Elephant Valley Project

Elephant sanctuary offers up-close and personal fa

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What we say: 4 stars

An elephant reserved focused on rehabilitiating and rescuiring Cambodian pachyderms from bad situations, Elephant Valley gives tourists a chance to get up close and personal with the world's largest land animals.

Both half and full day experiences are on offer, shepherded by charismatic program leaders Englishman Jack Highwood and Australian Jemma Bullock. The two are happy to answer questions about elephant biology, behavior, and conservation in Cambodia, and the ins-and-outs of running an operation as complicated and involved as a Cambodian elephant rescue organization. You'll get to pat the elephants, wash them in a creek, learn about how mahouts handle elephants with sticks, ropes, or hooks, and observe elephant behavior in a semi-wild setting. Half-day visitors are given small chores to do around the charming grounds of Elephant Valley's HQ after a lunch break, and the truly elephant-mad can stay overnight on the grounds. Elephants aside, it's exceptionally pleasant to hang out at the reserve's headquarters and sip a Coke with a marvelous view of protected Mondulkiri jungle spread out beneath you.

Don't come here expecting to ride a elephant, however. The management are ideologically opposed to elephant riding, considering it to be cruel and unnecessary in elephant-impoverished Cambodia—and after hanging around them for a day, they converted me as well. If you really fall in love, long-term volunteer placements can be arranged—ask Jack or Jemma for details.

More details
jackhighwood@yahoo.co.uk
Last updated: 5th July, 2013

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Read 2 opinions from Travelfish readers

  • Experience of a Lifetime

    1st June, 2013

    The Elephant Valley Project is amazing! To be able to meet the elephants in their natural habitat is a life-changing experience and should not be missed if you are in Cambodia. If you didn't love them before you went, you couldn't leave saying you were not moved by them. We found ALL of the staff to be helpful, friendly, dedicated to the elephants they work to rescue and protect, and to your experience as a visitor. I would have to disagree with a previous comment about the director, who has been working with elephants for years and has an incredible knowledge of and love for them - maybe it was just a personality clash. The accommodation is gorgeous - simple but lovely and built in the Bunong style, the food is some of the best we ate in Cambodia with many local dishes. You do need a reasonable level of fitness as a lot of walking up and down hills is involved as you wander through the forest with the elephants. I had visited elephant sanctuaries before, but the Elephant Valley Project is definitely my favourite, with the elephants being as free as possible. It's small enough to make you feel at home, in a sublime forest location...a true sanctuary and eco-tourism project. Loved it, loved it, loved it and can't wait to go back.

    Elephant Valley Project reviewed by JKB (1)
    Written on 1st June, 2013, rated 5 out of 5. Visited here in October, 2012

  • Great experience, depending on your guide

    14th January, 2013

    The opportunity to watch elephants up close as they ramble through the jungle really is amazing, and makes the Elephant Valley Project well worth a visit. Unfortunately, however, the director is an extraordinarily unpleasant person and his whiny arrogance really starts to taint the experience after a few hours. He also seems perplexingly ignorant about the elephants, forest flora and fauna, etc etc. You'll probably be lucky, though, as apparently he rarely works as a guide, and the other (local, Phnong) guide we had during our one day there was fantastic: knowledgeable, easy-going and just generally great to be around.
    Washing the elephants in the afternoon is also a major highlight: if you choose to volunteer for half of the day you might miss out on this, so maybe check that when you book.

    Elephant Valley Project reviewed by JessicaWaters (1)
    Written on 14th January, 2013, rated 4 out of 5. Visited here in December, 2012

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