Elephant conservation project with hill tribes in Thailand

“Cultural and natural immersion experience for four days in northern Thailand. Learn how to track and observe elephants and live life in the forest”


Karen hill tribe homestay | Jungle trek and wild camping | Track and observe elephants in the wild |

Description of Elephant conservation project with hill tribes in Thailand

This four day volunteering experience places you in close proximity to the elephants living freely in the forests of northern Thailand.

Wild camping allows you to become completely immersed in the natural environment whilst living as part of a Karen hill tribe community lets travellers become, very much, like one of the family. Meeting local villagers, on their level, is an absolute privilege and bound to resonate with volunteers looking for a deeper understanding of life away from Thailandís tourist hot spots.

As the elephants live way off the beaten track, deep within forests, it is our aim to maintain this natural environment and ensure the balance between humans and animals sustains.

Elephants are free to roam and grow as they make the most of natural forest foliage for food. They are comfortable around humans but theyíre not ridden nor chained. Our volunteering spirit aims to keep interaction to a minimum as well as expanding on the mantra: leave no trace.

Responsible tourism projects, such as this one, allow the natural environment to remain protected whilst also benefitting hill tribe villagers in order to help them maintain their traditional lifestyles and cultural customs without detriment to elephant herds.


During this four day volunteering experience youíll be staying with a hill tribe family in their own home as well as camping wild in the forests of northern Thailand. Both of these accommodation options offer unique insight into the natural and cultural world of Southeast Asia as well as providing an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and experience life from a whole new perspective.

Host family housing is basic, comfy and hospitable with bedding, mozzie nets, accessible bathrooms, bucket showers and toilets (seated and squat) providing a simple yet efficient place to stay. The emphasis is on community living and the more you put in the more you will get out.

Wild campsites are temporary and dependant on the location of the elephants. Tents will be erected, hammocks will be hung and camp kitchens will provide a community hub from where to experience life outdoors surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle at night.

Please note: glamping tents and alternative volunteering holidays are also available. Please get in touch for more details.

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

01273 823 700 Calling from outside the UK?

Departure information

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

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

All passengers are educated about the fragility of the ecosystems that we visit and are asked to behave accordingly. Our experienced guides provide any necessary clarification of appropriate behaviour. Trekking passengers are told to bring plastic zip-lock bags in which to keep used toilet paper for disposal at an appropriate point. All our guides and mahouts are passionate about the forest they have grown up in and teach us so much about how to protect this valuable resource that they want to be home for their elephants and all the wildlife that lives here. As a Uk registered charity our mission is to return elephants back to their natural environment. The forest needs the elephants to survive and the elephants belong in this forest. We work not only to improve the lives of the elephants but also the community who care for them and the forest they all need to thrive. The more elephants we can return the greater area of forest we can protect. Full and comprehensive details of tours are available in paper-free form on our website, including a PDF version of the brochure. The UK office uses recycled and recyclable materials wherever possible. Biodegradable waste is composted in the company garden. We use, where available, biodegradable or reusable containers for packed lunches on all tours. Refillable bottles are used to transport water while trekking. Where water is a scarce commodity passengers are made aware of the need to be frugal with its consumption. We use as much from the forest as possible, making cups and cooking pots from bamboo.

The Impacts of this Trip

Local agents carry out administrative tasks wherever practicable in Thailand. Tour leaders live in Thailand and contribute full time to the local economies. We use indigenous local agents; Thai and Karen 100% of the time for tour activities and chartered transport. Our tours are to a real Karen hill tribe village only; we follow a model of community-based tourism thus bringing economic benefit to the whole community. A percentage of the tourists payment is donated to the village Elephant Community Fund, this is vital if an elephant becomes sick and needs transporting to the hospital many hours away or for growing supplementary food for sick elephants. We are a UK registered charity, 100% not for profit and our pricing structure clearly represents this. We take a small percentage of the overall cost and this is to help us with the monthly wages for the mahouts to take care of the elephants in the forest. We are active in raising awareness for captive working elephants, working with tour operators to ensure welfare is always at the top of the agenda. Our project is leading the way in showing alternative models for elephant tourism. Where guests are encouraged to just sit back and watch the elephants in their natural habitat at a safe and respectful distance.


