Elephant Conservation Centre Experience | 2 Days – 1 Week | from LUANG PRABANG, LAOS

Country & Activity: | Where: |
  • Observe elephants in their natural habitat!
  • Learn about the Elephant Conservation Centre Laos and their work.
  • Support an ethical organisation working to protect elephants.
  • The centre aim to release elephant herds back into a safe and protected national forest. 
  • Make memories that will last a lifetime!

From $210.00

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Visit the Elephant Conservation Centre, Laos for a Bucket List (and Ethical!) Elephant Experience! 

Discovery: 2 days/1 night – Great for travellers on limited time!

Travellers short on time will love this overnight experience at the Elephant Conservation Centre. Observe these gentle giants in their natural environments as they bathe, socialise and play together. 

Day 1 Itinerary

  • Start: 8.00
  • Highlights: Forest walk, *Hospital visit, Observe elephants bathing, Encounter elephants and Mahouts. 
  • Accommodation: Private wooden bungalow with shared washing facilities. 
  • Meals included: Day 1 (L, D) Day 2 (B, L).

Your day will begin from Luang Prabang, where the minivan will pick you up and bring you to the centre. As the centre is located on the shores of Nam Tien lake and is surrounded by pristine tropical forest, you will need to take a boat to get there. There will be some time to settle into your accommodation before your guide takes you out and into the forest.

During the walk, you will see the different enclosures in which the main activities take place. Lunch will be provided in the form of a Laotian style picnic on a lakeside platform, giving you some time to observe bath time at the nursery. This is a special area in the forest that we reserve for our youngest elephants and their mothers. 

After the elephants have drunk enough and returned to the forest, you will take the boat back to the centre. Here, you will head to the *hospital where you will meet our biologist or Laotian vet assistant. They will explain their process of caring for the elephants as well how they deal with the most common/uncommon injuries. Any questions that you have about the biology of elephants can be answered here. It is a very interesting experience for visitors to see the hospital and learn about the physicality of these magical creatures. 

The afternoon will be spent observing one of the elephants daily baths. They love water and are surprisingly good swimmers. This is a great opportunity for guests to see an example of the elephants’ personality through play. As well as serving a practical purpose, bath time is also used to socialise with the rest of the herd. 

Once the elephants have finished washing, you can see them up close whilst the guide tells you a little bit about the background of each. Before being taken in by the centre, they were all worked hard and have interesting histories. After some time observing the elephants, they will walk back to the forest. The mahouts will then decide on the best place for the elephants to graze that night.

Before dinner is served, there will be time for visitors to go for a swim or take out a canoe. Many visitors also choose to take in the surroundings of the centre and the jungle from one of our viewpoints. At 6 pm, one of the staff will give a presentation for guests on our conservation efforts. This is a great opportunity to ask any unresolved questions you have about the work that the centre does and the elephants that they help.

Dinner is provided that evening and then there is time for you to relax at the bar with the staff and try one of our delicious Lao style cocktails. 

*Please note: Guests are not able to assist with the elephant’s medical care as this work is only undertaken by qualified vets. Thank you for your understanding.

Day 2 Itinerary

  • End: 17.00
  • Highlights: Observe elephants bathing, socialisation area. 

On the morning of your second day, you will reunite with the elephants in the forest. Here you can enjoy walking with them in their natural habitat and observe their morning bathing ritual. After this, they will be bought to the socialisation area where they can freely interact as they would do in the wild. It is in this area, where the elephants can enjoy being elephants in a semi-natural living environment. 

During this time, your guide will tell you more about the herd and its dynamics. There are different platforms where you can see how a new herd is being formed. This is a rare opportunity which will bring you closer to observing the elephant’s natural life. It is an experience which is very difficult to find elsewhere. 

Lunch will be served at the centre and there will also be some time to relax before you return to Luang Prabang via minivan. 

Exploration: 3 days/2 nights – Get a Comprehensive Overview of the Centre’s Work!

