With a total area of 236,800 square kilometers, around 70% of Laos' terrain is mountainous, reaching a maximum elevation of 2,820 meters in Xieng Khouang Province. The landscapes of northern Laos and the regions adjacent to Vietnam, in particular, are dominated by rough mountains.The Mekong River is the main geographical feature in the west and, in fact, forms a natural border with Thailand in some areas. The Mekong flows through nearly 1,900 kilometers of Lao territory and shapes much of the lifestyle of the people of Laos. In the South the Mekong reaches a breadth of 20 kilometers, creating an area with thousands of islands.
Laos has a population of 6.5 million people. There are 49 ethnic groups and four main languages.
Lao people are frank, open and friendly, and they possess a strongly developed sense of courtesy and respect and our volunteers will receive a warm welcome.
Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily life and casts a strong influence on Lao society. Lao woman can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earning merit to lessen the number of their rebirths. It is expected that every Lao man will become a monk for at least a short time in his life.
The Center was launched in association with conservation organisation ElefantAsia. The NGO has been working towards the protection of elephants in Laos for over 12 years, running welfare, vet care, breeding and mahouts training programmes.
"Domesticated elephants in Laos are traditionally used in logging. Worked to the point of exhaustion, these elephants are not reproducing, with life spans, birth rates and quality of life considerably below acceptable standards."
With only two elephants born for every ten that die, the Asian elephant, the sacred national emblem of Laos, is under serious threat of extinction. If immediate action is not taken, the Lane Xang or 'Land of a Million Elephants’ stands to lose not only its elephant populations, but a major component of Lao cultural heritage.
Flight to Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport.
Upon arrival in Vientiane, you will be met by our local VESA team, easily recognisable with their VESA shirts and signs. Whatever your travel arrangements, please ensure you are at the international arrivals halls at the time of the group flight arrival. From here, you will be transported by minivan to Dream Home Hostel where you will spend your first night.
We depart at 8:00am to head to the Elephant Conservation Centre, which is in the Nam Tien Protected Area in the Sayaboury Province. This will be your home for the duration of your volunteer week.
These will be your volunteering days! You will be split into two groups and work on a rotation to undertake the following:
The daily schedule will run as follows:
07:30 am - BreakfastFollowing your last day of work, you will depart immediately for Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage town where we begin our adventure tour! Dinner will be upon arrival in Luang Prabang.
Our adventure week is packed with activities for you to discover what makes Laos such a special place:
A visit to the Living Land Farm to learn all about rice farming and how they have created project to empower the local community, followed by a visit to the Kuang Si Waterfall and bear sanctuary run by the Free the Bears Foundation or A scenic bike ride through the countryside for a kayak trip downriver past rural villages and elephants!
A scenic bike ride through the countryside for a kayak trip downriver past rural villages and elephants!
We spend the next few days in Laos’ adventure capital, Vang Vieng, and the schedule is just as busy.
|Day 15||Transfer by coach from Vang Vieng to Vientiane for your flight home or onward travels!|
All activities except where indicated as optional
A downloadable information pack about the Southeast Asia Encountered Program in PDF format
Southeast Asia Encountered
Thurs May 3rd - Fri May 18th 2018
Thurs May 17th - Fri June 1st 2018
Thurs May 31st - Fri June 15th 2018
|4||Thurs June 21st - Fri July 6th 2018|
The balance or final payment of the program costs is due 45 days before departure.
The total cost (inclusive of deposit and exclusive of flights) of the VESA program is:
Southeast Asia Encountered
If you wish to withdraw your enrolment please notify us in writing by post or by email. Please note that if you wish to withdraw your agreement you will be bound by the cancellation fees set out in the VESA Cancellation Policy.
Absolutely! In fact, we encourage all our students to actively fundraise to help pay for their program costs. Upon receipt of your deposit and confirmation onto a program, VESA will send out a fundraising package. The fundraising package contains a letter from VESA introducing you to potential donors, a letter from the local host organisation, a list of proven fundraising ideas and a receipt document.
Many of our students have raised all of the funds necessary for their program and flights costs. Join our Facebook group and page Volunteer Eco Students Abroad to see some of their ideas.
Please note, whilst VESA is a volunteer organisation it is not a registered charity so donations will not be tax deductible.
Please note there are currently no trip extensions for the Southeast Asia Encountered Program, but watch this space.
There are many advantages to travelling with the group:
VESA Group Flight details will be published below and booking forms will be emailed to all confirmed volunteers on or about the 1st December 2017. You may book your own flights and then inform VESA of your itinerary so that we can be assured you will be able to meet our schedule.
|Group||Depart Los Angeles||Depart Vientiane|
Safety is a good question, and a matter we take very seriously. Laos was actually chosen as our destination because of the security of the location.