3 Reviews of Elephant conservation project with hill tribes in Thailand

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 14 Jul 2018 by

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

I canít recommend this operator enough. Not only were the elephants themselves breathtakingly beautiful but our points of contact, Phoebe and Mint were very knowledgeable and lovely company!
The whole village were very welcoming and made us feel like part of their community for the short time we were with them. We never went hungry, with
the villagers always making sure we had a good meal, there was always a variety to choose from at meal times and it all tasted delicious! The mahouts were always laughing and trying to communicate with us using the little bits of English they knew, which put us at ease really quickly. You could see the great bond they had with their elephants which was a heart warming sight. After seeing elephants like this in their natural habitat I donít think Iíd ever like to see them any other way again. There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that these elephants are well looked after and where they need to be to get the most for-filling and natural life possible. There were plenty of chances to take great pictures from a safe distance and we were pleasantly surprised by the accommodation both in the village and in the jungle were above expectation, very homely with a lot of the comforts of the western world. I am so pleased I got to have this experience and I will remember the Karen villagers, the mahouts, the elephants and the foundation staff with the fondest of memories. Canít praise highly enough.

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

I would certainly recommend learning a few local phrases in order to communicate with the villagers. Pheobie gave us an excellent phrase book which we used to say hello, goodbye and thank them for the lovely food and hospitality. They were hugely appreciative of us talking in their language.

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

Without a doubt, the money we spent on this experience went to a good cause. The Villagers love very basic lifestyles and it was heart warming to know that both they, the elephants and of course us were benefiting from our visit.

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

Absolutely 10 out of 10, we couldnít fault it. I was a bit sceptical at first as I
have never done anything like this before, however I am so glad I did it and
will be hoping to return in the not so distant future.

Reviewed on 07 Dec 2017 by

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

Elephant Conservation Project with Hill Tribes trip and walking with elephants.

Enjoyed every minute of it from being picked up from my hotel in Chiang Mai
up to having to say good byes to the hill tribe family and the team ... The Karen hill tribe village stay was insightful and they were so welcoming. Walking with elephants was truly amazing, they are so happy. The camping in the forest was great fun and the food was excellent. The views from the village and in the forest couldnít be better!

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

Have a great time - I so did :)

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

Yes, every part of the trip.

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

Just amazing, the best experience ever! The team are wonderful, passionate about their individual roles, the location is beautiful and the elephants are enjoying life to the full.

Reviewed on 17 May 2017 by

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

Every moment was worth it. Unforgettable experience, just following the elephants every day as they forage and bathe and drink and eat in their natural home, the forests. I think that's the most unique part of going on this tour with the Elephant Community project - every day is different, because every day's "itinerary" is decided by the elephants . The highlight for me was watching the elephants drink from a stream/ mini waterfall. It was amazing to be able to be so close to them.

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

There is a fair amount of hiking up and down steep slopes so remember to bring your hiking shoes or boots. There will also be sudden downpours from time to time so it's a good idea to bring a raincoat. Fitness-wise, if you hike regularly you'll be fine but those who aren't used to it may find it strenuous. You will be pretty much hiking all day minus meal times but there will be plenty of breaks throughout the day whenever the elephants decide to stop and eat/ drink/ play. I think just generally be open-minded and be willing to immerse yourself in the local culture is important.

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

Yes I am told that the donation I made to the charity for this trip helps pay the mahouts' salaries so hopefully this type of community-based tourism gains more traction and makes a difference to their livelihood in the long run. The charity definitely does a lot to support the conservation of Asian elephants in their natural habitat so I am glad I joined them on this tour.

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

Fantastic. Came home with a ton of amazing pictures and videos. I am planning to do this again :)

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