Travellers Worldwide: Volunteer at Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
90% Rating
(2 Reviews)

Travellers Worldwide: Volunteer at Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

Change the fate of elephants in Thailand! You'll work hands-on with elephants, giving them lots of care, and also be helping to improve the living conditions of captive elephants in Thailand.

You'll be working with 10 elephants, but you'll be surrounded by up to 200 elephants. The experience of being in the middle of such a huge number of these majestic creatures is awesome ... breath-taking ... there are no words to describe it!

Each day that you are on this project supporting the elephants means that that the elephants have a day and a brighter future. By being there, looking after it, caring for it, bathing it in the river and taking it out on walks, you have an enormous effect on the elephant's daily quality of life. You'll also help plant food for the elephants and work on various other projects that directly help the elephants.

Locations
Asia » Thailand
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
Language
English
Housing
Hostel
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Full support from the moment of booking and throughout your placement to your return home. There are support staff 24/7 in all our destinations worldwide and a 24 hour emergency international telephone line direct to the Head Office. All meals are provided, unless otherwise stated. Accommodation is provided (whether a rented house, a hotel/hostel, homestay, apartment or flat).

Questions & Answers

Hi Jessica, the minimum age is 18 and the minimum stay is one week. Usually at least a week is needed to get the full experience from the program-- most volunteers I'm sure would say you should stay even longer :)

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    85%
  • Support
    90%
  • Fun
    85%
  • Value
    85%
  • Safety
    70%

Program Reviews (2)

Default avatar
Ellie
Female
32 years old
Sydney, Australia
University of Western Sydney

Awesome time, no regrets!

10/10

Please see below for an email I sent to staff at Travellers Worldwide two years ago when I was midway through my time in Surin, Thailand

"Hi Ana,

Now I've got a few spare minutes I'm able to sit down and get this message out to you. In one word; Fantastic!

From the moment we were met by Glenn at the airport in Bangkok to right now, about half way through our two-week stay at the project... we've been very well looked after and have had an amazing time.

Glenn was fantastic, ready and waiting for us, took care of our travel arrangements to get to the hotel, then from the hotel to our meeting point on Monday morning. Not only was he very informative, but really friendly too. Great, great guy

The hotel we stayed in in Bangkok was just what we needed, huge beds, friendly staff and air conditioning :D

Because there were so many of us making our way from the meeting point to the project, we had our very own private van/bus to take us there. We were blown away, this new shiny vehicle looked mostly like a space ship and was very comfortable and a great way to get to know our fellow volunteers, as we had plenty of time to chat on the long journey.

Upon arriving in Surin, the experience hasn't stopped. From our cute little house up on stilts, with a fridge, fan, mosquito screen and a hammock downstairs. The showers and toilets are pretty basic but they're all we need and you've got no complaints from me.

As for the staff, Pum and Alex, plus the mahouts, we could not have asked for anything more. They are so friendly, full of information, and always up for a laugh or a waterfight :) They are doing amazing work here, and I feel privileged to be taking part in it.

We've been lucky enough to be in Thailand for their New Year's celebration... so much fun. A three-day-long waterfight, which the elephants have enjoyed as well.

Which brings me to the main event! The elephant work has been hot, sometimes tough, completely unique and dirty. I have loved every minute of it. From just walking out onto our balcony each morning and being surrounded by them, getting up close and personal with a few of the more friendly ones, getting to feed them, walk with them, provide infrastructure for their future and washing them in the river.

We've learned a lot from Alex about the situation we have in front of us here, and why we're taking this method to fix it. I have so much respect for him and his team here, and I'm sure everyone will agree that he's just a top guy all round.

That about covers all the important stuff, so if you've got any questions just let me know."

As you can see, I wholeheartedly support the project and would recommend it to anyone with an adventurous spirit and a love for elephants. In terms of the rating I gave for safety whilst on the project (I gave eight out of ten) it purely comes down to remaining aware of your surroundings and having some common sense. I was thinking about giving it 10 out of 10, but I don't want people getting the wrong idea - you can and will get hurt if you do not pay attention to the advice of those looking after you. But if you keep your wits about you, you shouldn't have any cause for concern.

It truly is an amazing experience

How can this program be improved?

Yes, one thing. I want to be able to take the elephants home with me. That is all I would change.

Default avatar
sarahvanoirschot
Female
24 years old
Peterborough, Ontario, CAN
Trent University

Surin Elephant Project

8/10

I participated as a volunteer for the Surin Elephant Project in May, 2011 for 2 weeks and absolutely loved it! It is an unforgettable experience and an provides a first-hand, dynamic perspective on the elephant situation in Asia.

