WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN LAOS
Laos is a beautiful, tropical, and mostly untouched country that is becoming an up-and-coming destination for travelers looking for an authentic taste of South-east Asia, due to this, the rewards here are plentiful. It may not be as developed as neighboring Thailand, or Vietnam, though this is exactly Laos' uniqueness and charm. Laos is a relatively safe country to travel to, with a slow and laid-back lifestyle, or Ȋ Bor Pen Nyangȋ as the locals say, "No worries!
Laos is sadly one of the major gateways of the illegal wildlife trade from South-east Asia. There is thought to be thousands of protected wild animals and their parts being smuggled in and out of the country every month. Therefore, having a wildlife rescue center in Laos to directly combat this illicit activity is of great importance. One of the aims of this program is to also improve the conditions for animals currently in the Laos Zoo and transform the zoo into a wildlife rescue center which can provide a home and specialist rehabilitation, for animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.
Your daily schedule will be packed with a mix of the projects listed below. If the center needs a particular project to be completed, you will be picking up where the last volunteers left it at.
WILDLIFE CARE AND ENRICHMENT
Volunteers will assist with providing care, cleaning, feeding, and enriching the lives of the animals at the center. Enrichment is a way to improve the lives of animals and stimulate them mentally and/ or physically by providing activities to work on throughout the day. Prior to the center, the animals spent many years without any sort of mental or physical stimulation. Enrichment is an essential part of any animal routine, as it helps prevent boredom and stress behaviors in animals. Enrichment can play a critical part in wildlife rehabilitation and preparation for a life back in the wild. An enrichment schedule for the animals is followed in the morning and afternoon, and fresh new ideas to create new enrichment programs are always encouraged. The center is also a no-touch facility for volunteers, to encourage a speedy return to the wild for the animals.
Projects can vary, whether it's building a pool, climbing structures or even new enclosures. This is what makes each project unique; the development of the center is in full force, everything you do will have a lasting impact and you will be able to see how much the animals and the local staff appreciate it!
FOOD AND LODGING
You will be staying in one of 5 bungalows with 2 volunteers per bungalow. Please note that the mattresses provided are traditional Laos style so they may be quite a bit harder than you are used to. There are two shower and toilet blocks that are a short walk from the bungalows, one for males and one for females, each fitted with two western style toilets and two showers: one hot and one cold. Air conditioning is not provided however each bungalow is equipped with its own rotating fan. Wi-Fi is also not available anywhere on site, but it is very cheap and easy to purchase a local SIM card for data as long as your phone is unlocked.
Keep in mind that you will be in a rural area of Laos and that encountering insects inside and outside will be inevitable.
All your meals are provided during your stay. Volunteers prepare their own breakfast in the volunteer house, and you are provided with buffet style ingredients such as eggs, bread, jams, milk, butter/margarine, tea, coffee, and seasonal fresh fruit. Clean drinking water is also provided in several locations onsite for volunteers. Lunch and dinner are traditional and local Lao style. There are a few small kiosks across the center where you can buy soft drinks, snacks and ice creams. There is a large regional market with a large variety of fruit and vegetables, local freshly made snacks, about 2.5 km from the center. Make sure to have cash on hand, as many locals will be unable to accept cards.
The rescue center is in a rural location in Laos and you will be living in an authentic Lao setting. After work hours, volunteers can socialize at the volunteer house. There is a resort close by that has a pool and restaurant if requested in advance. It is in a beautiful location on the banks of the Nam Ngum River. There is a small out-of-pocket fee to use the pool, and food and beverages are cheap there. There are a few local shops, markets, local style food houses and bars, and small temples all within walking distance from the center.
Lao Pii Mai, which is the Laos New Year, lasts for two weeks at the start of April. This is the biggest festival, celebrated all around the country.
ARRANGING YOUR AIRFARE
You'll be flying into Wattay International Airport. The airport is one of a few international airports in Laos and the country's main international gateway, serving the capital Vientiane, located 3 km outside of the city center.
Pick-up from the airport is provided from 9:30 to 10:30 AM on Sundays. If your flight arrives on Saturday, you are recommended to book a hotel room for the night in Vientiane City and be picked up the following morning.
Majority of our volunteers like to be back home by Monday for work, so our program normally ends on a Saturday, and we arrange a private transfer for you for this. If you are interested in staying an extra day, please notify us, and in this case, when the coordinators leave to pick-up new volunteers on Sunday they will take those volunteers that need to go to Vientiane with them at 8:00am in the morning. If volunteers wish to leave earlier or later in the day on Sunday they will be responsible for paying for their own transportation, however we can help advise and/or arrange transport for you.
VISA AND ARRIVAL
To enter Laos, a passport valid for at least six months is required. It is wise to procure a travel itinerary to avoid problems, these may be asked for on rare occasions. You can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival at road, river and air borders for entry into Laos. Bring two passport-sized photographs with you for the visa. To volunteer in Laos, volunteers only need a tourist visa. A visa on arrival costs approximately $35 USD, and can be more or less, please check with your consulate, and ask about any other specific requirements. Please ensure that you bring the exact amount in USD to pay for your visa on arrival. This program runs from Sunday to Saturday.
Pick-up from the airport is provided from 9:30 to 10:30am on Sunday. If you’re flight arrives on Saturday, you are recommended to book a hotel room for the night, in Vientiane City, and be picked up the following morning.
We recommend all volunteers, at the very least, have their DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio) vaccinations up to date. It is best to schedule an appointment up to three months before you leave, as some vaccinations may need to be administered over multiple appointments or weeks. You are also recommended to take a rabies pre-exposure vaccination as a preventative.
In case of any incidents onsite, there are vaccines available at the international hospital in Vientiane. The health and safety of our volunteers is very important to us and we take all possible precautions to ensure that there are no accidents.