Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand

Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand

Quick Overview

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.

What’s 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.

All The Details

Chiang Mai, Thailand

2020 Dates:

1/3/2020 1/10/2020 1/24/2020 7/3/2020 7/17/2020 7/24/2020
2/7/2020 2/21/2020 8/7/2020 8/21/2020
3/6/2020 3/20/2020 9/4/2020 9/18/2020
4/3/2020 4/17/2020 10/2/2020 10/16/2020
5/1/2020 5/15/2020 11/6/2020 11/20/2020
6/5/2020 6/19/2020 12/4/2020

All our rates are in USD $ per person

1 Week 2 Weeks
Elephant Care Chiang Mai $899 $1,199
  1. Pre-Departure Notes and Support
  2. Free airport pick-up on arrivals day between 06:00 and 22:00 from Chiang Mai Airport
  3. Accommodation for the duration of your stay
  4. Transfer to your programme location
  5. Full support from our local team in your programme location
  6. 24-hour emergency support

Whats Not Included in your program fee :

  1. Your flights
  2. Meals (very cheap in Thailand!)
  3. Visa
  4. Travel insurance
  5. Activities or excursions away from the programme

Getting There

  1. The nearest airport for this program is Chaing Mai Airport.
  2. Thailand has Visas on arrival which makes life much easier!
  3. Travel Insurance is compulsory on this program. For help with flights and insurance fill in this form
  4. Vaccinations are important. We recommend you visit your local travel clinic to find out what vaccines you should take.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. For support on any of the above email us hello@volunteeringjourneys.com

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.
    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.
    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. 
    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.  
    Day 6 and 7: TIME WITH THE ELEPHANTS Activities 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  
    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.  
    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. 
    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.  
    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.



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    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!’

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