Thailand Elephant Village Volunteers
1-4 weeks from £749
- Settle into life in Thailand with a 2-day orientation in busy Bangkok
- Spend 4 days a week in a stunning elephant village
- Help feed, bathe and care for the beautiful elephants
- Try your hand helping to cook tasty Thai food and experience real life in a rural Thai village
- Stay in a volunteer house with like-minded people and enjoy your time off from the project
- Experience authentic Thai lifestyle and become an important part of the local community
Help care for elephants on this unique volunteer experience in rural Thailand! Kick off with an arrival weekend in Bangkok, where you’ll explore and soak up the buzz of this vibrant city. Then it’s off to Surin in the heart of ‘Isaan’ where the ‘real’ Thailand is still alive and well – relaxed and friendly people, warm greetings, awesome food and of course the real reason you are travelling – elephants! You’ll spend 4 days a week in the elephant village getting stuck into all sorts of activities and also spending time getting to know the local people and way of life. Your weekends are then spent in Surin, where you can relax or explore!
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Starting with an arrival weekend in Bangkok, a great tour of some of the highlights and the chance to explore and enjoy the famous chaos and party atmosphere of Khao San Road and the surrounding area. Then it’s off to Surin in the heart of ‘Isaan’ where the ‘real’ Thailand is still alive and well – relaxed and friendly people, warm greetings, awesome food and of course the real reason you are travelling – elephants!
During your time in Surin you’ll spend 4 days a week in the elephant village getting stuck into all sorts of activities and also spending time getting to know the local people and way of life and then you’ll spend Friday through Sunday each week back in one of our shared houses in Surin town. The elephant village is of course amazing – basic and simple but an experience we wish everyone could have at least once in their life – but Surin town is also a great place to spend time. With great markets, restaurants and very cool bars you certainly won’t be at a loss for things to do.
What to Expect
When you first arrive into Thailand, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your accommodation in Bangkok. You’ll enjoy two nights staying close to the legendary backpacker hub of Khao San Road. Spend your time here exploring, settling into Thai culture and enjoy a guided tour that’ll take in the biggest and best sights of this incredible Southeast Asian city.
On your third day in Thailand, you’ll be transferred to Surin where your project is based. The journey from Bangkok to Surin will take approximately 6-7 hours, and you will usually travel by overnight train or bus. On arrival, you will be shown your accommodation and receive a full briefing about your volunteer placement. The following day, you’ll transfer to the elephant village, where you’ll spend the next four days.
Day in the Life
You will spend Mondays – Thursdays at the elephant village. Throughout your time in the elephant village you’ll get involved with a range of activities and, of course, be able to spend as much time as you want with the elephants living with the family you are staying with!
The activities you can expect throughout the week are:
- Walking alongside the elephants, taking them to the local river and helping bathe them. NOTE: Riding of the elephants by visitors is not allowed!
- Planting and harvesting crops and food for the elephants
- Helping feed the elephants
- Cleaning the elephant ‘areas’
- Making elephant ‘dung’ paper
- Hanging out with the elephants – you can spend hours sitting watching the elephants and getting to know them
- A full-time member of our time will be with you throughout your time at the elephant village to help you get the most out of your time here!
On Thursday evenings, you’ll be transferred back to Surin, where you’ll spend the weekend. Your weekends are free to relax or explore. Surin is a beautiful region with plenty to explore. It is also close to the Cambodian border, so you could hop over for a long weekend of exploration and adventure!
Purpose and Aim of Project
Surin has for generations been regarded as the ‘home’ of elephants in Thailand. Hundreds of years ago the Gwi people achieved prominence through their ability to work with elephants and at this time in Thai history the elephants were used much as horses were in Europe – as means of transport as farm animals and also in the Army as cavalry. Over the generations the Gwi people lived with their elephants and bred them, creating large number of elephants born into a semi-domesticated role.
In more recent times of course, machines replaced the elephants in farms, buses and cars replaced them as a mode of transport and the Army started to use tanks rather than elephants in the ‘cavalry’ – however the Gwi people still needed to look after their elephants who had grown up in their communities. Many elephants started to be used in the logging industry and other sources of income started to include elephant ‘trekking’, using elephants for begging and also the development of elephant shows – which unfortunately still takes place today.
As much of the logging industry was banned in the last 30-40 years more and more mahouts found themselves needing to enter either the trekking, shows or begging ‘industries’ to provide a living not only for themselves but also for their elephants.
Now in the 21st Century as the move against elephant trekking rightly picks up its pace and the focus is rightly on ensuring the best lives possible for the elephants, the mahouts of the village you’ll be staying have bit by bit progressed and offer this fascinating programme. By not allowing riding (other than by the mahouts) and aiming to give an all round experience for the visitor of time with the elephants and village life, the community is able to look after their elephants (who’ve been with them all their life) and themselves without the need to take their elephants to urban areas begging or to put their elephants (who are treated as family members) into elephant shows. The revenue they receive from the programme has allowed them to develop their community and to continue to give their elephants the best life possible.
