Volunteering with bears in Cambodia

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Departures every Sunday throughout the year
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Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Volunteering with bears in Cambodia

Environment

By volunteering at the centre you will make a major contribution to the welfare of bears in Asia. Your time and efforts will help to care for the bears, and the majority of the programme cost will go direct to the centre providing a critical source of funding for their future work. On a personal level you will have a unique opportunity to work alongside some incredible animals and gain the satisfaction of helping to make a difference to the lives of these animals.

In addition to this direct benefit, we try to ensure:

Social responsibility - before volunteers depart we provide them with a detailed information pack on the area they will be visiting. We try to educate and encourage our volunteers to understand and respect the local cultures and customs and get involved with local communities.

Economic responsibility – for over 10 years we have been providing volunteers to help at charitable projects around the world. A UK charity has now been launched to build on this success by providing financial assistance to overseas causes as well. The organisations we work with are often struggling to fund the work they are doing so every penny raised makes a real difference.

The majority of the fee that volunteers pay goes directly to the Centre. The Centre provides employment for many local staff. While volunteers are in-country, we encourage them to buy locally and support local businesses.

Environmental responsibility – one of the main negative impacts of our volunteers travelling, is the carbon dioxide created from flights. We work with a 'carbon neutral' charity to help ensure that an amount of carbon is sequestered through tree planting or the promotion of low energy technologies. While our volunteers and customers are overseas, we identify and encourage simple steps to minimise their impact on the local environment.

Community

Educational tours are organised for young school children at the centre, the team believe that the education of the next generation is critical to the survival of the endangered species, and conservation of wildlife as a whole. They also educate the local community on poaching which is a commonplace in rural areas.

The project actively campaigns for better animal treatment in Cambodia including issues with illegal pet trading, hunting and poaching and the use of animals within the tourist industry. They distribute educational materials to travel agents in Thailand to ask them to stop endorsing places where animals are used for entertainment. The centre often works in collaboration with local authorities including the government departments and a rapid response rescue team to confiscate animals from markets or illegal traders.

The exploitation of animals in the tourist industry is common in Cambodia however by offering full time employment to locals in the Bear Rescue project, teaching about conservation issues and showing that tourists will visit Cambodia to simply see the animals and to help prevent wildlife from suffering, then gradually a change in mentality could possibly be achieved.

Reviews of Volunteering with bears in Cambodia

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 16 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Everything! I loved every second of my trip - the people, the country, the bears I worked with...........

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be open-minded, embrace the experience, ask questions and enjoy!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Absolutely! Since I worked as a volunteer my time and money will benefit the project. I purchased a bunch of items at the volunteer project, at local markets and in the city that will benefit the locals.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I couldn't have asked for more. Everything was perfect! I've learned so much. My time in Cambodia was a few of the best weeks in my life. I felt more at home there than I feel in my everyday life.

Reviewed on 23 Sep 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Meeting the bears and being able to really make a difference to their day-to-day lives with enrichment, feeding and cleaning; some of the things we were doing (such as enrichment to keep the bears active and happy) wouldn't get done unless we were there to help out!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You only need to take US Dollars to Cambodia - no need to get any local currency beforehand! I went in the wet season (July) and packed lots of waterproofs and warm clothes just in case - I didn't use either of them! No need for any more than t-shirts or a very thin jumper and when it rains you can generally stay under cover until it is passed! I also recommend a guide book (Rough Guide is good) and if you've done a bit of research on any guesthouses that look good to stay in, then that saves a lot of time and hassle when you get there - most of the volunteers went into Phnom Penh over the weekends, where you'll have to find a place to stay. This isn't compulsory though, it's fine to stay in the guesthouse! There's wifi at the volunteer house so bring a laptop if you want!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, because it opens jobs for some of the locals, who are paid good wages (e.g. the house cook, security guard etc). Westerners (or non-locals) get charged more for food and travel than the locals (still very reasonable prices) so our use of tuk-tuks, taxis and buying food and souveniers brings in a lot of money! The centre where the bears are has no electricity supply, so uses solar power and biogas, and from this and the volunteer house there is very little electricity consumption.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic, it was possibly my best experience abroad; I added 2 weeks onto the end of my volunteering to travel around Cambodia, which was also a brilliant experience. I have always wanted to work with bears, and this is one of the only opportunities in the world to not only get close to (and if you're lucky - touch) bears, as well as contributing towards the organisation that takes care of bears across the whole of SE Asia and beyond!

Reviewed on 17 Oct 2010 by

Expectations: It was all arranged quite late in the day for me, so I hadn’t really thought too much about what to expect, just that I hoped I would be able to make a useful contribution to the charity during my stay. Probably exceeded my expectations, as I have done some charity things before that turn out to be more like experience holidays / events and this one we were so close to the bears and keepers that you feel part of the project rather than just a short stay helper. I think we were really lucky (in the sense of our experience rather than it needing to be rescued) to have the baby bear (Lola) arrive when we were there too.

Accommodation: Mostly very good. A few small things, the bed was very hard and left me with a bit of back ache most mornings; I wasn’t prepared for the level of mosquito’s / midges so my repellant wasn’t strong enough or enough in quantity and the mosquito net has a few holes so they feasted on me at night until Justin was kind enough to loan me some stronger repellant.

Food was excellent and there was more than enough for us every night. Everyone was really nice and helpful. Pesie was especially helpful to all of the volunteers.

I would recommend this program to others, lovely country, lovely people and nice animals to work with. I wished I had planned to spend longer there, but it is difficult with work commitments etc. I’d like to return, but whether I can do so is another question. I’m also not sure, now I know more about the charity, if I would opt for one of the other locations as well, although I do think Cambodia is a great place.

I had done a project in the past which turned out more like an experience holiday. This was far superior in the knowledge gained, the work level and the sense of fulfillment.

I really enjoyed my time there. I am not always outwardly clear with my thoughts and emotions and I hope the staff understood that I really did enjoy my time there. I was also lucky enough to be there at the same time as Justin, Mary & Ann, who made great companions too.

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