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Cambodia

Exploration, elephant conservation & community development.

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Discover Cambodia

Step into the Asia of yesteryear.

Stepping into Cambodia is like stepping back to the Asia of yesteryear. The pace of life is slow, the ancient culture all-embracing and the people are kind…so very kind despite the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s which aimed to break its soul. But not to be beaten the resilient survivors emerged to create a peaceful, verdant land with arms outstretched to visitors putting themselves very much on the back-packing map.

But they need more than tourists – they need volunteers to reach below the surface to help communities lift themselves out of poverty and to instill their self-belief. In return, they will show you a country full of colour and culture as you will have time to explore Angkor Wat, the floating lakes, the bustling jungle and oh so pretty beaches.

Over the course of this dynamic 5 week journey, you’ll live in the backyard of the Eighth Wonder of the World, paddle in crystal clear seas and walk with the largest mammals on Earth. But we guarantee it will be the unbreakable spirit and inspiring optimism of Cambodia’s people, that will stay with you, as you assist local NGO’s and social enterprise projects, learning about the social issues and the complexity of development whilst participating in cultural activities.

Venture out to Cambodia to get stuck into a mix of exploration, community development and elephant conservation in 5 contrasting and vibrant locations.


Program Itinerary

Embark on a journey that will take you from the vibrant city of Siem Reap to the jungles of Mondulkiri in the East and ending on the beaches of Rabbit Island. Integrating into the local communities you will help with sustainable community development in rural villages and protect treasured elephants.

The following is a sample itinerary and new for 2021

Days 1 - 3

Siem Reap Settle in and Angkor Wat

East Meets West

Siem Reap is a town rich in history, where east fuses with west in spectacular style, situated at the foot of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple complex. This old French colonial capital echoes European influences, with shuttered windows and delicate ironwork, but now interspersed with a buzzing nightlife, street food on tap, night markets and cafes.

Your first 3 days will be a gentle introduction to the hustle and bustle of Asian life, whilst we show you some of the city’s highlights, such as Angkor Wat - get ready for an early start to see sunrise at the temple, the world’s largest religious building. Spend the whole day tuk tuking your way around the incredible complex.

Phnom Kulen – the Mountain of the Lychees, which is about 2 hours outside Siem Reap. The main attraction being the waterfalls cascading down the mountain.

The rest of your time will be spent exploring the markets, pub street or sampling a relaxing Cambodian massage.

Accommodation

Local, centrally located hostel, single sexed dorms.

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Expect: authentic Cambodian food with rice and noodle dishes forming the basis of most meals.

Days 4 - 7

Mondulkiri Elephant Conservation

Close to the Vietnam Border

From Siem Reap, you’ll journey east towards Vietnam, past fields of swaying sugar palms, rice paddies and up into densely forested hill country interspersed with thundering waterfalls. Welcome to Mondulkiri, one of Cambodia’s last great wildernesses, a vital wildlife corridor and home to the indigenous Bunong tribe for whom a bond with elephants is at the very heart of their culture

While you are here you will spend your whole first day with the elephants, learning about the forest, community, conservation and the elephants themselves. Here at the sanctuary there are no rides, no tricks, just elephants being elephants in their natural environment.

You will then spend the next morning on an observation hike with the elephants, following them through the forest before helping with the reserve projects - joining locals, staff and other volunteers on the many jobs required to keep the sanctuary running (note these activities are not with the elephants). Past volunteer projects have included reforestation efforts, invasive species removal, trail maintenance, farming elephant food, building water towers, and helping with small construction projects.

Accommodation

Here you will stay in a simple bungalow on the slopes of the Elephant Valley Project, giving you stunning views over the surrounding forest. Sunsets can be spent unwinding here, enjoying the amazing sounds of the nocturnal forest creatures and the gibbons calling as they prepare to sleep. Bliss.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Days 8 - 9

Phnom Penh Cultural Exploration

Museum Tours

Arriving in Phnom Penh, the city will assault your senses and that’s a guarantee. Traffic everywhere, tuk tuks and motos whizzing around with no regard for anything or anyone. The city is big and bustling, with markets selling everything from chickens to microwaves! Rising from the ashes of the war and the Khmer Rouge it has plenty to offer with a great selection of bars, restaurants and cafes. You will be able to visit some of the top attractions, some not all joyous, but none to be missed. For example:

Royal Palace and National Museum
Near the riverfront of the Mekong River is the Royal Palace which once dominated the skyline of Phnom Penh. The palace is the official residence of King Sihamoni, so only parts are open to the public, but you can also visit the adjacent Silver Pagoda.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
In 1975 Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison, known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). A visit here is extremely depressing but provides an insight into the country's history.

Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
About 20,000 defenceless men, women, children and infants from S-21 were taken to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek between 1975 to 1978 where they were mercilessly killed. More than 8000 skulls can be viewed behind a glass screen at the Memorial Stupa which was erected in 1988.

Accommodation

Local hostel, single sexed dorms.

