This essential project works directly with elephants that are at-risk of abuse or neglect, working directly with their owners to provide the care and funds required to adequately care for them. Located approximately 60kms north of Surin city lies a very rural and very traditional Thai farming community and one of the most beautiful and genuine areas of Thailand. For centuries, the locals here have used the indigenous elephants as beast of burden, and up until the mid-1980’s local elephants here were still used for logging. Now however logging is an illegal process, meaning that the elephants have literally been made redundant. In order to pay for an elephants care, many of their owners (known as ‘Mahouts’) began to walk their elephants through the streets of the big cities, selling photo opportunities to tourists. This is obviously a hugely dangerous activity, plus takes elephants out of their natural environment to walk hot, dusty roads and breathe poisoned air. We partner organization in Thailand has created an innovative initiative where they have promised to support the Mahouts and the elephants by supplying physical labor and finance if they promise not to tout their elephants to tourists. In addition to covering the costs of accommodation and food, program fees on this project are used to ensure the elephants remain in a healthy, natural environment, receive the right healthcare and enjoy a regular healthy diet. This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work with real Thai Mahouts. Volunteers will spend three nights and four days each week learning how to work with, train, feed and wash the elephants. Volunteers on this program will gain great experience on animal welfare and know that they are truly helping animals in need.
Goals of this Project:
- Provide essential care to at-risk elephants in Thailand
- Stop the abuse of elephants by halting their use as tourist attractions
- Create a safer society for native Asian elephants to live
- Enable inter-cultural exchange which benefits both locals and international volunteers alike.
This amazing program works hands-on with elephants who are at very real risk of abuse or neglect due to economic factors. By being part of this program, supplying help to care for them and providing the funds (through program fees), these elephants can be saved from a life of misery. Through their participation volunteers will experience ‘real’ Thai community life first-hand, helping with cooking the meals, farming the land, getting their hands dirty on small micro-development projects, make paper from elephant poo, help with farming tasks, go kayaking and Thai fishing on the local river. They’ll also have the ability to learn the Thai language and Thai cooking skills, interact with the community children and loads more. Volunteers will find this to be extremely rewarding and an unforgettable experience.
Volunteers will contribute in a number of ways on this program and can expect to undertake some of the following tasks:
- Provide day to day care to elephants
- Help out in the local village and spending time with local children
- Work on micro-development projects in the village
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Volunteers are collected at Bangkok airport and spend the first two nights at the volunteer guesthouse located on amazing Khao San Road in the heart of Bangkok. Friday is free to settle in before commencing the orientation and city tour on Saturday. On Sunday volunteers are assisted to the coach terminal where they board a comfortable coach and make their way to Surin. What a fantastic way to begin a volunteering placement!
- Arrival Day: FRIDAY 6AM TO 9PM
- Departure Day: SATURDAY
- Arrival Airport: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand (Code: BKK)
Volunteers arrive into Bangkok and spend their first two nights in a guesthouse complete with all amenities and located in central Bangkok. Breakfast is included as is a welcome meal on Saturday whilst the day is spent enjoying this vibrant city in the capable hands of our local team.
On Sunday volunteers travel to Surin by coach and are accommodated in comfortable volunteer houses. Each house has several bedrooms with 4 single beds per room and western style bathroom facilities. Full kitchen facilities are available for preparing meals and the houses are all within easy walking distance to restaurants, shops and markets – a chance to to catch up on laundry, connect with friends and family and have a hot shower!
Monday to Friday are spent on-site at the Elephant Village, accommodated in a traditional Thai homestay. Bedrooms are basic but comfortable and WiFi is available at set times. There are a few small shops in the village.
Three meals per day are provided whilst at the Elephant Village (included in the program fee). Meals are prepared by the local family and volunteers are encouraged to be involved; both as a help to the family and a wonderful opportunity to learn about Thai cooking.
The volunteer house accommodation in Surin is self-catered and volunteers can make use of the kitchen facilities to prepare meals by purchasing ingredients from local markets and shops or they may prefer to dine out at the many cafes and restaurants within easy reach.
Registration Fee: The registration fee is USD 299 for those volunteering for the first time or USD 149 for any subsequent volunteer placements. The registration fee includes: lifetime Alumni Membership, fundraising support & advice, dedicated pre-departure support, certificate of completion (on request), and exclusive access to the Trip Planner.
Requirements: We welcomes all those 18 years and over who wish to give their time and energy to help protect and conserve the native wildlife of Thailand. This project is best suited to those who are either pursuing a career in animal conservation/zoological studies, or who simply wish to explore an interest in this field. However, the project is open to all and does not require participants to have specific education, qualifications or experience, as you will be shown everything you need to know by one of local project leaders. Importantly though, all applicants must first and foremost have a genuine willingness to help, show drive and initiative, and bring a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. If this sounds like you, we want you on the team!
Additionally, volunteers applying to join this program will be required to supply to following documentation:
- Emergency contact
Project Location: Surin is one of our favourite places in all of Thailand. For a true slice of Thai life far away from the tourist trail Surin offers the best experience. The elephant capital of Thailand so naturally the center of all of our elephant conservation work. Close to the border of Cambodia (Angkor Wat is only a day away) Surin will welcome you with one great big elephant hug with some of the best food, nicest people and BIGGEST friends you will ever make. Surin’s people have a long relationship with elephants and they have become the provincial icon. Throw in plenty of Khmer ruins, beautiful silk, and aromatic jasmine rice and they all make Surin an interesting destination.
Start Dates & Duration: This project is available year-round and programs start the 1st and 3rd FRIDAY of every month. Volunteers can choose to participate for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks.
Post-placement transport back to Bangkok: Return transport to Bangkok is not included in the program fee, however, the local team are happy to help with the arrangements and it is relatively straightforward and inexpensive.
The program finishes at lunchtime on your final Friday and you will be taken back to Surin. Most volunteers opt to take the overnight train to Bangkok Friday evening, arriving into Bangkok train station around 6:30am Saturday from where you can take a taxi or bus to the airport.
Alternatively you can stay Friday night at the Volunteer House in Surin and take a train or coach to Bangkok. Travelling by road is a 6 – 8 hour journey, depending on traffic.
A volunteer’s work day on this project will generally last between 4 and 6 hours and while we ask all volunteers to be flexible in this regard, a typical daily schedule is likely to go something like this:
7:30am Breakfast with the Host Family
8:15am Pre-start meeting with the program supervisor
8:30am VOLUNTEERING DUTIES START
Lunch is taken on the project site from 11:30am to 2:00pm as per local custom
4:00pm VOLUNTEERING DUTIES END
4:15pm De-brief with the program supervisor
Afternoon/Evening Free time to relax with fellow volunteers and explore the village
Dinner with the Host Family Volunteers are encouraged to help with preparing meals