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.

Volunteer With Elephants Gallery

What is involved

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. No prior experience of working with animals is required for this program.

Some details

2020 2020 2020
January June September
3, 10, 24 6, 19 9, 18
February July November
2, 21 3, 17, 24 6, 20
May August December
15 7, 21 4

What your first week looks like

Arrival day

Your arrival weekend will be relaxed. We will pick you up from the airport and bring you to your accommodation. Depending on your time of arrival, our team will meet you and give you a local orientation so you can get to know the area you are living in. The next day you will be given health and safety briefing, culture orientation and project training before we take you in for your program.


Your project coordinator or a member of the team will be taking you to the project and after introductions you can get started. All your meals breakfast, lunch and dinner will be the accommodation unless you are at the project site or outside. In the evenings most volunteers spend it either exploring local sights, relaxing at the accommodation or preparing for projects.


Our local team will suggest many activities for you to do! Your weekends will be free for you to explore Kerala or India. We highly recommend you to utilise your time so you can get to see more of the country that you are visiting. We usually make recommendations based on past volunteer experiences. Its always better to book excursions in country with other volunteers.

Weekend activities

Backwaters of Kerala

Backwaters of Kerala
Be sure to visit the famous backwaters of Allepey and stay overnight on a traditional houseboat

Munnar Tea Plantations

Green tea plantations. Munnar, Kerala, India
For a adventure hike with incredible panoramic views, the Munnar Tea Plantations are not to be missed.

Varkala Beach

Varkala beach
We also recommend taking a trip to Varkala Beach, which is a couple of hours from Kochi but absolutely stunning.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
Visit the Taj Mahal with our 3 day Delhi and Taj Mahal Weekend Experience. Email us for details.

Testimonial Videos

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The charming city of Phnom Penh is the capital and also serves as our base of volunteer operations. Volunteering Journeys Cambodia volunteer abroad projects include Teaching English, Working with NGO’s, helping Special Needs individuals, and Medical & Nursing Internships. Whether you are a gap year student, career breaker or a family or a mature volunteer, you can apply to any of our volunteer in Cambodia projects.

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