Food

All meals included.

Day 10 - 30

Kampot Community development

Red Road Foundation

This is the meaty phase of the program and we are really excited to have teamed up with the Red Road Foundation who focus on village-led social enterprises while addressing critical global issues, such as waste and education.

For the next 3 weeks you’ll be working on ECO building projects and sustainable development. You’ll help and learn about organic farming, harvesting and learning to craft handmade products to help sustain the school. Building projects include plastic bottle brick-making and working with the plastic bricks machine, using these for ongoing building projects.

Other activities you can join in with are yoga, meditation and personal wellbeing activities, Khmer cooking classes, swimming in the local spring and trekking to the waterfall with a picnic, paddle board through the mangrove forest and help run field trips with the local children to the river or waterfall.

Honestly - this is an exciting and dynamic NGO run by the gorgeous Rachel who will be leading the whole program.





Accommodation

Here you‘ll be staying in a house owned by our project close to the beach.

Food

3 meals provided of local fresh food.

Days 31 - 34

Rabbit Island Downtime

Time to kick back

After all your hard work you’ll be ready for some R&R. You’ll transfer from Red Road to Kep Beach where you’ll have a night in a hotel with a pool and then make the short crossing to Rabbit Island.

A 20-minute boat crossing from Kep Beach is the island of Ko Tonsay (named Rabbit Island as locals say it is the shape of a rabbit). You’ll spend 3 nights here where you can relax, kayak, trek and hire a boat for the day to see other islands around and snorkel.

Think white sand, tropical - need we say any more?

Accommodation

Hostel on the beach.

Food

3 meals included.

Program Details & Costs

We have 3 departures, for 5 weeks each, to Cambodia throughout the year and this program combines perfectly with our 3 week program in The Philippines. Any questions just get in touch.

Options and costs

Whats included?

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Budget

Flights: £800 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: £60 per week approximately


Social Life

Guaranteed. You will travel and live with a tight team of volunteers throughout, so always someone to hang out with.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside rural communities who will welcome you into their society.

Contrast

See the best of Cambodia by living and working in an ancient city, in the depths of the jungle and on the white sandy beaches.

The Bigger Picture

All our projects are long term and you are part of the flow of volunteers needed to keep progress in motion.

Monday to Friday

Expect to busy with your projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day.

Weekends

While you are at the Red Road Foundation you will have days off (not neccessarily at the weekend as this is a busy time for working with the local kids). There are lots of local activities and Rachel will help arrange and advise. Please note however that will be an extra cost. Please ensure you have adequate medical insurance before you do any activity.


Cambodia is a special place for us as its devastating history is only a snippet away in time, making our projects feel even more urgent.

The Khmer Rouge

From 1975-1979 Cambodia was governed by the Khmer Rouge and their sadistic leader, Pol Pot. During this 3 year and 8 month period, it is estimated that approximately 3 million Cambodians died from either execution, famine or overworking. Considering that the population of Cambodia, or Kampuchea as it was known, was only 8 million during this time, that was nearly half the population killed, plunging the country into deep poverty and destruction.

Aftermath

Miraculously what has emerged is a peaceful, verdant land with arms outstretched to visitors. Their culture remains trusting, kind and remarkably forgiving. Industry and business started to regenerate heavily dependent on tourism and more recently on voluntourism, but with all things in life, some have good intentions, some do not.

Red Road Foundation

We are really excited to have teamed up with the Red Road Foundation down in Kampot who focus on village-led social enterprises while addressing critical global issues, such as waste and education. They bring people from all over the world together in cross-cultural collaborations and experiential learning that raises the quality of living for all involved.

Rachel Riggio is the dynamic back bone of the Red Road - she moved from the states 8 years ago and settled in Kampot to make a difference - promoting student leadership & fostering immersive travel for our volunteers, many young minds have the opportunity to grow into sustainability-focused, philanthropic innovators. She is amazing - skilled in mindfulness and fluent in the local khmer - you are in for a treat.



Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

First week in the jungle, elephant time Sophie Rumble

The next two weeks would be spent in a remote jungle in Mondulkiri volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project. Our day was divided into two parts; elephant observation, where we learnt all about the different elephants, and secondly volunteering. The jungle took us a while to get used to, in the first few days it was a frequent occurrence to hear screams during the evening when people went to the toilet and were faced with huge spiders/ scorpions/ frogs!

The project had around 8 elephants, this included Sambo, who is considered to be the most famous elephant in Cambodia. We learnt a lot about her cruel history where she spent the majority of her life begging along the river in Phomn Penh. Here she was fed all sorts of foods that elephants shouldn’t eat- including birthday cake! Sadly, one day she stepped on a nail which went straight through her foot and subsequently resulted in a bad infection which was never properly treated until she came to EVP.

Over the week we all learnt loads about elephants and the mahouts. For example, elephants typically spend 20 hours a day eating – not a bad life. Also, that the bond between the mahout and the elephant is as strong as the bond between family as they spend all day, everyday together.

