Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand
Thailand is home to populations of both wild (largely limited to 2 or 3 National Parks) and domesticated Asian Elephants. The domesticated population are made up largely of animals that have been bred in captivity for generations (different Thai communities have domesticated and worked with elephants for hundreds of years) and some that have been illegally captured from the wild or even transported illegally from Burma / Myanmar. These gentle giants were originally trained to work as farm animals, in the logging industry and, many years ago, as the cavalry in the Army. It is estimated that currently there are between 2 – 3,000 wild elephants in Thailand today and around a similar number of ‘domesticated’ elephants.
By the late 1980’s many domesticated elephants were used in the logging industry and, when the logging industry was banned to preserve what is left of Thailand’s forests, and unfortunate side effect was to make many of these elephants redundant. This left the mahouts (the owners / people looking after the elephants) with two options – take their elephants begging in urban areas or work in the tourist industry.
Begging with elephants is both illegal (although not always well enforced) and harmful to the elephants who ended up walking around congested, polluted streets as their mahouts tried to make a living. For those involved in the tourism industry, the majority either engaged in trekking or elephant shows, both of which put the human desires before the needs and care of the elephants.
However, recent years have seen a small number of elephant owners start to develop a more elephant focussed programme giving visitors the opportunity to learn about and spend time with these wonderful animals, whilst aiming to put the elephant first and allowing mahouts. Whilst there is still a long journey to follow, this elephant home in Chiang Mai is being very pro-active in how it offers this experience – no visitors are allowed to ride the elephants, mahouts are being encouraged to see that they can earn a living whilst putting their elephant first and the reliance and use of chains for the elephants is slowly being phased out by working with rather than against the traditions of many generations.
An exciting opportunity to learn about and be part of a new elephant home leading the way in the move towards animal, rather than human, centred elephant interaction.
Set in the stunning Mae Wang valley the elephant home has been created by local elephant owners through their commitment to a move away from the traditional and out of date elephant riding / human centred interactions to an experience where visitors get the opportunity to learn about, care for, and work alongside the local mahouts helping to show that this is the right future for human / elephant interaction – one which puts the elephants well being first and allows people to see them for the wonderful creatures that they are.
Through living and working on site with the mahouts and the elephants visitors can spent as much time as they wish with the elephants (although always in the presence of mahouts), help prepare their food, feed them, help clean their living area and walk with the elephants and bathe them in the local river.
In addition to this fantastic opportunity, the one week programme includes a great trek through the surrounding hills accompanied by a Karen Hill tribe guide, bamboo rafting through the local valley and time spent learning about the local village and the life of the people there.
The two week option not only includes more time with the elephants (of course) but also a visit to the Friends of the Elephant Hospital in nearby Lampang province and a 2 day, 1 night tour of Chiang Mai city and an insight into the history of the Lanna Kingdom and culture.
Both the one and two week options included transfers to and from Chiang Mai city. We hope that you will enjoy your time living alongside the elephants and the mahouts and gain a unique and immersive experience of Thailand.
This program is suitable for individuals, groups and families. No prior experience of working with animals is required for this program.
All The Details
Chiang Mai, Thailand
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All our rates are in GBP £.
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- Pre-Departure Notes and Support
- Free airport pick-up on arrivals day between 06:00 and 22:00 from Chiang Mai Airport
- Accommodation for the duration of your stay
- Transfer to your programme location
- Full support from our local team in your programme location
- 24-hour emergency support
Whats Not Included in your program fee :
- Your flights
- Meals (very cheap in Thailand!)
- Travel insurance
- Activities in your ‘˜down time’ from the programme
- The nearest airport for this program is Chaing Mai Airport.
- Thailand has Visas on arrival which makes life much easier!
- Travel Insurance is compulsory on this program. For help with flights and insurance fill in this form
- Vaccinations are important. We recommend you visit your local travel clinic to find out what vaccines you should take.
- We work with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for travel to Thailand. Goto www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo to find out how best to avoid trouble when abroad. Packed with essential travel advice and tips, the website also offers up-to-date country information.
