Volunteer with elephants in South Africa

Working with elephants for three weeks – a dream come true. On an established conservation project near Plettenberg Bay on Garden Route. Sleep in shared self catering accommodation.
Elephant conservation volunteering Close to Plettenberg Bay Garden Route Elephant research work Feeding elephants Maintenance work around elephant conservation park Nearby beaches for leisure time
£995 excluding flights
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21 Days
Tailor made
More info
One week experience and then volunteering starts 3 -12 weeks.
Extra weeks £300.
Includes voluntary work programme with accommodation, airport transfers, training and local support.
Make enquiry

Description of Volunteer with elephants in South Africa

They say an elephant never forgets… volunteer on this elephant conservation project and we guarantee it will be an experience that will leave you with life-long memories.

Working hands on with these gentle giants is a real privilege. You will be based in a conservation park on the famous Garden Route that is dedicated to the care of elephants, both young and old, which have been rescued from the hands of humans and natural disasters. With important research taking place to further the understanding of this fascinating species, as well as lots of hand-on care, you have the unique opportunity for close elephant encounters on a daily basis.

About the elephant park

The elephants are able to roam freely and safely in the extensive park, recovering from any stress or trauma they may have suffered in their previous lives. This allows volunteers to monitor and research their behaviour, which is vital in allowing experts to learn more about a species that is sadly in rapid decline in South Africa. Through educational tours, the park also aims to raise public awareness about the potential loss of this species and expose the threats they are facing from poachers and loss of habitat. This is your chance to make a valuable contribution to the survival of these vast yet vulnerable creatures. The project is perfect for anyone who has a keen interest in elephants and wants to help safeguard their future. You will get close to elephants in a way that you would never experience on safari and will gain excellent first hand knowledge and skills while you are there. There is no elephant back riding allowed here.

What will I be doing?

Taskss can include:
- Participating in valuable research projects, following and observing the elephants, making notes and taking samples
- Preparing food and enrichments
- Monitoring the elephants to ensure their welfare and health
- Helping with maintenance work around the park

Where will I be based?
You will live on site, sleeping literally metres from the elephants, but you’ll be safely tucked away in comfortable, self-catering accommodation sharing rooms with other volunteers. The park is located just 15 minutes from Plettenberg Bay on South Africa’s famous Garden Route making it an ideal location from which to explore. During your weekends, if you can tear yourselves away from your new giant friends, there is plenty to do. Visit the nearby coastal resort and enjoy excellent beaches, restaurants and nightlife. Try your hand at bungee jumping, surfing or sky diving, or explore local game and nature reserves.

Price information

£995 excluding flights
Convert currency:
One week experience and then volunteering starts 3 -12 weeks.
Extra weeks £300.
Includes voluntary work programme with accommodation, airport transfers, training and local support.
Make enquiry

Departure information

Departures can be arranged at anytime to suit you, all year round

Travel guides

South Africa wildlife
South Africa volunteering
Away from affluent areas, out of sight of Stellenbosch, and past the protected perimeters of private game reserves, there’s a side to South Africa tha...

Holiday information

We are committed to taking care of the environment, both in our office in the UK and on our projects around the world. We are proud to say that we are working hard to eliminate the use of single use plastics on our elephant research project in South Africa.
Volunteers are encouraged to use re-usable cloth shopping bags, rather than getting new plastic ones, and if plastic was given, to re-use it. Cloth bags are provided at the accommodation for volunteer use to make it even easier to say no to plastic.
This is a self-catered project. During the orientation, volunteers are shown where they can buy produce that avoids single use plastics, such as fresh produce markets. The accommodation provides jars and tupperware for storage and we no longer provide cling film or sandwich bags in the accommodation.
All cleaning products, soaps and washing up liquids are topped up when empty, rather than buying new bottles.
We ask all volunteers to bring their own water bottles from home, to discourage the buying of bottled water on a daily basis. We request that volunteers do not buy single plastic water bottles. This is communicated pre-departure and once in-country. Clean drinking water is provided in the taps at the project. Volunteers can top up their water bottles from the tap before departure if they choose to leave the project site. We also encourage them to fill up their bottles at the airport before travelling to the accommodation. 
Our project partners are in the process of becoming an ambassador for the campaign Renew Able Plett, which encourages businesses, schools and other entities to reduce their landfill waste by using reusable items, reducing, and recycling.
As a result of this campaign led by Responsible Travel, we got in touch with the supplier who handles our t-shirt distribution to talk about packaging. They used to send out all our T-shirts in a plastic envelope - upon our suggestion they have agreed to stop putting the t-shirts in plastic wallets and now use paper envelopes instead.
US pricing:
The currency converter above works on todays exchange rate. We do take bookings in USD but the price is set at a rate confirmed months in advance and is typically above the current exchange rate. Please enquire for details.


Accessible overview:
There are challenges associated with volunteer travel, and these can make accessible travel difficult. However, we are very keen to chat with travellers with specific needs to see if we can make a trip possible.


4 Reviews of Volunteer with elephants in South Africa

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 01 Jul 2019 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was being so close to such amazing animals and being accepted by them. Preparing the enrichment birthday treats was fun and creative and then feeding it to an individual elephant was wonderful Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Sep 2014 by

Fantastic!.... The whole experience was very good (the organisation of the trip, the travelling itself, the people...) but of course being able to spend time with these amazing animals was the highlight of the holiday and possibly of my last few years as well. Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Aug 2014 by

Most exciting holiday ever...Go for it Read full review

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2013 by

Amazing! It was my dream to work with elephants. It really was a trip of a lifetime. I learnt so much and made a few great friends out there which I still keep in contact with now. Read full review

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.


Our projects are designed to immerse you in a different culture, living and working with local people. There’s plenty to gain personally from this. But we make sure that the project directly benefits local people and wildlife too.

Animal welfare
This research and care programme has been running since 2010. It is overseen by an experienced and well-regarded team. Although the elephants do have contact with humans, they are helped and encouraged to live as naturally as possible, roaming freely across the park in a matriarchal herd. As well as protecting individual elephants the organisation aims to improve public awareness about safeguarding their environment.

The elephants at the park are the main priority; their conservation, their care and their rehabilitation. Education on elephants, habitat destruction, the illegal ivory trade and exploiting elephants is also hugely important. Visitors come to the park and are given a presentation and a tour, meet the elephants and learn all about their backgrounds.

The main backbone of the volunteer programme is research and conservation. This is led by a qualified and experienced team, who have been working with these elephants for years. Many of the elephants come to the park in a distressed state, needing care and time to recover from their trauma.

There is no elephant back riding allowed at the park.

Protecting the world
We are passionate about encouraging our travellers to be kind to the environment as they travel. Each participant receives advice about how to care for the environment whilst they are away. This includes water usage, how to avoid single use plastic, and electricity usage.

We insist that all participants bring their own water bottles when they travel with us, and clean free water is always available. We have even created a water bottle that can be purchased before departure and encourage people to use it at all stages of their journey including at the airport, on flights and whilst on their project. We are striving for all of our projects to be free of single use plastic.


Meeting local needs
The park also plays an important role in protecting the local economy. The ‘big five’ wild animals are a key source of tourist income for South Africa and protection of these species is vital for some rural areas, who rely on responsible tourism to sustain them. By volunteering at the park, you will be helping to meet an important local need. You will also contribute directly to the area’s economy, creating jobs for domestic staff at the park, eating locally-sourced food and making use of shops and leisure facilities in the town. You will not be taking jobs away from local people. The organisation employs as many local staff as it can afford, but relies on volunteers to support them.

Cultural sensitivity
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in rural South Africa.

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