Travellers looking for a comprehensive overview of what the centre does will find that the exploration package suits them well. In this package, you will get to observe the elephants in their natural habitat as well as assisting the staff with enrichment activities to keep their brains stimulated. It is an unforgettable opportunity! 

Day 1 Itinerary

  • Start: 8.00
  • Highlights: Forest walk, *Hospital visit, Observe elephants bathing, Encounter elephants and Mahouts. 
  • Accommodation: Private wooden bungalow with shared washing facilities. 
  • Meals included: meals: Day 1 (L, D), Day 2 (B, L, D), Day 3 (B, L).

Your exploration experience will start in Luang Prabang where you will travel by minivan to Nam Tien Lake. Here you can enjoy a boat ride whilst you travel to the centre. There will be some time to settle into your private bungalow before your guide takes you to the forest. 

You can enjoy a Laotian style picnic on a platform with beautiful lakeside views before observing bath time for the elephants at the nursery. This area caters for the youngest elephants and their mothers. After you have finished observing bath time, the elephants will return to the forest and you will take the boat back to the Conservation Centre. At this time, you can visit the *hospital and meet our veterinary assistant or biologist. They will introduce their roles within the centre and tell you about the most common injuries suffered by the elephants. This is a great time for you to ask any questions you may have about the elephant’s biology. 

The next part of the day allows you to observe one of the elephant’s daily baths and learn about how they all differ in character. Bath time is also used as an opportunity for the herd to socialise and strengthen their ties. They are very good swimmers and adore water, so visitors love this experience. After bath time, you can see the elephants up close which will allow you to see how they use their trunks and flap their ears. 

At this point, your knowledgeable guide will tell you about the past of each elephant and how they came to be at the centre. After this discussion, the elephants will head back to the forest to graze for the night. You can spend the time before dinner taking in the scenery from great viewing platforms, swim in the lake or visit the museum. There will be a presentation at 18.00 about the work that the centre does and their conservation efforts. Questions from guests are of course welcome. 

After dinner has been served, you can get to know the staff and share one of the tasty Lao style cocktails on offer!

*Please note: Guests are not able to assist with the elephant’s medical care as this work is only undertaken by qualified vets. Thank you for your understanding.

Day 2 Itinerary

  • Highlights: Observe elephants bathing, socialisation area, Target Training session. 

The day will start with you meeting the elephants in the jungle. You can enjoy walking with them in their natural habitat and watch them as they bathe. After bath time is over, they will be brought to the socialisation area. This is an area dedicated to encouraging interaction between the elephants, allowing them to enjoy being together in a semi-natural environment. 

During this time, you will follow the guide as they explain more about the group and its dynamics. There are different platforms which will give you a new perspective on the group and show you how a new herd is being formed. This is a rare opportunity which gives you valuable insight into the elephants’ natural life, a very special thing for visitors.

Lunch will be served at the Conservation Centre and there will be some time to relax before the elephants arrive for their afternoon bath. You will have the opportunity to meet the veterinary assistant or the biologist again as they will deliver a ‘Target Training Session’. The elephants are being trained using positive reinforcement techniques to facilitate any necessary treatments. This training aims to reduce the stress that these routine checks or treatments can give them. You can observe this work happening from a safe distance. 

Day 3 Itinerary

  • End: 17.00
  • Highlights: Get involved in the enrichment programme. 

After breakfast, your guide and biologist will explain the enrichment activities and what they involve. This dynamic process enhances the animal’s environment within the context of their behavioural biology. Examples of the types of cognitive enrichment provided include, hidden food, toys and mud baths. This all aims to keep the elephants’ minds active and relieve boredom. It is very popular with the residents! 

You will have the opportunity to get involved in this process by helping the team to assemble the enclosure for enrichment. By preparing and hiding the food, the elephants will be challenged to find it. Once the elephants arrive, you will be able to observe how they try to find the tasty treats you have hidden. It is an unforgettable way to interact with the elephants and you will contribute directly to their wellbeing. 

