We were a bit wary on arrival, as we went for a walk up the hill to find the two Elephants chained in their enclosure for the night. However it was obvious that this was due to the door of their enclosure not being ready yet, so we overlooked the point in view of the good things we saw during our 24 hours at the Project.
We arrived in time for dinner, and were served a beautiful Sri Lankan meal and enjoyed the company of the diverse group of others staying at the project.
I slept on the top bunk in a shared room, and admit that despite coming from a climate hotter than Sri Lanka's, I did struggle as the fan on the floor was making no difference to those on the top bunks, and the fan in the opposite corner of the room was too ineffective to reach the top bunks - but I did manage a few hours sleep. Toilets and room were spotlessly clean.
In the morning, after a nice Sri Lankan style breakfast, everyone literally 'mucked in' to clean out the Elephant enclosure of dung, which surprisingly was largely odour free and not as unpleasant as expected!
After this, we walked through the village, paddy fields and river for nearly 3 hours, where the two beautiful Elephants enjoyed eating what they could from the roadside & the fields, finishing off playing in the river. I spotted Wastu steal a banana from a shop as we walked past which was cute and seems that it may have become a ritual, one of the staff told us that if there had been no bananas there at that particular shop, he would complain loudly!
We then spent time in the kitchen preparing lunch which was as enjoyable as it was informative, lunch was almost certainly the best meal I had in Sri Lanka with several meat and vegetarian dishes, there was plenty to keep everyone happy.
In the afternoon we joined the elephants around their enclosure to play 'enrichment games' - which involved the increasingly frustrated Wastu trampling on the empty boxes whilst Sujee seemed to find the lions share of the boxes containing fruit.
Final activity of the day was to take the elephants down to the river and watch/participate in washing them. Even though everyone helped out, the mahouts ensured that they personally cleaned every inch of the elephant, which left some feeling inadequate, but it was good to see them taking such meticulous care over the elephants' welfare.
For us, as 24 hour 'volunteers' we were there to take part in the daily life of the Sri Lankan domestic elephant and we got out of it exactly what we wanted and expected. The timings were relaxed, so the day was totally stress free and ample time to chill between activities. However the longer term volunteers did mention issues with a lack of variation of the schedule, and as Clare in the previous review said, education about the life, care and plight of elephants in Sri Lanka may make the experience more engaging, but the project is small and evolving and I'm sure these things will be taken into account for the future.
I will definitely return here in the future and wish everyone at the project well for the future.