Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative

Split your time between working with gentle Asian elephants and teaching English to children.

Highlights

  • Responsibly care for elephants living at a true sanctuary
  • Learn about cultural, social and environmental issues related to elephant tourism
  • Teach English in a primary school classroom
  • Hike to waterfalls and soak in natural hot springs
  • Visit colorful night bazaars filled with local cuisine and handicrafts

Overview

Travel to Chiang Rai, where you’ll lend your compassion to caring for elephants at a true elephant sanctuary. These animals are an important part of Thailand’s culture: traditional symbols of royal power, an essential feature of Buddhist art and regarded as spiritual mentors. Learn how their cultural significance, conservation and controversial tourism are all deeply interwoven in complex discussions. Then, volunteer as an English teacher in local schools and temples. Exploring Chiang Rai’s waterfall trails, hot springs and national parks after service will inspire an appreciation for nature and an easy pace of life.

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Community Service

Volunteer at a home for elephants alongside mahouts—elephant keepers—who are committed to the long-term sustainability of promoting healthy environments for these animals. You’ll rise before dawn to feed your elephant, and most afternoons, lead them to the nearby river for a bath. The work requires energy and passion to directly care for elephants morning and night, but is deeply rewarding. You’ll assist with a variety of physical projects as well, such as food harvesting, reforestation or land rehabilitation, that help achieve long-term harmony for the elephants, who live in protective captivity due to human encroachment on their population.

Hands-On Learning

In addition to observing the animals’ biology and social behavior, you’ll also become deeply engaged with complex global issues regarding captive elephant welfare, tourism and conservation. Discuss the challenges elephants and mahouts face today with mounting tourism and endangerment caused by human activity. You’ll have the opportunity to visit an elephant hospital, watch documentaries and listen to regional experts speak on these controversial topics. To gain a complete perspective on Thai culture, you’ll also spend a day at a high school for cultural exchange, get to know the local students, visit beautiful temples in Northern Thailand and explore interesting markets.

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Adventure

Taking care of elephants is passionate work—and giving your energy and effort to provide great care will reward you with a deep emotional connection with the animals. You’ll get to hike alongside the elephants in breathtaking, rural surroundings. To break from service at the elephant home, go whitewater rafting down the Mae Taeng River, taste foods you may never have seen before and explore outdoor markets with artistic handicrafts and fashions made by local artisans.

Lodging

The GLA Home Base is a rustic lodge in a northern Thai Elephant Home. The Home Base features a covered eating area and is basic, but clean and safe. Students stay in gender-segregated rooms with roommates and have access to showers and western-style toilets.

Dates & Tuition

The Elephant Village Initiative Flagship
Duration: 8 Days
Tuition: $1,950
Student/Staff Ratio: -
Max Capacity: 25 (Minimum Group Size: 12)
Community Service Hours: 20
Language Hours: -
Additional Notes
See What’s Included
Tuition includes all in-country expenses including:
  • All educational materials
  • Lodging
  • 3 meals per day
  • All in-country transportation
  • Airport pick-up/drop-off
  • Professional full-time staff and experts from the USA/Europe
  • 24/7 Parent Support Hotline during the program
  • Secondary medical and travel insurance
  • All cultural activities, lectures and weekend excursions
  • Pre-departure materials and support
More Information
Fundraising

Tips to raise funds for your trip

Interested in Family-Friendly trips? Check out Discover Corps, our volunteer vacations for adults and families, in collaboration with the National Peace Corps Association.