Sri Lanka, a small island nation off the coast of Southern India, is a beautiful, greatly under-visited nation -- often described as "India light". With ancient temples, rainforests, and beaches, there is never a shortage of things to explore in Sri Lanka, while delicious tropical curries and warm and inviting locals will make you feel right at home.
Nonetheless, Sri Lanka is still a developing nation and only recently ended its civil war. Volunteers are needed throughout Sri Lanka to work in wildlife conservation, orphanages, and education.
One of the biggest highlights of Sri Lanka is its wildlife, especially its population of wild elephants.
Unfortunately, elephant deaths from farmers killing elephants to protect their homes and farms (the Human Elephant Conflict) -- and likewise, human deaths from elephants entering populated areas that were once solely theirs to explore in search of food -- is an issue. In the past, volunteers were able to make an impact by volunteering at elephant orphanages taking care of young elephants orphaned by these deaths. This is no longer a viable or responsible option for volunteers, as the popularity in elephant orphanages has turned the most famous of them into a tourist trap where elephants are unnecessarily kept in captivity.
Instead, volunteers can help with alleviating the Human Elephant Conflict by volunteering with organizations that work with wild elephants and the communities that surround them. Educate locals, help find solutions for keeping elephants out of populated areas, and assist with field research.
Sea Turtle Conservation
Like many island destinations, Sri Lanka is home to a significant population of sea turtles. Help organizations that are working towards conserving these sea turtles.
Due to poverty and the recently ended civil war, Sri Lanka has a number of orphans, and thus many orphanages to care for them. As a volunteer in a Sri Lankan orphanage, you will help in administrative work, taking care of the children, and planning and conducting activities for the children.
Sri Lanka has seen civil war from 1985 to 2008, so ethnic situations are somewhat tense in the nation. Know that the three ethnic groups (Sinhalese, Moors and Tamil) are very different from each other and will take offense if you mix them up.
For more advice, read this list of tips on volunteering in South Asia and India.
Best Places To Volunteer
Although Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka, most volunteers with pass through only as a landing base. Volunteer programs exist throughout the country -- especially in or near national parks if you're working with wildlife.
Another excellent destination for volunteers is Kandy, a pleasant mid-sized city in the tea growing region of Sri Lanka.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Sri Lanka
As a volunteer in Sri Lanka, you are recommended, but not required, to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B, and Typhoid. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, get vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis and Rabies. For more information, visit MD Travel Health.
Sri Lanka has no to low risk of malaria.
Sri Lanka is a relatively safe nation for tourists and volunteers, but remember to be vigilant in crowded areas and tourist spots for pickpockets.