Have an awesome elephant experience in stunning rural Thailand
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Group Size: Varies
Trip code: THEE
Duration: 1-4 weeks
Enjoy an incredible elephant experience in stunning rural Thailand. Enjoy a cultural adventure and get up close to these majestic creatures as you stay at an 'elephant village' and live alongside local people in a Thai village off the beaten track. Help out with hands-on care of these amazing animals and live with the locals at a homestay in a rural Thai village. Spend weekends in sunny Surin and explore more of Thailand or hop across the border into Cambodia in your free time!
- Spend two days in the buzz of Bangkok
- Stay in stunning scenery off the beaten track in rural Thailand
- Elephants never forget: Bond with these incredible creatures and make a difference as you help enrich the life of up to 35 elephants in a hands-on role, feeding and bathing the elephants
- Spend 3 nights per week in a homestay with local villagers for a true cultural experience and spend the rest of the week in Surin with loads of time off to explore
- Enjoy cultural activities such as Thai cookery and kayaking on the river and as you are close to the Cambodian border you can hop across at your leisure and explore!
Get ready for an amazing and authentic elephant experience in the heart of rural Thailand, as you head off the beaten track and immerse yourself on this unique elephant experience at an elephant village hidden in an idyllic Thai hideaway. Get to know the local villagers and get hands-on with these mighty creatures for an unbelievable, up-close elephant experience!
About the Elephant Project
Elephants were traditionally used in Thailand either in the Army or to help with logging, but once logging was outlawed the elephants lost their purpose and their handlers, known as 'mahouts', are often forced to find other ways to make enough money to feed and keep the elephants, such as begging on the city streets. The elephant project was set up to provide a safe home for the elephants, taking them away from a life of begging and hardship.
Your Elephant Volunteer Experience
The elephant village is set in stunning rural surroundings near Surin, and is home to elephants which live alongside the local villagers. Set among some of Thailand’s most breathtaking and beautiful scenery far off the beaten tourist track, this experience offers not just a unique elephant interaction, but also an amazing cultural exchange in authentic rural Thailand where you will live among the friendly locals in a real Thai village.
Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok. You’ll be met at the airport and taken to your hostel.
Day 2: Orientation and optional city tour of Bangkok’s temples and the Grand Palace.
Day 3: Transfer by train or public bus to Surin, in the heart of rural Thailand. Welcome meeting and a guided orientation tour of Surin.
Day 4: Transfer by bus to the rural elephant village (45mins-1hr from Surin)
You’ll spend Monday-Thursday every week living at the elephant village and helping out with the care of the elephants. On Friday, Saturday & Sunday you’ll stay in a volunteer house in Surin, with plenty of free time to explore Thailand or hop across the border into Cambodia. All transfers to and from the elephant village and Surin are included.
Your Volunteer Role
From Monday -Thursday, you’ll get stuck in with the day-to-day care of the elephants by providing food and water, mucking out the elephants and helping to bathe them twice a week. You will learn how to cut and harvest the bamboo which provides the elephants' diet. You can take a walk with the elephants, a wonderful natural experience, as you lead them down to the river to bathe. You will also help out with valuable community work, helping to plant crops and vegetable gardens to provide food for the elephants, and carrying out maintenance and repairs such as building or painting work in the community. You can expect to help out between 9am and 3pm.
Please note that we only support ethical elephant experiences and you will not be allowed to ride elephants at this project.
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To begin your Thai travels, you’ll need to arrive into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok between 6am and 10pm on your start date where you’ll be met and taken directly to your Bangkok accommodation for a two night stay. Airport pickup is included. You will then travel by train (accompanied by a guide) to Surin. Please note that at certain times of the year the train journey may be replaced by coach travel.
You can depart from Surin at any time on your end date. A return transfer back to Bangkok is not included but the local team can help you arrange this. As the journey from Surin to Bangkok takes around 7 hours we strongly recommend you spend an extra night in Bangkok after your programme and fly home the day after your programme ends. Our co-ordinators in country can help you book an extra night in Bangkok.
Accommodation is included during your stay in Thailand. You will spend your first two nights staying in a hostel in Bangkok. While in Surin, you will spend three nights a week staying at the elephant village (Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday nights), living with the village elder and his family, and the rest of the week you will stay in a shared volunteer house in Surin. If you are travelling with friends, we can make sure you are placed at the same accommodation.
