Volunteer Experience | Environmental & Wildlife

Thailand: Volunteer with Elephants

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Duration: 1-12 weeks commitment

Start Dates: Project starts on a Saturday with set start dates throughout the year. Check with us when applying.

Cost: from £1,360 for the first week. Check the Costs tab for further information.

Includes: All food, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation and all project related activities

Does not Include: flights, travel insurance, visas and vaccinations


  • Learn about the history, behaviour, training, biology and social interaction of elephants from the local Karen community
  • Become culturally aware living among an ethnic minority village and learn the local language Pakinyaw to assist you in your immersion into a different culture
  • Have the incredible opportunity to observe Asian Elephants in their natural habitats and social groups rather than in unnatural, damaging and often solitary environment
  • Teach English at the local school and participate in other community activities which will improve your own confidence and your relationship with the community
  • See the benefits of our ethical elephant tourism model in the elephants’ physical and psychological health
  • Living in a small, secluded community really encourages you to forge a unique relationship with your homestay family and mahouts as well as other volunteers and interns from all around the world

Please note: this is an ethical programme which does not involve any riding of the elephants

Costs Explained


Travel to Northern Thailand and join this ethical volunteer project aimed at monitoring elephants in their natural living environment.  The project was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants, who have been relieved from working in the tourism industry, in the forest. Assist with tracking the elephants’ rehabilitation and work alongside mahouts (traditional elephant keepers) and other locals to establish alternative livelihoods. Discover the unique culture of the Karen community, and the lush mountain forests of Northern Thailand in your free time.

As a volunteer you can learn about elephant behaviour and contribute directly to the elephants’ wellbeing by providing working alternatives for their owners, mahouts and locals, allowing the elephants to live in the forest. You will observe elephants alongside mahouts who draw on generations of knowledge about elephants.  

This program contributes to local conservation and globally to Sustainable Development Goals #4 Quality Education, #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, #13 Climate Action and #15, Life On Land, as set by the United Nations.

Daily Life

The main focus of this program will be monitoring a semi-wild herd of elephants who have previously been relieved from tourist camps. Volunteers and interns are encouraged to get involved with community work by teaching English to local community members.

Activities will include:

  • Hikes each day with the elephants – the length of hikes can range from 3-7 hours. Sometimes with minimal effort, but others can be challenging.
  • Collecting data on elephant behaviour – looking into their interaction with each other and their mahouts and looking at how they spend their time
  • Health Checks – once a week during hikes we do health checks to look for physical signs of ill health
  • Biodiversity Hikes – this is offered as an alternative to the ele hikes. You could be collecting data on birds, insect sampling, camera trap surveys, night hikes & medicinal hikes depending on season.
  • Awareness Presentations – Interns and volunteers will receive awareness presentations throughout their time on project, regarding numerous topics such as; elephant biology and welfare, ethical elephant tourism, biodiversity in the area, and the culture of the villagers here
  • Community Work – teaching English at a local primary school, to homestays, mahouts, local kindergarten ad women’s group
  • Cultural Activities – Basket weaving, rice picking, tree planting and language lessons. These depend on seasons.
  • Social Activities – Quiz, movie & games nights.

Volunteers will get the most out of the project if you immerse yourself in the community as well as the elephant hiking.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accom.

First night accommodation is in shared rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

In the village, each volunteer has their own room in a local homestay. This will either be in the homestay with the family (private room) or in a private hut away from the main house. There is cold running water for washing and drinking water is provided. Asian style squat toilet facilities are available. Participants will also be given at least one base duty day whilst on project to help keep base hygienic for everyone to use.

All meals are provided in the village. Most meals are rice based with fresh vegetables and meat/fish/egg. The food is typically richly flavored with chili and local herbs. Vegetarians can easily be catered for and spice levels can be adjusted. With dietary requirements, keep in mind the food will be basic. Breakfast is served at base on a daily basis. Lunch is provided by the homestay as a pack-up each day. Dinner will be served for the homestay in the evening, but volunteers do not eat with the homestay family.

There is a small coffee shop in the village where you can buy tasty coffee and basic snacks.

Fundraising Help


  • Minimum age 18
  • Be keen and enthusiastic to get involved in the project
  • Ability to work within a team environment
  • Minimum 1 week commitment
  • CRB Police check (or equivalent) showing that you have no previous criminal convictions
  • Signed medical form
  • Good English skills
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary flight & visas
  • Full travel & medical insurance. Full assistance will be provided in getting everything you will need ready if you choose our Placement Support Package.
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Duration Price
1 week £1,360
2 weeks £1,545
4 weeks £1,895
6 weeks £2,295
8 weeks £2,695
10 weeks £2,995
12 weeks £3,395

* Check the latest currency conversions with xe.com
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Placements are confirmed with a 20% deposit.

What’s Included:

Project Fee includes;

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practise
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Welcome meeting
  • Your own room within homestay
What’s not included:
  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

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We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators.

We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

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