Elephant Vally Project offers full day experiences as well as multiday volunteering opportunities, shepherded by charismatic program leaders Englishman Jack Highwood and Australian Jemma Bullock.
The two are happy to answer questions about elephant biology, behaviour, and conservation in Cambodia, and the ins-and-outs of running an operation as complicated and involved as a Cambodian elephant rescue organisation. The main goal is to observe the elephants in their natural environment, but if you are lucky and have come in the rainy season, you may get to pat the elephants or wash them in a creek. You can also learn about how the mahouts handle elephants using just voice commands.
For day visitors, you have the option of observing the elephants the whole time or, if you're more of the volunteering type, you can help out with small chores around the charming grounds of Elephant Valley's HQ after a lunch break. Unfortunately, due to some licensing issues they are still working out, it's no longer possible for the long-stay volunteers to stay on the grounds and they are currently being put up at the Green House Guesthouse in town until everything is sorted out. Elephants aside, it's exceptionally pleasant to hang out at the reserve's headquarters and sip a Coke with a marvellous view of protected Mondulkiri jungle spread out beneath you.
Don't come here expecting to ride an 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.
By Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on 24th August, 2014.