On the days you are staying in the elephant village you will live as a local villager, staying in the house of the village elder and his family. You will be staying in the house with the rest of your group, and the project co-ordinator will also be staying in the homestay with you. You will be expected to help out with duties such as cleaning and cooking, living as a member of the family. Accommodation in the homestay is very basic but is comfortable, clean and welcoming, and your host family will take wonderful care of you during your stay with them. It's a truly cultural immersion!
During your homestay you will be staying in shared rooms, sleeping up to five per room, on mattresses on the floor. The rooms are clean and there are fans, and mosquito nets at the windows. There is a shared living space with floor cushions and a large shared kitchen where you can help the family prepare traditional Thai meals. The shared bathrooms have warm water and western toilets. You will also have WiFi accessible.
When you are not at the elephant village your group will live together in shared volunteer houses which are rented from the local community in Surin. Each house has several shared bedrooms (sleeping 3-5 people), bathrooms with warm showers and western toilets, functional kitchen, in and outdoor seating areas and WiFi. Rooms include beds, bedding, basic storage, fan, mosquito nets and electric sockets. The guesthouses in Surin are located on the outskirts of the town centre, only 50 metres from the staff office and only 5 minutes from amenities including supermarkets, markets, internet cafes and ATM’s. A laundry service is not included, but you can either hand wash your own laundry or pay for your washing to be done by a local laundry service, for a very cheap price.
Please note: During the busy summer months (June-August) you may stay together in a different, comfortable guesthouse in Surin when you are not at the elephant village.
Three meals a day are included on the days in the week that you are at the elephant village. On your first Monday, breakfast in Surin is not included, but you will arrive in the elephant village in time for an inclusive lunch. On Thursdays, breakfast and lunch are included before you leave and transfer back to Surin.
When you are staying in the guesthouse in Surin meals are not included, but eating out is cheap, easy and tasty in Thailand. Alternatively, you can buy ingredients and prepare your own meals in the basic house kitchen.
Minimum age to participate in this programme is 18.
Without a visa, British nationals arriving by land or air can remain in Thailand for a maximum of 30 days. If you wish to stay for longer, you will need to apply for a 60 day tourist visa in advance of travel. It’s your responsibility to obtain the necessary visas for your time away. Visa rules are subject to change without prior notice, so please do check visa requirements at the time of your trip.
This trip is designed with your safety and wellbeing in mind. As a result of Covid-19, many of our suppliers and partners around the world are introducing new policies and procedures surrounding health and safety in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. As the state of travel is evolving these new safety measures will adapt over time, and will be different for each trip. Here are some of the changes you may see on your trip:
Arrival safety meetings
Most trips have an arrival meeting on the first day where the guide or local team will run through the trip, the safety protocols, and to answer any questions you may have. Now more than ever it is important you arrive in time for these meetings.
Proof of vaccination or negative covid test
For the safety of all travellers, at the start of some trips you may be required to show evidence that you are fully vaccinated (14 days after your second dose) and/or show evidence of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the tour start date in order to join the programme.
Updated hygiene and safety procedures
Our suppliers and partners have health and safety procedures in place on all of our trips. These protocols will be updated and adapted as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak, dependent on local restrictions and laws.
Transport and accommodation choices
Our suppliers and partners choose the accommodation and transport on our trips very carefully, and you may see a change to what would normally be used as a response to the outbreak. This may involve such changes as enhanced use of private transport or quieter accommodation.
Trained and knowledgeable staff
Our staff in the UK are trained to help you with your trip before you depart and answer any questions you may have. In addition, the local team and guides on our trips are there to help with any health and safety concerns and to ensure our trips run safely and smoothly.
Reduced group sizes
Some trips will run with reduced group sizes to start with. You may find that trips are more intimate and chilled, whilst still being packed with fun and adventure.
Your guide or the local team will be on hand to help you seek medical attention should you require it during your trip. As medical facilities and standards can vary around the world, you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place before you depart to cover you for any medical emergencies.
24/7 emergency support
We operate an emergency phone line for our travellers abroad. This is operated by a UK based member of staff 24/7 if you have a genuine emergency or urgent matter that you need attending.
It is important that you take measures to make travelling safer for yourself and others around you. Ensure you frequently wash your hands, cover your face when you sneeze and cough, bring and use your own hand sanitiser and facial coverings/masks, and enable social distancing where necessary. You should also ensure you listen to the instructions and guidance of the local team at all times, and follow all local laws and restrictions.