Lunch will be served at the on-site restaurant. There will also be some time to relax before you return to Luang Prabang. This will allow you the chance to say your goodbyes to the staff and take in the views around the centre one final time. 

Eco Volunteering: 7 days/6 nights – Become Part of the Elephant Conservation Team!

Eco volunteering is great for animal enthusiasts who really want to know how it feels to work at the Elephant Conservation Centre. As a part of this immersive programme, visitors will learn more about Lao culture and become involved in current on-site projects. It is sure to be an unforgettable experience, that’s for sure!

Eco Volunteering Itinerary

  • Start: 8.00
  • End: 17.00
  • Highlights: Forest walk, *Hospital visit, Observe elephants bathing, Encounter elephants and Mahouts, get involved in current projects. 
  • Accommodation: Bunk bed in a shared dorm with communal washing facilities. 
  • Meals included: Day 1 (L,D), Day 2 to 6 (B,L,D) Day 7 (B,L).

As per the other programmes, the eco volunteering package begins with your pick-up from Luang Prabang at around 8.00. The first three days will follow the same itinerary as the Exploration programme (3 days, 2 nights) listed above. After lunch and when those on the exploration programme return to Luang Prabang, you will officially become a volunteer! 

The following days will be spent supporting the work that the Elephant Conservation Centre does. You will work with the staff on current projects and although these projects will not be directly with the elephants, you will help them keep the centre running and the conservation work going. 

It is important to remember that Laos is a developing country and there is not always access to western tools. Activities and projects can be impacted by the weather or heat. Therefore, volunteers need to be flexible, autonomous and not afraid to get their hands dirty! The Conservation Centre is always open to new project ideas so don’t be shy!

Examples of potential projects could include:

  • Producing elephant dung paper (dry season)
  • Tree nursery and reforestation
  • Create handicrafts to sell in the shop
  • Maintenance work (e.g. construction, cleaning, gardening, painting)
  • Observing and recording of elephant behaviour
  • Enrichment activities

On the final morning of your volunteering experience, you will complete your last volunteering session before having lunch. At this point, the boat will return you to the Nam Tien Lake pier where you will catch the minivan back to Luang Prabang. If you are moving on from the town, it is also possible to drop you off at the Sayaboury bus station so you can head to your next destination. You will be back in Luang Prabang at around 17.00.

*Please note: Guests are not able to assist with the elephant’s medical care as this work is only undertaken by qualified vets. Thank you for your understanding.


Elephant Conservation Centre

The South East Asia Backpacker Community have tried and tested adventures across the region and handpicked a selection of only the BEST companies to work with.

Why we chose the Elephant Conservation Centre?

  • Smiling Mahout and elephantThey provide visitors with a truly ethical elephant experience. They practice a no-riding policy and instead encourage visitors to learn about and observe these magnificent animals.
  • They are leaders in the conservation of Asian Elephants. The ECC run their own breeding programme but it has not been created to breed more elephants into captivity. Instead, they aim to conserve the species through introduction into the wild.
  • They have two signature programs: monitoring and managing the second largest wild elephant group in Laos and rehearding and rewilding elephants. 
  • The working conditions of their staff are very good and above the Lao average. Staff get proper working contracts, free accommodation, 3 meals a day, work insurance and regular holidays.
  • They provide a variety of packages to suit all travellers, from short options for those limited on time to longer volunteering projects.

Conservation Gold Award for Elephant Conservation Center Laos, issued by the Asian Captive Elephants Standards group


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What's Included

What’s Included:

  • Return transport from Luang Prabang to the centre
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Set menu meals as stated
  • Accommodation as stated
  • Unlimited drinking water refills
  • English speaking team on site
  • Activities as detailed in itinerary
  • Communal wash facilities (hot shower)
  • Tools and equipment for community work (eco-volunteering package)

What’s Not Included:

  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses (snacks, soft drinks, tips)
  • Bank transfer fees


What should you bring?

