Additional Info about the Elephant Camp Project
The daily schedule for volunteers at the Elephant Camp
5:30 – wake up, get dressed (in a bathing suit) and help bathe and then feed the elephants
8:00 – Sit down with the staff at the Elephant Camp and enjoy breakfast and northern Thai coffee.
After breakfast – Volunteers will learn about some of the safety procedures with the elephants. After spending a few days learning about these safety procedures, volunteers may be asked to help out with explaining the safety procedures to day visitors upon their arrival at the Camp.
Around 9:30am the Elephant Show for the day tourists begins. The show has elephants conduct simple, entertaining tricks, like kicking a soccer ball, to complicated tasks, such as painting. The show is designed to show visitors how smart elephants are and how close their relationship with their mahout, or elephant trainer is. Volunteers normally sit and make small talk with the mahouts during the show.
12:00 – Lunch time.
After lunch – Volunteers will be split up into different tasks in the afternoon. Some volunteers will teach an hour or two of English at the local hill tribe school located right outside the Camp. All of the students at the school are children of staff at the Camp. Other volunteers will be asked to help cut grass (elephant food), make herbal medicine balls for the elephants, help make the elephant dung paper and maybe assist in teaching English to their mahout or some of the other staff at the camp.
Late afternoon / Early evening – At this time, day visitors will be making their way back to the city and volunteers will be able to spend more time with the elephants and elephant trainers.
6:00 / 7:00 – Dinner
After Dinner – Relax and take in what was done throughout the day.
Volunteer Video 1
You may have seen this video on the project page. It gives a pretty good picture of what the Elephant Camp Volunteer Project is all about.
Airport pick up, the city tour and the transportation to and from the cultural show and dinner are covered in the project fee. Friends For Asia staff also sends volunteers and interns to seek medical assistance in non-emergency situations. Obviously, in the case of an emergency a proper ambulance would be called and used. A volunteer will have to cover the cost of their own transportation if they make multiple appointments to see a doctor or dentist.
Friends For Asia or Elephant Camp staff send volunteers to the Elephant Camp from Friends For Asia accommodation on Monday mornings and back to Chiang Mai on Friday afternoons. The cost of transportation to and from Chiang Mai and the Elephant Camp is covered in the project fee.
Elephant Camp Volunteer Accommodation
Elephant Camp Volunteers spend their Mondays to Fridays in our volunteer accommodation at the camp. On the weekends, Elephant Camps volunteers return to Chiang Mai where they can share the week’s stories with our staff and their fellow volunteers.
This accommodation is rustic and unforgettable. All the accommodation at the Elephant Camp has electricity and hot water showers. Considering the fact that there is no Internet or televisions at the camp, volunteers usually spend their evenings strolling the grounds of the elephant camp, helping the cooks prepare dinner and singing karaoke with the mahouts at the village’s only karaoke bar.
Volunteer Video 2
This is a video of two volunteers playing/feeding a young elephant at the camp
Volunteer Safety and Security and Elephant Time
Although elephants are beautiful and mostly gentle creatures, they are very, very large, ranging from 5,000 – 8,000 pounds. By nature, some of them are gentle and warm creatures, some are not. It’s important to keep in mind that these big, beautiful animals are not dogs or other domesticated animals. They still very much act like enormous, wild animals. If in a situation where the elephant is threatened or frightened and around a new/unknown person, the elephant may very well act aggressively. For this reason, safety with the elephants is of the utmost importance. It’s just not possible for volunteers to spend time with the elephants alone, as elephants can rather skittish around people they are unfamiliar with. The total amount of hands on time volunteers in the project have with the elephants is roughly two hours per day. There are other times, throughout the day that volunteers are allowed to spend with the mahouts and their elephants informally (such as the elephant show, or when the mahouts are spending time with their elephant in the evening). Volunteers are required to keep clear distance from the elephants when not with the mahouts (elephant trainers).
Due to security reasons, volunteers are not allowed to take more than 500 Baht (roughly $15) to the camp per week. If the volunteers end up spending more than 500 Baht, then the camp will offer volunteers a credit to purchase what they would like. This credit will be cleared at the end of the week or the beginning of the following week. There is not much to purchase at the camp, considering all food and accommodation is covered in the initial project fee. It’s also highly recommended that volunteers don’t take any expensive valuables with them during their time at the camp. As is mentioned above, the camp has around 250 employees and hundreds of other day visitors to the camp each day.
Volunteer Video 3
This is a short 30 second video of the first day at the elephant camp for two of our volunteers.
Elephant Care and Treatment
The Elephant Camp is recognized for their excellent care of elephants. Onsite there is an “Elephant Hospital” where elephants that are injured or ill are looked after. There are no formal/certified vets at the camp. There are, however, individuals who have looked after elephants their entire life and were taught by their parents who held such positions before them. They use herbal and other basic remedies to treat the elephants when sick or injured.
Some of the elephants at the camp are owned by the actual elephant trainers themselves, whereas others are owned by the camp directly. Elephants are incredibly expensive to buy, feed and take care of. For this reason, obviously it is in the best interest of the camp and the trainers to look after the elephants as well as possible, and they do.
After a day out with the mahouts, the elephants are chained to covered, open air, shaded structures. The chain is used as a measure to help insure the safety of the people and passer bys of the camp, along with the elephants themselves. Elephants are in large part, wild animals and if left to wander, they would get in fights, eat things they shouldn’t, be a nuisance to traffic on the road, etc.
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Volunteer StoriesHelen Lam - HongKong - Teaching Monks, July, 2010
"Friends For Asia has definitely made my trip marvelous and unforgettable. Living in Chiang Mai for 2 weeks as a volunteer, I had the precious opportunity to experience Thai life almost as a local. People here always wear a big warm smile, and the city would just melt everyone’s heart. I would highly recommend volunteers to come teaching English to Monks. The satisfactory feeling that comes afterwards is truly rewarding!"
Sinead O’Leary, Cork, Ireland – Elephant Camp February, 2010
“My last two days were unforgettable, my mahout brought me through the jungle, which I strongly recommend and also to a deep river and got to act like a cowboy and try and balance on my elephant while he ordered her to throw me off. An amazing experience. Don’t be afraid to get wet, have fun, start water fights, and roll around on your elephant in the water, it’s a once in a life time experience…”
Alana Borsa, Ontario, Canada - HIV Orphanage Project April, 2009
“Working at the HIV Orphanage is a wonderful and inspiring experience. The enthusiasm of the staff and the energy of the children are completely infectious. They will touch your heart each and every day. Coming to spend time at the orphanage has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. The orphanage family has certainly become, and will now be forever a part of my life.”
Read more Volunteer Stories