Family volunteering with elephants in Thailand

Description of Family volunteering with elephants in Thailand

Take your family off the beaten track and into the heart of elephant heaven! Spend your days working hands on with the friendly Asian elephant bathing them in the river and getting involved in their daily life of feeding and grazing. Both children and adults alike love getting to know these gentle giants, and making a genuine contribution to their welfare.

Traditionally elephants in Thailand were taken from the wild and adapted into working animals, becoming an intrinsic part of the logging industry. From a young age, elephant and mahout (carer) would be united, spending their lives together working hard and earning a living. With the rise of technology, the logging industry became mechanical, and elephants and their mahouts were left without jobs, money and ways to feed themselves. Many turned to street begging and performance, which 20 years ago became illegal. Once again, the elephants and their mahouts were left without income and means to look after themselves.

The elephant conservation park was set up in 1996 to create a new home for these displaced and misused elephants. Here they now live with their mahouts, roaming freely with their mahouts during the day time, and spending a lot of time with the volunteers.

This is a very moving and important project. Taking part in this project helps to get the elephants one step closer to a life that they deserve. Your help bathing the elephants, feeding them, learning about them and watching them interact gives a sense of purpose to both the mahouts and the elephants, taking them a step further away from a life in chains with each day that passes, and with each volunteer that helps out here.

Children and adults can get fully stuck in here, and love to do so. You can all get fully involved with the feeding, bathing and general conservation work that goes on around the park. There are lots of other rescued animals here too, and often our volunteers will head into the local community too.

You will be living right in the centre of the park, falling asleep to the sound of the elephants calling. Three delicious meals per day are provided, catering for all dietary requirements.

You will be transferred from Chiang Mai early on a Monday to start your project. We will arrange your accommodation on Sunday night very close to your start point so that you are refreshed and ready to go on the Monday. Your return transfer will be on a Sunday, arriving back to Chiang Mai at around 5pm.

Day-by-day itinerary

1: SundayYou and your family will arrive in Chiang Mai. Comfortable central accommodation will be arranged for you so that you can get a good night's sleep before heading to the park first thing on Monday morning.
2: MondayStarting early (leaving Chiang Mai at about 8am!) you will head out to the park to meet the ellies!
7/ 14: SunOn your final Sunday you will be transferred back to Chiang Mai, either to the city centre or to the airport. Expect to be back in Chiang Mai at about 5pm.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Family volunteering with elephants in Thailand


Animal welfare
The project’s goal is to establish an alternative to both street begging, and to other forms of tourism, such as performing elephants and elephant rides. The project is run by an NGO, currently caring for 33 elephants that are in the main body of the park. As volunteer numbers increase, as well as funding and awareness, the NGO hopes to steadily increase the number of elephants that they can “adopt” in order to improve their standard of living and quality of life.

The project aims to have the elephants roaming freely in their natural habitat, with their mahouts.

The set up is growing to help to provide the elephants with sustainable food- this involves planting to replace any food taken to feed the elephants, to reduce impact on the local wildlife. There is a vast importance placed on the replanting rainforest scheme.

Our company is an environmentally responsible one that operates recycling and reusing of waste products. We also offset carbon emissions in our office (gas,electricity, business mileage) and encourage all participants to offset their flight emissions via a carbon offset scheme run in conjunction with Tree Aid.

Participants are advised to use hand wash gel that does not require water. We also advise, during our pre departure briefing, to take care with water. In many of our destinations, water is precious and expensive.


Meeting local needs
Working closely with the mahouts, this project is aiming to give purpose and income back to their community, encouraging them away from street begging and other forms of circus entertainments for tourists. All volunteers live ion site, with members of the local community employed to feed them and clean the accommodation. An education centre has been built in conjunction with the local community, to help awareness for the plight of the Asian elephant, and why this project is so important. Having volunteers here directly benefits local shops and tourism concerns run by locals.

Cultural sensitivity
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in rural Thailand.

We send restricted numbers of people at any one time, which minimises the environmental and social impact that the participants have on the destination. Our participants become fully immersed and integrated into the community.

All of our participants receive comprehensive pre-departure briefing. This covers topics on how to be culturally sensitive, how to best look after the environment when in the country and how to stay safe as well as up to date information on the political situation. They are also briefed on how to dispose of waste properly and where possible, to avoid using plastic water bottles as these are not easy to dispose of environmentally.

2 Reviews of Family volunteering with elephants in Thailand

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 04 Jul 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Being so close to the elephants for so much of the day! Honestly, the entire trip was memorable and exciting, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The animals, the staff, the other volunteers, the food, the additional evening programs, the school visit one morning - it was one of the best weeks of my life!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Just do it! What an amazing place! I can't wait to go back.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely! I felt like it was possibly the only legitimate place in terms of elephant conservation. No rides, picture painting or anything that requires a negative impact on the elephants. The local people seemed genuinely happy to work there and host volunteers and visitors from around the world.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Phenomenal. Just the best week. I want to do it over again!

Reviewed on 21 Dec 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Helping at the elephant hospital and working one on one with Nam Fon

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

To book directly through the sanctuary's website. I could have saved myself $700 if I had done this. And as I now am in debt on my credit card from this trip, I wish I knew to book through the sanctuary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes absolutely. I have also continued my work here in the US by helping to fund raise for the sanctuary.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

10 out of 10, even though I got salmonella poisoning.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you so much for completing the Responsible Travel feedback form. We really appreciate that you have taken the time to do this. We are delighted that you had such a great time overseas and enjoyed volunteering at the sanctuary. The sanctuary is an inspiring place and one that we love to work with. We were very sorry to hear that you got food poisoning whilst you were on holiday, and hope that you recovered quickly and were able to make the most of your time away still.

We feel that it is important to address your comments about booking in the UK and booking locally in Thailand. Whilst booking directly with the sanctuary is indeed cheaper up front, in the long run booking through an agent brings you greater benefits. We interview each participant that goes away with us, and spend as much time as is needed on the phone chatting things through, making sure that the volunteer is right for the project and that the project is right for you. Help is always at hand in the UK, either over the phone, email or even Facebook. We afford a high level of care and support to our volunteers, as this ensures that you are a good fit for the project and that your expectations are correct. This also means that you receive 24/7 support in both the UK and Thailand.

We have found that, for many people, it can be a daunting experience to book something direct as it can be unclear if it is a legitimate enterprise. Paying in a foreign currency to a foreign website is often a risk. Booking through an agent guarantees that you are paying in your own currency to a secure and trusted organisation. Additional extras that you will have received booking through us is financial protection, a friendly service that speaks your language, extra trip preparation help, accommodation, some kit, discounts at kit providers, assistance with flights and the option of getting personalised travel insurance.

We are pleased that you benefited from our service, which ultimately meant that you were able to go to Thailand and volunteer at the sanctuary. All that we do means that our volunteers have the confidence to take the trip, and we are delighted to help hundreds of travellers to achieve these life changing trips each year.

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