  • A big bottle of water to refill
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Suncream
  • Camera
  • Sun cap
  • Long trousers and long-sleeved top for trips into the forest
  • Good hiking shoes or boots
  • Rain jacket (especially important during rainy season: Jun-Nov)
  • Day pack

How long does it take to get to the centre?

The journey to the centre from Luang Prabang takes around 2 hours.

When was the ECC created?

The centre opened in 2010 and boasts the only elephant hospital in Laos.

Does the centre have WiFi?

The centre does not offer WiFi connection on site. However, many visitors feel like this really enhances their visit.

How is the ECC different from other elephant camps?

Instead of bringing the elephants into tourist areas for visitors to enjoy, you will go into their natural environment. The ECC has a strict no riding policy and offers a place of rest for animals previously used in the mass tourism and logging industries.

The ECC runs a breeding programme which contributes to the overall conservation efforts of Asian elephants in Laos.

The ultimate goal of the ECC is to reintroduce elephants back into a protected forest where they can contribute to increasing the wild population. In March 2019, the first herd of 5 elephants was released in the Nam Pouy National Protected Area!

The elephants have 530ha of forest to inhabit which provides variety and quantity of fodder for their diets.

Are the facilities eco-friendly?

Yes. At the centre, their infrastructure consists of traditional Lao houses and they also use solar power. No plastic water bottles are provided and instead guests are asked to bring their own refillable bottle.

Why do the elephants wear chains at night?

This is a very common question amongst visitors. The elephants are chained with a 30m chain at night to let them feed at will. This also prevents the following from occurring:

  • Them being stolen
  • Them being killed for ivory or other body parts
  • Them escaping into the neighbouring fields where they could be wounded by the owners
  • Them wounding other elephants or visitors at the centre

It is important to remember that all elephants have the potential to seriously harm people or property. At night, when the chains are used, it allows them to feed freely in their natural habitat, at the same time protecting them, the property and the people around.

What are you looking for in volunteers?

We are looking for enthusiastic and flexible volunteers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Volunteers should be in normal physical condition. If you have a medical condition that we should be aware of, please let us know in advance.

Do you cater to vegetarians or vegans?

We can cater to people with dietary requirements. However, Sayaboury is a rural town and options can be limited. We advise visitors to bring breakfast food or snacks if they do not enjoy eggs or jam baguettes for breakfast. Please inform the centre of any dietary requirements at the time of booking.

What are the working conditions of the staff?

All of the staff have proper working contracts, regular holidays, free accommodation, 3 meals a day and work insurance. Staff get a monthly salary as well as annual bonuses. The wage is higher than the Lao average. Any tips are split evenly between all of the staff at the centre, including those who mainly work behind the scenes.

What are the prices for children?

  • 1-4 years old: free of charge if sharing a bungalow with parents
  • 7 – 10 years old: 50% discount if sharing a bungalow with parents
  • Over 10 years: Full price

Please contact us prior to booking if you have any children under 10 years of age in your party.

How many bungalows are at the centre?

There are 13 bungalows. 7 are doubles and 6 are twins.

Refund Policy

  • In order to book this experience, you will need to pay a deposit online via South East Asia Backpacker.
  • This deposit is fully refundable if you wish to cancel up until 48 hours before the start of the activity. PLEASE NOTE: This policy refers to the payment made to South East Asia Backpacker at the time of booking. All subsequent payments to the operator of your chosen activity fall under their own refund policy
  • For cancellations made fewer than 48 hours before the start of the activity there is no refund available.
  • You can request a change of date at any time, free of additional charges.
  • Date changes are entirely down to the availability of the operator and nothing to do with South East Asia Backpacker. 
  • If your date change is not agreed upon, as long as it is within 48 hours of the start date you originally made your booking for, your deposit can be refunded in full if you wish to cancel.
  • The remaining payment for the experience is payable directly to the operator.
  • The operator can request the remaining payment via an online payment link or upon arrival at the destination.
  • The refund of the second payment, which goes directly to the operator, is based on the terms and conditions of the operator, over which South East Asia Backpacker have no control.
  • Please see our customer terms and conditions for more information.

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