- We understand it can be difficult to pay for your flights, program fees and other travel costs. Many fundraise for their journey. If you need ideas and a platform for fundraising ideas Click Here
- For support on any of the above email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Your two week itinerary:
- Day 1: ARRIVAL :Pick up from Chiang Mai city hotel and transfer to Mae Wang Elephant Home. On arrival there will be an orientation meeting – introducing visitors to the home, the surrounding area and what they can expect during their stay. Visitors will meet this elephants at the home and learn about their history and characteristics.Check into the elephant home accommodation – literally on the elephants doorstep (but far enough away so you won’t disturb them at night!) – and settle into the community. Meals: Dinner
Day 2: ELEPHANTS, ELEPHANTS, ELEPHANTS Village life starts early and you’ll almost certainly wake to the sound of the elephants on your doorstep. After breakfast you’ll be working alongside the mahouts on a range of activities including the following: Feeding the elephants, Making and feeding the elephant special vitamin ‘cakes’, Cleaning the elephants area, Walking alongside the elephants and bathing them in the local river. During this time you’ll really get to see the personality of the elephants and learn about how they interact with each other and spend their days. Accommodation is at the elephant home. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 3: MORE ELEPHANTS As per day 2
Day 4: TREKKINGIt’s time to see another part of the valley as you head off after breakfast on a trek through the surrounding hills and forest. This part of Thailand has a large number of Karen Hill Tribe villages (in fact your guide is from these villages) and as you walk through the countryside you’ll pass alongside small Karen settlements and farming outposts. You’ll cross rivers, rest by waterfalls (and have the chance to swim and cool down) and eventually reach your overnight ‘jungle’ camp by the river where you’ll have dinner by a campfire – a fantastic experience. The trek today is between 8 and 10km (we use slightly different routes depending on the season). No special training is required – the route is suitable for all. Accommodation – simple ‘jungle’ huts with mattresses and mosquito nets. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 5: TREKKING AND RAFTING Wake up to the sound of the forest and freshen up in the river before completing the trek back to a local Karen village where you’ll be picked up and transfer further down the valley for some bamboo rafting.
Get a totally different view as you raft slowly downstream on traditional bamboo rafts and head to a riverside stop for lunch. After you’ve completed the rafting you’ll transfer back to the elephant home and be able to rest up and watch the elephants go about their business! Accommodation is at the elephant home. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 6 and 7: TIME WITH THE ELEPHANTSActivities as per Day 2 (NOTE – for those booking a 1 week experience you will transfer back to Chiang Mai city on Day 7)
Day 8: ELEPHANTS As per Day 2
Day 9: A DIFFERENT INSIGHT INTO THE LIVES OF ELEPHANTS After breakfast today you’ll transfer to the Friends of the Elephant Foundation Hospital in neighboring Lampang province. Dedicated to helping injured and sick elephants, the hospital also works with local communities to ensure that pregnant elephants give birth safely. Your day here will include a tour of the facilities and give a great insight into the work and passion that many people have for elephants in this part of the world.Accommodation is at the elephant home Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 10: CHIANG MAI – LANNA HISTORY AND CULTURE Chiang Mai was the heart of the Lanna Kingdom and is still the home of Lanna culture and life style and over the next two days you’ll get a real insight into this visiting some of the most important sites with your guide.In the evening you’ll also have the opportunity to visit the famous night market and take advantage of the insider knowledge of the local team. Accommodation: 3* hotel (twin shared) in Chiang Mai city. Meals: Breakfast
Day 11: HOT SPRINGS AND BACK TO THE ELEPHANTSA leisurely start for a change! This morning you’ll visit local hot springs and be able to re-charge your legs and body in the natural hot water. There’s then the chance to experience Lanna style hospitality at a local restaurant for lunch before heading back to the elephant home in the afternoon. Accommodation is at the elephant home. Meals: Dinner
Days 12 and 13: YOUR LAST TIME WITH THE ELEPHANTS As per day 2, your days are all about spending time with the elephants and their mahouts and saying goodbye! Accommodation is at the elephant home. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 14: END You’ll transfer back from the elephant home to Chiang Mai city today.
What Happens When I Arrive?
Living Arrangements for Volunteer in Thailand:
The accommodation at the elephant home is simple but clean large dormitory style rooms split between men and women. Each ‘block’ has it’s own shared toilet and shower facilities and the rooms use a combination of modern and traditional building methods to both keep them cool and do their best to ensure the facilities are in tune with the local surroundings. The rooms are fan cooled and you’ll be surprised at the cooling effect of the leaf roof. The rooms are located very close to where the elephants live, although far enough away to ensure you don’t disturb or upset the elephants when they are sleeping. You are based at the top of the local village which is a short (10 minute) walk away with great views across the valley and of the surrounding hills.
Note: There is no wi-fi at the elephant home
Health and Safety :
When you join our programs you can be assured we have carried out Risk Assessments to identify potential safety and health risks on projects and in the community. We share this information with you in our pre departure documents and on arrival. Our local staff are well trained and we provide 24/7 emergency numbers to all participants. Please read our Health and Safety pages for more details.
We protect the safety of children and vulnerable adults on our programs by police verification and a reference checks on all participants. Please read our Child Protection Policy for more details.
WHY VOLUNTEERS LOVE US!
‘My experience in India was absolutely fantastic. Having never done anything like this before, Volunteering Journeys made sure I settled in well and supported me throughout my time. Being placed with an amazing family gave me the chance to experience Indian culture first hand. I was part of the Disabled Childcare Programs for two weeks. Although short, I felt the time I spent was so valuable for the children. If this is something that you are interested in I would 100% recommend it. The memories, friendships and experiences you will develop will be ones that you will never forget.’