This programme is a fantastic opportunity to make a difference in the lives of elephants and a local community in Thailand. Not only will you be supporting ethical wildlife tourism, by volunteering at a project that is working towards stopping riding elephants, but you’ll also make a real difference to the care of the elephants in the village. The elephants in the village are loved and cared for with great passion by the mahouts. The mahouts look after their elephants from birth (birth of the elephant!) and think of the elephant very much as a son / daughter and full on member of the family. At your accommodation, you will see the village family spending huge amounts of time with their elephants, even sometimes simply sitting and looking / chatting with them.
- Airport meet and greet
- Arrival airport transfer
- Bangkok tour
- Transfer to Surin
- Transfers to and from the elephant village
- All elephant activities listed
- Meals as listed whilst at the elephant village and breakfast in Bangkok
- Services and support of our full time team in Surin
- 24/7 Emergency support
- International Flights
- Travel Insurance
- Most meals
- Return transfer
You will stay in 3 different sets of accommodation during your experience – a Guest House in Bangkok, a shared house in Surin town and the village accommodation whilst at the elephant village.
Your first two nights in Thailand will be spent in a comfortable hostel near Khao San Road in Bangkok. All rooms have air-conditioning, en-suite bathrooms (western style toilet and hot water showers!) and access to wi-fi (although please note that wi-fi won’t be as quick or as reliable as you’re used to at home.
You will then be transferred to Surin, where you will be staying in one of several shared volunteer houses in a multi-share room. You will usually share with 3-5 people in a room. Beds, bedding and storage are included, and Wi-Fi is available. The houses are basic but have self-catering facilities including a hob, sink, toaster, kettle, fridge and utensils, as well as communal living space. You will be staying near local amenities such as supermarkets and restaurants, where you can buy ingredients or eat out.
The elephant village accommodation is very simple and basic but allows you to live in the heart of the village, with a mahout family and incredibly close to some of the elephants. You will share rooms with a number of fellow travellers sleeping on simple mattresses on the floor under mosquito nets (in the same way that many villagers do). Shared toilet facilities are in each house with cold water showers and simple ‘Western’ style toilets (please be aware that in many parts of Thailand there isn’t handle flush system – instead you need to pour water from the bucket next to the toilet down the toilet to flush away your business! There is no Wi-Fi at the village – meaning you can experience life to the full and save all your social media updates until you’re back in Surin town.
Meals while at the elephant village are included. However, in Bangkok and Surin you will need to purchase your own meals. Eating out is incredibly cheap in Thailand - a meal can be purchased for as little as 100 baht (around £1.80). We recommend budgeting approximately £7-8 per day for food and drink.
You will need to arrange your flight to Thailand to arrive at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) on your programme start date between the hours of 6am and 10pm; we recommend that you arrive before 3pm, if possible. You will need to make your own way back to Bangkok at the end of your trip, the journey takes 6-7 hours by train; if you wish to fly on your programme end date please arrange a flight that departs late in the evening on your programme end date or the day after to allow enough time to travel back to Bangkok.
Minimum age is 18 years.
It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary visas for your time away. British passport holders arriving by air can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa. Please ensure your passport is valid, with six months' validity remaining on the date of your planned return, and that you hold a valid return flight, or onward travel, ticket. If you plan to stay in Thailand for more than 30 days you will need to apply for a visa before departing the UK, which will be issued as a 60 day tourist visa.
What Is Surin Like?
Surin is located in the area of north east Thailand known as Esaan. The province of Surin is home to approximately 1.4 million people with approximately 40,000 living in the main city centre area. Surin offers visitors the best hospitality Thailand has to offer. The area is largely untouched by tourism and as so the way of life remains honest, safe and fun. Visitors to Surin can expect a very warm welcome from the locals of all ages.
Do I Need Any Vaccinations?
As we are not medically trained we cannot give you medical advice. You must make an appointment to see your GP or travel nurse who will be able to give you the best and most up to date travel health advice and more information about vaccinations.
Do I Need To Take A Sleeping Bag?
All bedding is provided but if you wanted to take one as well then you can.
What Are The Typical Group Sizes?
Groups sizes vary depending on the time of year, but generally you can expect to be with between 2 and 5 fellow travellers.
How Much Spending Money Would You Recommend I Take?
If you are on a tight budget you can get away with £80-100 per week. If you want to do some travelling in your free time then you will need a bit more.
What Are The Average Ages Of Travelers On This Trip?
The majority of participants on this program are aged between 18-30, however it is popular with travelers of all ages.
I Am A First Time Traveler, And A Bit Apprehensive About Travelling On My Own. Do Many People Do This By Themselves?
The majority of our participants are solo travelers, so you will be one of many in the same position. We e-mail out a buddy list 2-3 weeks before you start, so you can begin to get to know one another beforehand.
Is Thailand Safe?
Absolutely, and you have co-ordinators with you at all times to ensure your safety.
Do I Need To Take A Mosquito Net?
This is up to you, they aren't provided but if you take care of the room and close the windows etc then you shouldn't need to take a net with you.