied by centre staff. During your free time at the centre you will have time to walk with the elephants as they return to the forest, visit the elephant museum and relax on the lake in kayaks or swim. There will be elephant movies available for you to watch or you can choose to observe the baby elephants from the viewing platform as they move around in their natural environment, grazing and socialising.

There is an option to stay longer than one week at the program. This will result in you becoming a long-term participant which could last from two weeks to several months.

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


Trip Accommodation

The historic town of Sayaboury is commonly referred to as the “Elephant Capital” of Laos. The Elephant Centre itself is located at the foot of a naturally forested peninsula dividing into the incredible Nam Tien Lake. Whilst at this reserve, you cannot help but bask in the stunning views over Phou Xang (a.k.a Elephant Mountain).

Accommodation & Food

You will be housed in basic, yet scenic rooms that have been renovated using craftsmen from Viengkeo and traditional techniques.

The bungalows are simple, traditional stilt bamboo huts with a private balcony and a view on the Nam Tien lake and it’s location by this lake provides fresh air to the bungalows for most of the year. There are 2-4 people per room on a single gender basis.

Food Arrangements
The in-house kitchen deliver a variety of traditional Lao foods. The food is vegetarian-friendly and our cooks do not use MSG (monosodium glutamate). The dishes are prepared with fresh produce from the local market or the Center’s gardens. Feel free to order drinks and snacks on-site and enjoy them by the lake! Everyone eats together in the dining room, this has a great atmosphere, and you can purchase drinks and snacks here anytime and relax between activities.

This location is very remote. There are no ATMs so we suggest that you have enough money on you before setting off to this location.

Sights & Surroundings
The Elephant Conservation is deservedly Sayaboury’s biggest attraction and it is most likely that you will be making the most of this by staying here on your free days and soaking in the beautiful surroundings and scenery.

Otherwise, Sayaboury town hosts a morning market where you can find delicious local food for those who want to experience the nearby township!

From this location we provide free transport to your next program at the following location(s):

  • Vientiane (Naxaythong District)

Trip Country Info


Capital: Vientiane
Language: Lao
Currency: Kip (LAK)
Time zone: ICT +7:00

Once known as the ‘land of a million elephants’, Laos is the only landlocked country in Asia, bordered by Burma, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It became a French protectorate in 1893 and finally became an independent country in 1953 with a constitutional monarchy. This monarchy however was shortly ended by a long civil war. Today Laos is a single-party socialist republic whilst remaining strongly influenced by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam People’s Army. The Laotian people make up roughly 60% of the population whilst indigenous groups and hill tribes account for 40% of the Laotian population.

It is a country that has a lot to offer whether it’s the underground river caves, the white-water rapids and jungle zip lines for thrill seekers, the beautiful forests for trekkers and nature lovers or the wonderful cuisine for the foodies!

Gap year travel in Laos is enjoyed in a country of stunning natural beauty and strong spiritual traditions which remain relatively unexplored. With a population of over 6 million people, it is one of the least populated countries in the world. Much of the country is dominated by forested mountains, lush green valleys and broad snaking rivers, including the famous Mekong, the 12th longest in the world.  This natural beauty is why many people choose volunteer and travel to Laos.

The Lao wilderness is drawing travellers looking for nature, adventure or both. Kayaking, rafting, rock-climbing and biking are all available, but it’s trekking that is most popular because it combines spectacular natural attractions with the chance to experience the ‘real Laos’ with a village homestay.  We have a choice of opportunities for your gap year travel in Laos such as medical work, conservation work, voluntary projects and much more.  If you are thinking about a volunteer experience in Laos have a look at our latest programs below or contact us for more information about exciting experiences in this fantastic country.

Participant Criteria & Requirements

Standard Requirements

No requirements have been provided.

Additional Requirements

No requirements have been provided.

What's included

  • 24/7 support in case of emergencies
  • Accommodation
  • Airport Pick up
  • English speaking coordinator
  • Meals
  • Orientation

What's not included

  • Airport drop off
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Vaccination
  • Visa