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Witness the Karen people's amazing bond with the elephants of Chiang Mai, while exploring the breathtaking scenery in the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. Volunteers with be exposed to the tribal knowledge of the Karen people, and also given the opportunity to teach and pass on some of their own knowledge at the local school or through other community projects. The goal is to bring these elephants back into the forest, and their mahouts back to the village with their families, and to allow them to lead as natural of lives as possible. Working in the Mae Chaem District with the locals will allow each volunteer to be transported into an authentic cultural experience, while remaining not far from the modern wonders of Chiang Mai.

Location of the Project:  Thailand
Project length:  Min 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival Airport:  Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)
Volunteer Work:  Work with elephants and local communities, veterinary duties, community projects
Age:  18-80
Important Note:  Volunteers are provided with a basic field kit, A personal items checklist will be provided upon registration. Orientation: You will be given an introduction and training program including lectures and field experience.

What's Included

Accommodations:  Home-stay with local village family
Food:  Three meals a day
Airport Transfers:  Transportation provided from meeting point to project location
Support:  Local in-country team and 24 hour emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, travel health insurance, visa, personal expenses, optional local excursions, international and domestic airport taxes, transfer from airport ($5)

The Elephant Rescue and Conservation program takes place in the Mae Chaem District, five hours into the mountainous region of Chiang Mai.  This remote region is known for its woven treasures, temples, waterfalls, and most importantly, as being a central location for the Karen people, a culture that has had a sacred relationship with the elephants in the region for over 100 years.

You will discover how to interpret elephant behavior during which time you will witness the direct impact of the program on the quality of life for the elephants in the region. You will be based in the village of Huay Pakoot and working in the surrounding forested  area, nearby farmland, and within the local community.

Staff and volunteers follow the elephants on hikes throughout the forest and observe their social and foraging behaviors, monitoring them for their long-term health and well-being. There are a few times volunteers get to directly interact with the elephants, and this happens every other Monday when new volunteers get to meet the elephants, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we do health checks with them (looking them over for bumps, bruises, scratches etc.). When we're not observing them, the elephants socialize and forage independently, being checked on by their mahouts a few times a day. 

The main outcome of the project is to support the community efforts to reintroduce rescued elephants into their natural habitat. 
Tasks may include:

  • Tracking elephants in the jungle
  • Assisting with veterinary duties
  • Monitoring elephant relocation programs
  • Assisting on numerous village projects
  • Discovering traditional food and native wildlife
Schedule: a typical day starts off with breakfast, followed by a 7am departure for the day's work. First task of the day is to locate the elephants in the jungle. This is a good opportunity to get friendly with the forest's many locals: monkeys, gibbons, flying squirrels, deers, etc. After administering a quick health inspection you will observe and learn the elephants' behaviors, during which time you will also assist with the reintroduction program. Afternoons are spent contributing to any village projects and tackling the weekly tasks. Volunteers are expected to work from Monday – Friday, leaving Saturday – Sunday as free days to explore the village or do some further travelling.  

Accommodations:  Volunteers stay with local families in home-stays within a traditional community. The quarters are very basic. Although some volunteers may have access to western toilets, most accommodations will have squat toilets and bucket showers. Volunteers are provided with a small pillow, sheets, and a mosquito net. Volunteers are expected to adapt and show respect to the new environment in which they will be living. This is a great opportunity to partake in an authentic cultural experience.
Food:  All meals are provided in the village. Most meals are rice based with fresh vegetables and meat, fish, or egg. The food is typically richly flavored with chili and local herbs. Vegetarians can easily be catered for and spice levels can be adjusted.
Internet:  No internet available in the village and minimal phone reception; best to tell family and friends that there isn't any communication. The project is in a rural location.
Laundry:  Local laundry services are available and fairly inexpensive. Otherwise, volunteers can purchase detergent and wash by hand.

Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:

  • Enthusiasm and flexibility
  • Police clearance form
  • Motivation to work with animals
  • Willingness to get hands dirty
  • Work well in a team 
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Minimum age 18
  • Immunizations (consult your doctor)

The program allows volunteers some personal time to discover the region and go on further adventures. Being northern Thailand's largest city, Chiang Mai offers diverse leisure and entertainment. The city boasts a modern attitude, with a selection of nightclubs, boutique hotels, night markets, and restaurants along the city boulevard. Chiang Mai still holds onto many ancient wonders making it a great place for sight seeing. Just outside of Chiang Mai, one is able to explore the wildlife and flora that is unique to Thailand; there is truly something fantastic to discover around every corner.

Program Add-Ons (Not Included):
Take your volunteering experience one step further!  Through the Internship Certification Program, you’ll have a personal mentor who will help you develop leadership skills, routinely assess your progress and provide a professional reference upon completion of the program. 
Please note that there is an additional cost for this program.

Volunteer Experiences
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