Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative

Elephants are Thailand’s gentle giants—learn about their cultural importance and how to care for these majestic animals.

Highlights

  • Volunteer alongside trained elephant keepers to care for elephants
  • Speak with community leaders about the significance of their work
  • Experience Thailand’s vibrant culture
  • Visit colorful street markets filled with local handicrafts
  • Test your skills on a whitewater rafting adventure

Overview

Travel to a rural village in northern Thailand where you’ll have the unique opportunity to ethically interact with elephants, an important figure in Thai society and significant symbol for many centuries. In this program, you’ll rise early to assist mahouts—elephant keepers who commit their lives to caring for these special animals—and learn how elephant conservation, local community life and tourism are all deeply connected in this region. Surrounded by the Mae Taeng mountains, you’ll also explore the unique sights and smells of Thailand on a variety of cultural excursions.

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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: 10 Days
Tuition: $2,300
Student/Staff Ratio: 12/1
Max Capacity: 25 people
Community Service Hours: 20
Language Hours: N/A
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.