In the first week, you’ll be assisting the centre’s team in a variety of projects: accomanying the elephants to and from their jungle bedroom, preparing their daily meals, planting banana and sugar cane for their future source of food, and maintaining and building infrastructure such as the veterinary clinic, elephant nursery and viewing platforms.
Just as importantly, we’ll be working within local schools teaching English to the cutest kids in the world. They are shy but so willing to learn. Providing an introduction to English is such an important role in this part of the world, where a grasp of English can mean escaping the poverty cycle and securing their future.
A lot of these local schools are in bad shape, so will be brightening things up with fresh coats of paint, some cute murals and installing much needed infrastructure. This might include building new classrooms, bathroom blocks or water catchments.
In the second week you will be off on an incredible cultural and adventure experience! Relax in a hammock by the river or be as active as you want: swimming, kayaking, tubing, caves, markets, awesome food. A Volunteer Eco Students Abroad program allows you the opportunity to make a difference and enjoy incredible moments in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the world.
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.
With these threats in mind, the ECC and VESA have joined forces to:
After all this fantastic work, it’s your time to enjoy all this mystical country has to offer — and we really pack in the activities.
We’ll soak up the Laos culture; witness the morning procession of the many monks; visit ancient temples and bustling markets. You will experience the stunning Karst Limestone Mountain scenery and trek through rice paddies to four great caves and cool off by tubing inside a cave. After lunch at a local restaurant, we move on to an Organic Farm with goats, pigs and mulberry trees, whose leaves feed the silkworms.
In Vang Vieng, we’ll tube the river, visit amazing caves, swim in the famous Blue Lagoon, climb to the Pou Kham cave and then cool off in the refreshing river. You can relax with your new friends and savour your last full day in Laos.
After a farewell party we leave early on the last morning for the trip back to Vientiane and your flight home.
While VESA encourages you to be part of the many activities we have on offer, we are more than happy for you to relax by the river and take in the sun and the unique atmosphere that is Laos!
Flight to Vientiane.
You will be met at Vientiane, airport by our friendly VESA staff member who will be easily recognisable in their VESA t-shirt and will be holding a sign. Please ensure that whatever your flight arrangements, you will be at the international arrivals hall at the time of the group flight arrival. We will be transported by minivan to our hostel in the city of Vientiane where we will have a briefing and spend our first night.
Transfer via minivan to Sayaboury Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) and comprehensive orientation on the volunteering week.
Volunteering week: You will be staying at the ECC which is set on the picturesque Nam Tien Lake. You will be split into groups, working with the elephants, planting food, maintaining and building infrastructure such as the veterinary clinic and accompanying them to and from the breeding area. You will also work with the children in a local school teaching English and basic sanitation, renovating and revitalising the facilities with fresh coats of paint, installing new play equipment and the construction of bathrooms.
A typical day volunteering goes a little like this:
See all that Laos has to offer on our stunning adventure tour...
Day 1: Tour of Luang Prabang, visit exotic temples, local markets and cool off with an afternoon pool party at ‘La Pistoche’
Day 2: Cultural tour of a traditional rice plantation and visit exotic waterfalls with refreshing azure water for a swim.
Day 3: Take a scenic bike ride through the countryside for a kayak trip downriver past rural villages and elephants!
Day 4: Experience the stunning Karst Limestone Mountain scenery around Vang Vieng and go Tubing. We trek through rice paddies to 4 great caves and cool off by tubing inside a cave. Then float gently down the beautiful Song River back to VV.
Day 5: The Blue Lagoon awaits you with its crystal clear turquoise water and chill-out booths. Climb to the Pou Kham cave, check out the zip-line option and cool off in the refreshing river water.
Transfer by coach from Vang Vieng to Vientiane and your flight .
Southeast Asia Encountered
Sat April 29th - Sat May 13th 2017
Sat May 13th - Sat May 27th 2017
Sat May 27th - Sat June 10th 2017
|4||Sat June 17th - Sat July 1st 2017 - FULL|
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 are below and booking forms will be emailed to all confirmed volunteers. 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|
28April17 Cathay Pacific flight 883 depart Los Angeles 2355 arrive Hong Kong 0545 + 2 Day
30April17 Cathay Pacific flight 653 depart Hong Kong 1205 arrive Bangkok 1350
30April17 Lao Airlines flight 446 depart Bangkok 2030 arrive Vientiane 2205 30 April
13May17 Bangkok Airways flight 944 depart Vientiane 1140 arrive Bangkok 1255
13May17 Cathay Pacific flight 708 depart Bangkok 1720 arrive Hong Kong 2130
14May17 Cathay Pacific flight 880 depart Hong Kong 0005 arrive Los Angeles 2210 13May17
12May17 Cathay Pacific flight 883 depart Los Angeles 2355 arrive Hong Kong 0545 + 2 Day
14May17 Cathay Pacific flight 653 depart Hong Kong 1205 arrive Bangkok 1350
14May17 Lao Airlines flight 446 depart Bangkok 2030 arrive Vientiane 2205 14 May
27May17 Bangkok Airways flight 944 depart Vientiane 1140 arrive Bangkok 1255
27May17 Cathay Pacific flight 708 depart Bangkok 1720 arrive Hong Kong 2130
28May17 Cathay Pacific flight 880 depart Hong Kong 0005 arrive Los Angeles 2210 27May17
26May17 Cathay Pacific flight 883 depart Los Angeles 2355 arrive Hong Kong 0545 + 2 Day
28May17 Cathay Pacific flight 653 depart Hong Kong 1205 arrive Bangkok 1350
28May17 Lao Airlines flight 446 depart Bangkok 2030 arrive Vientiane 2205 28 May
10June17 Bangkok Airways flight 944 depart Vientiane 1140 arrive Bangkok 1255
10June17 Cathay Pacific flight 708 depart Bangkok 1720 arrive Hong Kong 2130
11June17 Cathay Pacific flight 880 depart Hong Kong 0005 arrive Los Angeles 2210 10June17
16June17 Cathay Pacific flight 883 depart Los Angeles 2355 arrive Hong Kong 0545 + 2 Day
18June17 Cathay Pacific flight 653 depart Hong Kong 1205 arrive Bangkok 1350
18June17 Lao Airlines flight 446 depart Bangkok 2030 arrive Vientiane 2205 18 June
01July17 Bangkok Airways flight 944 depart Vientiane 1140 arrive Bangkok 1255
01July17 Cathay Pacific flight 708 depart Bangkok 1720 arrive Hong Kong 2130
0 April02July17 Cathay Pacific flight 880 depart Hong Kong 0005 arrive Los Angeles 2210 01July17
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.
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.