‘The teaching experience was second to none. I was overwhelmed by the respect and politeness all the children have, which made it some much easier to work with them, even with the language barrier. The amazing thing about the schools I visited was that all the children are like little sponges, they absorb everything you say, teach and do! It’s quite outstanding how much they gain from just a small conversation in the playground or in the class room.
So in general if you are questioning whether you want to volunteer and you don’t know what company to go with, it has the be Volunteering Journeys. You will be well looked after, gain an immense experience and make friends for life!!!’
‘I took a short sabbatical from work in November 2013 and decided to come to India. I was helping at a small school in Fort Kochi, teaching English, Maths, Science and the odd nursery rhyme. The school where I volunteered had amazing teachers and the kids were great. Ridhi and the team organised everything brilliantly – from cycling tours to the backwaters, to hosting me with a family that made my stay feel like home. If you’re going to volunteer in India then I highly recommend Volunteering Journeys’
“J’ai passé deux mois formidables à Kochi en travaillant comme volontaire avec Volunteering Journeys. Deux mois de ma vie que je n’oublierais jamais. J’ai rencontré des gens incroyables et participé à des projets qui me tenaient vraiment à coeur. J’ai pu voir l’aboutissement de mes efforts et le sourire sur le visage des enfants. Une expérience magique que je recommande à tous. Merci Rainbow”
‘I spent 3 wonderful weeks with the Volunteering Journeys team in Kerala, it marked the beginning of almost 2 months adventuring through India, and I can say without a doubt it was one of my favourite experiences of my time spent in incredible India! From the moment my plane landed and I was greeted by a friendly face and whisked away to a wonderful home, the local staff were incredibly welcoming, helpful, supportive and great fun to be around!
I spent my time volunteering in 2 local schools, assisting with English studies. The enthusiasm and joy with which the children approach their days will ensure you never want to leave!I cannot recommend Volunteering Journeys highly enough, it was such a joyful introduction to India – it’s culture, people and crazy beautiful way of life. You will leave with some fond memories and firm friendships’
‘I volunteered by teaching English both at a school and at an all girls’ orphanage for two months. It has been the best experience of my life so far. I really got to know the children I was teaching and seeing the children’s English improve over my time was an incredible feeling. From being introduced to yoga to tasting delicious flavoursome Indian cuisine and living in “God’s own country”, has left me eager to return. I have made friends across the World who made my time spent in Kerala unforgettable. I highly recommend volunteering with Volunteering Journeys; Kerala is beautiful and you will gain fun memories.’
‘I spent two weeks running an art workshop which was absolutely fantastic. The children were so enthusiastic and bustled about with paste and paint, putting together the most amazing creations. They were not used to producing collaborative work and were thrilled when their individual efforts achieved a glorious whole. Their personalities really shone through and I became very fond of them in the short time I was with them. Thank you to Volunteering Journeys for enabling me to have such a wonderful experience!’
‘There is some kind of magic that happens when you’re in India. The climate, the people, the warm welcome, the happiness in every person, the culture, it’s simply inspiring. On top of that having a group of friendly, thoughtful organizers guiding me through the program made my time volunteering with Volunteering Journeys one of the most memorable moments in my life.
If anyone reading this is considering becoming a volunteer, don’t hesitate, become a volunteer. It will be the most rewarding experience and adventure of your life. I assure you that you will have a vital impact on the community, the place and the children. I would recommend Volunteering Journeys without hesitation. Well organized and hassle free adventure. You get help and guidance with everything you need. Kerala was my destination. Safe, beautiful and very friendly. Just do it and have an adventure of your life!’
“Volunteering at the schools was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Once again the friendships you create are irreplaceable. Admittedly, the first few days were scary, in the sense that my partner and I were only 18 & 20 yrs old and we were teaching women and children a language that was not their first. However the persistence and willingness of Indians is not to be tested. Each of our students put in 100% and naturally we became very personal with everyone and these women and children taught us much more. We came out of this experience with more than we had ever anticipated. It can’t be put into words just how much we learnt from volunteering. Ever aspect of our lives and mindset has changed.”
‘I think it was quite an eye opening experience to kind of see how people live and enjoy their lives very differently to what we do probably in UK. Even though comparatively they didn’t have as much, the children still came to school with a smile on their face and they were really keen to learn. They were ever so happy and always had a smile on their face regardless of the circumstances that they are living in, and I think that was an amazing experience for us to take back. We have comparatively much more wealth in the UK and we have much more available at our fingertips. Yet we were quite not so happy’
‘We decided to volunteer as part of our family vacation. It was the perfect balance: making a contribution but not being asked to do too much, with Volunteering Journeys staff with us every step of the way to help, support, clarify, etc. I was also impressed that they didn’t feed us a line about how we were changing the world in a week; I knew going in that *we* would be the ones most changed, and the staff’s perspective’s was the same: we were making an impact by showing we cared and sharing experiences, which hopefully meant something to a lot of people.’