Volunteer at an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is set amongst the rolling hills of Northern Thailand in a Karen hill tribe village. It is surrounded by a forest that is perfect for our elephants to roam and forage in. Our sanctuary has rescued 5 elephants from the tourism industry and we have now brought them home to live out their lives in the forest, in semi-wild conditions. We need volunteers to help us keep these elephants happy and healthy in their natural habitat. With volunteer support and donations, we hope to return more elephants to the forest soon. We work very closely with the local community and tribe. The Karen people are originally from Myanmar but they have migrated to Thailand in search of a better life during the wars over many generations. Due to this they have their own language and culture, which volunteers will have the opportunity to learn and experience. They are keen weavers and are well known in Thailand for their elephant keeping. They make an income from their elephants and working the fields, mainly growing rice and corn using rotational slash and burn. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn more firsthand about their culture and even help out with the community when required. Our days begin with early morning hikes through the forest to find the elephants, staying with them while observing and taking data on their natural behaviours until lunch. Some days lunch is eaten with the elephants in the forest, a very unique experience! Hikes will usually return to the village around early afternoon but the day doesn’t end there. You will have the opportunity to participate in teaching English at the school, to the home-stays and to the mahouts. You will also learn about elephants in Asia and the local language and culture. We also have a number of add-ons you can choose from including relaxing with a Thai massage or learning how to basket weave. You will have the chance to experience a diversity of tasks. Please be aware that tasks may vary depending on the time of your arrival and your own preferences. Some of the tasks include:
- Performing research on the natural elephant behaviours and on the surrounding forest
- Taking part in community projects such as teaching English at the school and to other locals
- Litter pick-ups with the kids to educate on waste management
- Helping out the community in the fields planting and harvesting crops and rice
- Volunteers will also be expected to help the staff welcome and take care of any visitors. Volunteers must be physically fit to hike everyday up and down the mountains to get to the elephants and open minded as we are working closely with the local community and their tribal culture.
All year round
Sunday: You will meet our team at our meeting point in Chiang Mai to make the journey to our project.
Monday: Everyone will meet for breakfast at our base hut before 7:30am and our hike to the elephants will begin at 8am. When you get to the elephants you may have the opportunity to feed them bananas and take photos! You will spend the rest of the morning/early afternoon in the forest with the elephants observing them, learning about their natural behaviours and eating lunch. After the hike, you will learn more about captive elephants and their plight, learn about our research and have a lesson on the local language before having dinner in your homestay (a staff member will be eating with you during your first week).
Tuesday: Breakfast and departure to the forest at the same time. Today you may be collecting data on the elephants or observing them and writing their elephant dairies. When you return from the forest, you can come along to the school to teach English to the local kids! After dinner, we will have a quiz/trivia night or some fun games to relax.
Wednesday: Breakfast and departure to the forest at the same time. Today you will eat lunch in the forest with the elephants and after the hike you will have the opportunity to teach English at the local nursery, do some community work or a litter pick-up to help and educate the locals or do a bio hike with our researchers. After dinner, you will have the opportunity to take part in English lessons for the locals, great way to get immersed!
Thursday: Breakfast and departure to the forest at the same time. You’ll have the opportunity to carry out more data on the elephants or fill-out an elephant diary on their natural behaviours. After the hike, you can help us teach English at the school again, and after dinner, one of our interns will give a presentation relevant to the project.
Friday: Breakfast and departure to the forest at the same time. After the hike, volunteers who are finished project will leave in the afternoon (if booking a flight or further transport for this day, please ensure you fly out after 9pm). Volunteers who are staying longer than one week will have the opportunity to go back into Chiang Mai for the weekend if there is space in the transport, explore the surrounding area or simply relax in the village.
Volunteers and visitors are expected to wake up early in the morning and be prepared for a long hike into the forest. Hikes will usually return to the village around early afternoon but the day doesn’t end there. Volunteers and visitors will have the opportunity to participate in teaching English at the school, to the homestays and to the mahouts as well as learn about elephants in Asia and the local language and culture.
We have many add-ons in the village that volunteers can take part in if they wish, such as: basket weaving, scarf weaving, river tubing, Thai massage, night hikes, bamboo rafting, cooking class and forest sleep outs.
We provide an income for our community by housing our guests, volunteers and interns in their own homestay provided by the local people. All of our homestays are different from each other, some being a private room inside the family home, others being a wooden hut just outside the family home. Some homestays have a western toilet, others have a traditional squat toilet. Each one beautifully unique, just like their welcoming hosts. The accommodation is basic but comfortable and provides all bedding, a mattress, mosquito net, extension cord to charge electronics, filtered water and usually a shared bathroom with cold showers and toilet paper provided. Hot shower may be provided at our base hut (depending on water pressure). Please be aware that during the dry season there might not be a lot of water available in the pipes for running water, but there will always be a bucket of water in your homestay toilet to be used for showering or flushing the toilet. Electricity can also come off and at different intervals during the dry and rainy seasons.
We have a team of highly skilled staff ready to welcome you, who are both from the village and from all over the world. Our co-founders are a married couple - Kerri originally from Northern Ireland and Sombat, a local from the area who has grown up with elephants.
Upon arrival to project you will cover a healthy & safety and risk assessment training to mitigate any potential risks.
Basic western breakfast and Thai lunch & dinner and filtered water included. Homestays will provide a packed lunch and dinner in their home whereas breakfast will be provided at our communal base hut where our visitors/volunteers hang out during free time.
There is no wi-fi, but volunteers can get a local sim card to use with 4G and stay in touch.
The phone signal can be limited in places.
We are about a 5 hour drive from Chiang Mai city which has all the amenities that you will need. We are also about 1.5 hour drive from Mae Chaem town which has basic amenities and a local hospital.
We will meet you on our arrival date at our meeting point in Chiang Mai. This information will be provided before arrival.
No previous experience required
A packing list will be provided before arrival.
6 days/5 nights - 2 weeks: 15,000THB per week (approx. $520/£410/730AUD).
3 weeks - 6 weeks: an added 7,500THB per week (approx. $260/£205/365AUD)
7 weeks - 12 weeks: an added 5,000THB per week (approx. $180/£140/250AUD) FOR EXAMPLE: the cost of 9 weeks stay would be 15,000x2 + 7,500x4 + 5,000x3 = 75,000THB
Flights Travel insurance Visa costs Exploring the surrounding area during weekends for stays longer than a week (although we can help arrange this)
I want to apply to…