Support community efforts working with elephants, relieved from their previous lives in the tourism industry.
Travel to Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province and volunteer with elephants relieved from working in the tourist industry. Assist with the elephants’ rehabilitation and help mahouts (traditional elephant keepers) and other villagers establish alternative livelihoods. Discover the fascinating culture and lush mountain forests of Northern Thailand in your free time.
Monday through to Friday
This is a hands-off, ethical elephant project aimed at monitoring Asian elephants in a natural living environment.The project was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants in the forest under semi-wild management. Work is Monday through to Friday. Each day you will hike with the elephants and their mahouts. The length of the hikes can vary depending on the time of the year but you can expect them to range from 3-7 hours. Some of these hikes can be intense and hard work whereas others require less effort and are relatively easy!
During the hikes we collect data on the elephant herd’s behaviours – specifically their interactions with each other and their mahouts as well as how they spend their time. Furthermore, once a week we conduct a health check on the elephants in order to look for physical signs of ill-health.
You can also choose to participate in biodiversity hikes instead of elephant hikes – gathering data on bird, butterfly and frog species, camera trap surveys, bat surveys, night hikes and medicinal hikes depending on the season.
We also always encourage you to take part in our community work too. Such activity include teaching English two days a week at the local primary school, twice a week to your host family, mahouts and women’s English groups. We also teach at the local kindergarten and nursery once a week.
You will get the most out of the project if you immerse yourself in the community here as well as the elephant hiking. You will also receive awareness presentations throughout your time on project, regarding numerous issues such as; elephant biology, welfare and biodiversity in the area.
It is a 2 hour drive to the town of Mae Chaem. Travelling around the local area is easily done on foot. There is no public transport but visits into the city by car can be arranged at your own expense.
In your down time you will be free to travel in the local area. The program is unscheduled during weekends, which means that you could visit Doi Inthanon National Park, go bamboo rafting, or go on a trip to Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son.
Short or extended trips to neighbouring Laos or Thailand’s beautiful islands and beaches are also possible after completion of the program.
In the village, each volunteer has their own room in a local homestay. This will either be in the homestay with the family (private room) or in a private hut away from the main house. There is cold running water for washing and drinking water is provided. However, just be prepared that the toilet facilities are Asian style squat toilets. Basic bedding and a thin mattress is provided at your homestay. You may wish to bring your own pillow but a basic one will be provided for you.
Whenever travelling you should be aware of the risk of opportunist crime and take common sense precautions to minimise the chance of becoming a victim. Project staff are on base & on project with you at all times to facilitate and ensure safety & security of all participants. Upon arrival to field you will cover a healthy & safety and risk assessment training to mitigate any potential risks.
All meals are provided in the village. Most meals are rice based with fresh vegetables and meat/fish/egg. The food is typically richly flavored with chili and local herbs. Vegetarians can easily be catered for and spice levels can be adjusted. With dietary requirements, keep in mind the food will be basic. Breakfast is served at base on a daily basis. Lunch is provided by the homestay as a pack-up each day. Dinner will be served for the homestay in the evening, but volunteers do not eat with the homestay family.
You will have limited access to long-distance communications whilst on the program, so make sure friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. Wi Fi is available at Root’s coffee shop in the village, but be aware that power cuts and storms make this unreliable. On visits to towns, internet cafes are available.
Mobile phone reception is possible and relatively reliable on site, and sim cards with AIS 1-2-GO company can easily be purchased in the city. The AIS sim card is the most reliable in the village and the staff members can help you purchase one on Sunday before leaving for the village. If you are using a Thai Sim card you will need to have an unlocked smart phone and a phone that can use 3G.
A change of environment, climate, food and lifestyle often results in minor, and occasionally more serious, illness. Please inform staff if you feel unwell at any time.The nearest emergency medical facilities are located in Khun Yuam Town, about 45 minutes away. We take great steps to ensure your safety, by providing expert elephant handlers during all contact time, teaching you to read elephant behaviour, and providing safety briefings on arrival. First Aid trained staff will be on hand. Please note that GVI cannot provide specific medical advice. Please consult your primary care provider (doctor, GP, etc.) or visit a travel clinic for further information. It is very important to note regarding the Travel Insurance required – please ensure your policy covers Helicopter evacuation.
We can provide airport pick-ups between 12pm and 5pm on the project start date at Chiang Mai Airport – please make sure to inform the your support coordinator of your arrival plan if you require this service, so we can arrange your airport pick up accordingly.
Passport, Criminal Background check, Medical form
Moderate to high fitness level required
A list of essential equipment will be provided upon booking confirmation
Once you have confirmed your spot on this program, you will be allocated to a dedicated program expert who will assist you as you prepare for your program.
Project staff on base who facilitate the project, run training’s & assist with any additional health & safety needs if required. 24 Hour emergency phone. Please ask your program expert for more information.
With GVI I was able to travel to a remote village and be involved learning about elephant conservation programs in Chiang Mai in Thailand. In such a small amount of time I was able to see how the staff GVI take data and health checks on the elephants as well as encouraging volunteers to become immersed with the Karen Tribe culture by teaching us the native language, have us practice this by staying in homes of the local villagers. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet other like minded people from all over the globe of different ages, back grounds, life experience together to make a difference for good of this community.
Volunteering with this project changed my life. It was such an amazing experience. So much so, I returned to GVI the following year but this time to Costa Rica. I know work in the charity industry and truly believe that having GVI on my CV helped in my favour. I already cant wait to rejoin GVI. This time it will be Mexico for the Marine Conservation Project!!
I had no idea when I signed up for this experience what a life changing adventure it would be for me. From the moment I arrived in Huay Pakoot, I was in love with the people, the village, the food and of course, the elephants. I knew very little about wildlife conservation and also very little about my impact on the environment. I was so inspired from my experience that I decided to return a second time to volunteer in Huay Pakoot. My time with the elephants and the people who care for them is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I would highly recommend this project for anyone who loves people, animals and nature.
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