For the volunteering part, we spent most of the week clearing a part of the jungle so that we can create a banana field to feed the elephants. This involved the use machetes which the boys were definitely excited about

The raw beauty of Cambodia Georgia Ling

Hey guys! I’m writing to you from Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where the Leapers have spent a week working at a school and exploring the exotic beaches that the province has to offer! Sihanoukville certainly felt different to the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap. Driving through the shantytowns of Siem Reap was a shocking eye-opener to the poverty of the countryside, but the fishing towns of Sihanoukville was an overwhelming picture of desolation. To think that locations such as these exist for a percentage of the world’s children to grow up in presents a terrifyingly real problem. The sad reality is that some only ponder upon the real issues in the world without having any inclination to do something about it. I think governmental and non-governmental programmes such as the one I am participating in should be advertised with much more fervour as an opportunity to help the plight of the less fortunate whilst also being able to experience different cultures in the world, which will undoubtedly contribute to a person’s worldview and their attitude towards multiculturalism.

The school at Sihanoukville tells us of much the same story. With leaking roofs and a lack of fans, the classrooms are by no means a comfortable and convenient space for learning. The Leapers contributed to tidying up the school by picking up rubbish around the site, as well as painting the walls to make the school look more presentable. Whilst doing so, we had the opportunity to talk to many of the children who could speak English and learn about their lives. Since the school was located in a fishing village, their parents tended to work in the fish-market community, which meant that their income was irregular and the family vulnerable. Despite the school’s condition, their ambitions were not dampened.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat Victoria Price

This past week in Siem Reap has been pretty great, we have gotten into the routine of manual labour in the morning and teaching English in the afternoons during the week.

The students at the schools are very cheeky so to begin with a lot of us struggled to get them engaged during lessons but practice makes perfect and now we leave school each day with pictures and an uncountable number of high fives! They really are very adorable. Today we went to Spitler school and took part in a cultural exchange, we got shown some traditional Cambodian dance which was really beautiful.

We have started work on the toilet which is much harder than I expected, I don’t think brick laying is a career I should pursue but it’s fun to learn a new skill and to play with the children we are helping during our breaks. Although it is hard to communicate most of the time we have realised they really enjoy piggy backs and rock-paper-scissors!

This weekend we visited Angkor Wat, we woke up at 4:00 to try and see the sun rise but missed it by about half an hour but it was still insanely beautiful, possibly the most photogenic building ever. We also saw two other temples, one of them being where tomb raider was filmed, there where trees growing on top and the buildings and roots wrapped round all of the ruins, it felt like we were in the heart of a rain forest.

We also all received a water blessing so we now have incredibly good luck, it was an interesting experience, not as spiritual as I thought it would be as the man before us brought his new motor cycle to be blessed and the monk just drenched us all with water as we tried to hold in giggles, but if it means nothing bad will happen to us now so it was definitely worth it.

We are adjusting to the extreme heat, and I am looking forward to finishing the toilet this week as we have all worked so hard on it. I am also looking forward to some more Fro-yos and a $4 massage as well as taking part in the legendary pub crawl in order to make the most of our final week in Siem Reap.

Watch our videos

Cambodia

January 2020 by Sophie Hoare

Cambodia

January 2017.

"Awesome, reliable, trustworthy, caring people "

An excellent, very caring group of people who go out of their way to find a solution that works for you. My situation was a little unusual, as my son has Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD and I needed a company who could really listen, understand the situation and find a solution that would work for him.

This fantastic group of people were always there with quick responses and well thought out solutions. Not to mention, it was something that was very last minute. I've had to explain Aspergers to many who have been a part of my sons life over the years - many don't get it, or don't want to get it, or they will only provide a "one sized fits all" solution (which doesn't work) and no options (they don't want to deal with it). This company embraced it and went above and beyond (that's you Jenny).

My son is on his placement now and is loving it - successful because this company listened, responded, and was happy to provide out of the box solutions that worked. Thanks you so much for your part in what will be one of, what will be greatest learning and development opportunities my son has experienced.

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Ava returned yesterday via Peru and had such an incredible experience in Ecuador. It was all very well organised and the people were amazing .I am still to hear more.

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Communication was very good before and during the trip, it was nice to know that the leap would reply quickly plus I felt very safe, the 24/7 security relaxed and settled me in. Stella matias and jimmy were amazing, they made my trip!

The programmes and schools we visited were life changing and made me appreciate what I have. The fact that we actually made a difference by raising money for an orphanage to build a well is so exciting and rewarding! And the relationships I made with the children and the other leapers I will never forget.

- Bethany

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This trip has left me with a group of life long friends from around the world, experiences that have plus will affect me forever, and skills to help me through life.

Everyday was a new adventure, from building hatcheries for turtle eggs to teaching English at a local school to playing volleyball with the Costa Rican Cost Guard to hearing stories from past poachers to watching a turtle lay eggs to have a sing-a-long with the group.

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