Elephant conservation and hill tribe volunteering in Thailand

“Spend time with hill tribes and semi-wild elephants in the forests of northern Thailand. Physically demanding tasks, basic conditions and infinite rewards.”


Homestay with Karen hill tribe family | Assist with a range of one-off and on-going village projects | Hike out to see elephants | Forest camping | Chiang Mai |

Description of Elephant conservation and hill tribe volunteering in Thailand

This immersive six day volunteering experience in Thailand will take you into the mountainous jungles of the north where youíll find semi-captive elephants roaming free in the forests and traditional hill tribe communities living as they have done for generations.

Assisting local villagers and helping out with on-going conservation projects is a fundamental part of this uniquely authentic experience. Time spent with northern Thailandís wonderful wild, yet captive, elephant herds is just the icing on the cake for animal loving volunteers.

The opportunity to become part of a cultural and natural conservation experience is a real privilege and provides a much more in-depth understanding of Thailand and her people as opposed to lying on a beach for a week. Volunteers will help to make a really positive impact as well as casting indelible memories to keep and share on their return home.

Our community based responsible tourism holidays allow hill tribe villagers to truly benefit from our presence. Elephants, of course, also benefit and we aim to help them live freely in their natural forest environment without persecution from humans and the destruction of their habitat.

Although the elephants that we work with are captive and are used to coming into contact with humans, they are encouraged to behave as naturally, and with as much freedom, as possible. This means that they are not ridden by tourists and arenít chained up by local people.

Our elephant volunteering philosophy is to treat the natural environment with respect. The same goes for our volunteer work within the hill tribe communities; we aim to treat the traditions of hill tribes with respect whilst helping villagers to provide better water facilities for elephants and livestock as well as planting and harvesting grass for food, and protecting the forest during dry seasons.

Throughout this six day elephant conservation and hill tribe volunteering holiday youíll be involved in physical tasks and may well be outdoors all day, every day. We recommend a good to excellent level of fitness so you and the villagers get the most out of the experience.

As youíll be accommodated with a local family from the Karen hill tribe community youíll also experience life way beyond what you may be used to back home. Conditions will be comfortable, but basic, with no hot water showers. Bedding, mozzie net and toilets (sometimes squat toilets) are all provided so all you have to do is come with a positive attitude and an open mind to ensure you have the most successful volunteering experience possible in northern Thailand.

Please note: it is also possible to be accommodated in wild camping and glamping tents.

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.

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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.


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