VESA staff members meet the designated Group Flight at the arrival hall of the airport, where they are accompanied to our hostel and then on to the elephant Conservation Centre. Our VESA staff members are with the volunteers in the centre’s accommodation overnight and the whole group stays together.
The volunteers are supervised and accompanied on all volunteer work, activities, overnight accommodation and in country transportation by a VESA rep.
As with all our programs, safety of our participants is our #1 priority.
We are aware that for some of our participants this may be their first experience abroad or even away from their families. Should they have any queries or need any assistance while on program there will always be someone nearby to help and you should not hesitate to ask any question at all. We are definitely there to make our volunteers have the best possible experience.
VESA closely monitors all political, civil and environmental situations in Laos. Should we deem that the area is unsafe for travel we will readjust the program accordingly.
Please visit your government’s travel website for further information on travelling conditions throughout the South Pacific.
Volunteers on the VESA programme will be accompanied at all times by members of our staff who are all qualified Senior First Aid technicians.
In Laos, we work with an already established Non Profit organization. The Elephant Conservation Centre, and at all times will be accompanied by the organization’s staff as well as two VESA staff members. On tour both staff members as well as a local guide will travel with you.
The climate in Laos is tropical and warm year round.
Not at all - all our guides in Laos speak the local language. It doesn’t hurt to learn a few greetings which will be sure to garner some smiles from the locals!
There is very limited cell phone coverage whilst on the first week of the program. Internet is not available during the volunteer week, but will be available for a fee at reception at our hostels in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
All accommodation and food is included in the cost of the program. However if you wish to buy that special necklace or souvenir for back home, then you will need to bring along some cash.
At Laos International airport on arrival there are ATMs for you to take out local currency, the ‘Kip’, for drinks, snacks and souvenirs. $US Dollars are accepted for larger purchases and are easily changed. It is extremely important that you alert your bank and credit card company that you will be travelling overseas so that they do not put a hold on your card. A quick phone call is all it takes.
Optional activities in Laos i.e. hot air ballooning can be paid for by cash on the spot
The Lao Kip and $US dollars are accepted for larger purchases and are easily changed.
In Laos we travel by coach!
VESA will be sending all participants detailed travel information approx 45 days prior to departure. This will include information on the Volunteer Project, the centre you will be staying in, packing lists, and other valuable tips.
No vaccinations are mandatory however VESA strongly recommends that you speak to your medical practitioner about any further immunisations you may need.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date. Pack a travel first aid kit, especially as you will be travelling away from major city centres. Malaria is a risk factor in rural Laos. Malaria prevention options should be discussed with a travel medicine specialist prior to departure. There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Yes. All participants must provide VESA with proof of medical insurance prior to departure.
Most travellers need a visa to enter Laos. A 30-day tourist visa can be obtained on arrival at the airport in Vientiane. The current price for a visa is between $30 and $50USD (USD cash only, passport photo required). Visas cost an extra $1USD on weekends and public holidays.
Laos and the Elephant Conservation Centre were chosen as our destination because of the security of the location and the friendliness of the people.
We are aware that for some of our participants this may be their first experience abroad or even away from their families. Should you have any queries or need any assistance while on program there will always be someone nearby to help and you should not hesitate to ask any question at all. We are definitely there to make our volunteers have the best possible experience.
|Health and Safety - Laos|
|1||If you chose to travel on the group flight you will be travelling with the people who will be your companions on the program.|
|2||Your flight will be met at Vientiane International Airport and we will have a fleet of mini buses to take you to your accommodation|
You will be living in a shared, same sex room, in picturesque accommodation at the centre located in Sayabouri with the whole group and our VESA staff. You will have access to all the usual facilities you would expect. You will be in a safe and secure environment with facilities to lock up your valuables.
VESA and centre staff will prepare all your food, and you will have access to unlimited supplies of bottled water where necessary.
|5||Each day you will be accompanied at all times by one of our Group Leaders, and any activities you are involved in will be conducted under the supervision of qualified on-site mahouts and veterinarians.|
|6||All VESA Group Leaders are first aid qualified. There is a European private hospital in Vientiane.|
|7||At the end of the program you will be transferred to the airport and accompanied to your flight. You will travel home with your new friends and a great sense of accomplishment.|
A downloadable information pack about the Southeast Asia Encountered Program in PDF format
Who we are - our aims and what we do
A serious attitude to a serious subject
A downloadable application form for you to print and complete.