General Description
You will live in the village among the local mahouts and their elephants and really get an authentic experience of Thai culture and wildlife. This project and the well-being of the elephants rely heavily on volunteers coming each week both financially and for their labor. If there are less than 5 volunteers per week, they usually are at a deficit. The money you pay to participate in the project goes towards paying the mahouts to be a part of the project and towards the elephant's food. If the mahouts are not employed by the project they generally do not have an initiative to take their elephants to the forests or rivers everyday and the elephants end up on chains. You will see elephants that are not a part of the project in other parts of the village that are chained virtually all day and all night. It is very sad, but it makes it worthwhile knowing that your time there and work is contributing to the expansion of the project. The elephant and general conservation situation in Thailand is very complex and I gained a more extensive understanding of the many obstacles that the project faces. Seeing the elephants on chains and the extensive loss of habitat to human development is frustrating and disheartening at first, but the Project does an incredible job of illustrating different social, economic and conservation issues in rural Thailand.

Workload
You will definitely be put to work during the days, so you can't be afraid to break a sweat or get a little dirty. Labor is never grueling because you're usually doing something different everyday and you take lots of breaks. The work is rewarding because it is directly benefiting the elephants. Some of the work I experienced included: harvesting and transporting sugarcane and other crops, digging holes and constructing enclosure fence, planting bamboo, cleaning and clearing food scraps and elephant dung from their living areas, cutting plant pods and extracting seeds, washing and preparing food for elephants and other daily responsibilities. We nearly finished building the new elephant enclosure and observatory when I was there. This makes it possible for the project elephants to spend hardly any time on the chains during the day. Also, you walk the elephants to the watering hole once a day and the river twice a week to watch them bathe and play. You can go in the water with them and play with them, scrub them down, feed them cucumbers and take pictures. Its really casual and fun, not at all orchestrated or tourist-y.
You become very familiar and connected to the elephants in the projects as well as their mahouts and other villagers.

Accommodations & Lifestyle
You will be staying in one of the project's raised wood huts with your own room and mosquito nets. You have a host woman who makes sure you are comfortable and happy and also does your laundry for you. They are so sweet and hospitable but hardly know any English. There are hammocks under the huts that are perfect for relaxing with a beer, reading or socializing with other volunteers and mahouts. This was my favourite part of the day after working in the heat. The people running the project are easy going, freindly and very accommodating. They really will go out of their way if you need anything or have any questions.

Everyday you have to wake up and be ready for breakfast for around 7:30AM and start cleaning the elephants areas at 8:00. I never used an alarm to wake up because there are roosters everywhere. Sometimes they start crowing at 5:00, so bring a pair of earplugs just in case. Either way, you get used to the routine and its not a big deal. You are supplied with plenty of clean, cold drinking water throughout the day and lunches at the local restaurant. Most of the places you go everyday are walking distance and you'll get to know your way around the village. If you aren't walking, you'll usually hitch a ride on the back of the project's pickup truck for longer trips to the sugar cane fields or local market. The food is delicious, especially if you like a lot of flavor and spice! If not, they offer vegetarian dishes and also have more Westernized food available for picky eaters. Everything is really affordable there and there's lots of vendors in the village if you want to purchase any souvenirs. There is also a small museum and elephant center just down the road from where you stay that has free WIFI. You are given locks and keys for your room so I brought my laptop and got along just fine. If you don't want to lug a computer, you can pay to use one at the elephant center and it's pretty cheap. If you feel tired or sore at the end of the day, ask about the lady down the road with the salon. I had a 2 hour Thai massage, pedicure and she brushed my hair and put a flower in it and gave me herbal tea all for the equivalent of about $10 Canadian dollars... I of course gave her more, seeing as I usually pay $60 at home for a 1 hour massage. She was really nice and played calming Thai music.

You can pick up basic Thai words and phrases during a 1-2 week stay. If you choose to stay for longer, your knowledge of the language will naturally become more extensive. There are many different cultural practices and social etiquettes in Thailand and you will be briefed on the basics upon arrival if you are not yet familiar with them. The village is in a rural area and is generally more religious and conservative than Bangkok or other areas in the South. There are many Buddhist temples nearby and you will see a lot of local monks. If you are female, you should pack shirts that cover your shoulders and pants/skirts/shorts that cover your knees. It is not a strict requirement, but out of respect for the locals it is more polite for you to dress modestly.

Overall, if you enjoy new experiences, volunteering, working with animals, and don't mind getting your hands dirty, this is a perfect experience. You can be any age, fitness type or working background to do this project. You will not be forced to do anything if you don't want to, but you most likely will want to participate in everything anyways. I would suggest going with a group of friends or family members if you really want to make it extra fun. I went alone for my first time and I made lots of friends, but I most definitely plan on going back with friends next time. Either way, have a good attitude and open mind and you'll meet nice people and have a a great experience.

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