Volunteer in the forests of Northern Thailand with a semi wild herd of elephants.
Travel to see the breathtaking mountainous scenery of Northern Thailand around Chiang Mai, and contribute to conserving the Asian elephants by living and working with traditional elephant-keeping communities.
Monday through to Friday
This internship consists of three aspects, namely community development (including teaching English), biodiversity, and elephants. This makes it an ideal opportunity to gain practical experience of skills that would serve you well for a career in conservation or zoology, or if you have an interest in the natural world that you would like to develop further. Each of these programs is run independently but are integrated and highly relevant to each other.
The community program consists of teaching English to children at the school and to the elephant keepers (mahouts), as well as supporting community efforts to reduce their financial dependence on their elephants. The biodiversity program involves surveying and identifying reptiles, mammals, insects and birds in the local area using different techniques. The elephant program consists of leading elephant health checks, studying the behaviour of the semi wild herd, and educating other participants about Asian elephants.
The biodiversity program involves surveying and identifying reptiles, mammals, insects and birds in the local area using different techniques. The elephant program consists of leading elephant health checks, studying the behaviour of the semi-wild herd, and educating other participants about Asian elephants.
As an intern, you will complete a 3 month training phase which includes an internship/leadership course, emergency first responder training and carrying out a leadership project, as well as having a series of lectures and assignments related to conservation. Thereafter your 3 months internship placement commences during which you will assist in leading projects such as learning how to lead an elephant hike. You will also be afforded with the opportunity to implement your own project during this second phase of your internship.
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 and on project with you at all times to facilitate and ensure the safety and security of all participants. Upon arrival to field you will cover a health, 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 flavoured with chilli 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.
You will be given the option to pay in instalments for an Instalment Fee of £125 per booking. If you select this Instalment Fee option, a non-refundable deposit payment of £350 is due within 48 hours of notice of acceptance onto the program, 50% of the balance will fall due 16 weeks before departure and the remaining 50% of the balance will fall due 12 weeks before departure. If you the Participant cancel this agreement, the Participant shall not be entitled to a refund of any monies paid.
If you do not select the Instalment Fee option, the full cost of your booking is due within 48 hours of notice of acceptance onto the program. If you the Participant cancel this agreement more than 16 weeks prior to departure, the Participant shall be entitled to a refund of the full amount paid minus £350.
If you the Participant cancel this agreement between 16 and 12 weeks prior to departure, the Participant shall be entitled to a refund of 60% of the full amount paid. If you the Participant cancel this agreement less than 12 weeks prior to departure, the Participant shall be entitled to a refund of £100.
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