This project is available in Chiang Mai.
Bathing elephants, shadowing mahouts and interacting with Thailand’s ethnic minorities – frame it just right, and it’s hard to believe you’re actually working. Oh, and did we mention the rustic rooms you’ll be living in?
Volunteering in Thailand – A Day in the Life
The elephant camp is roughly 40 miles (65 kilometers) outside of Chiang Mai city center, so you’ll be based in the back country five days of the week. This beats commuting to and from the volunteer house, but it’s the accommodation that will have you singing. Imagine waking up in our rustic, bamboo accommodation. Makes you wonder why more of us don’t move in with the elephants.
Elephant Camp Volunteer Video
Morning comes early at this working elephant camp, and the animals need to be fed and bathed before the day visitors start pouring in. Bath time is in the river, and it’s pure joy for elephants.
The mahouts are a fun-loving lot, and they’ll see to it that you have as much fun as the elephants do. Just don’t expect to win any water fights – those trunks double as powerful watering hoses.
Breakfast for the elephants is corn and grass that you’ll help cut. Elephants easily weigh three to four tons (sometimes more), and they eat around 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of food every day. With that in mind, it takes them a while to fill their bellies; so you’ll have time to look after your own needs. The kitchen staff will have a cup of Northern Thai coffee or tea ready for you, and they’ll also serve you a made-to-order breakfast.
Your duties will vary during the afternoon. The staff may need help moving equipment or tending to one of the camp’s baby elephants. Each elephant is looked after by a specific mahout, and you may be approached on an individual basis to help with training. In any event, the late afternoon and evening is when you’ll have the opportunity to bond with the elephants and get to know their trainers.
Making a Difference – Volunteer
Elephants have been domesticated in Asia for thousands of years, but these days they’re suffering from something of an unemployment problem.
Since the reform of the timber industry and the advent of four-wheel drive, it’s been harder finding jobs for them. Wild populations still roam a few of Thailand’s national forests, but to keep numbers up, Thais have had to find new roles for their national emblem. That’s where the elephant camp comes in.
The camp has been in business for 20 years and maintains a roster of 70 elephants and 250 employees. Tourists visit on a daily basis to interact with the elephants and watch demonstrations, and the revenue generated directly funds the care of the elephants and upkeep of the facilities. As an active member of this community, you make it that much easier for the mahouts and staff to perform their daily duties.
Beyond this, the village around the camp is home to the mahouts and their families, most of whom hail from ethnic minority villages in the countryside. There are all kinds of ways you can help out on this front, not least by teaching English in the local school. This is a spectacular way to vary your daily routine, and it adds an enriching human element to your jungle experience.
The minimum age of participation in the Elephant Camp Volunteer Project is 18. Volunteers do not need any specific qualifications, but should be able-bodied, enjoy working outside and with animals. As in any cross-cultural context, those involved are asked to be flexible and be open to other customs and traditions.
I would recommend this program to any animal lover, or anyone wanting to learn about a new species. -Dr.Diana Roberts – Colorado, USA
The elephants are amazing creatures and the happiness, simplicity and acceptance of life from the village people is so overwhelming. -Lina Quintal – Horsley, Australia
- Read more Elephant Camp Volunteer Stories
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.
Participation in the Elephant Camp Volunteer Project starts at $1349 for two weeks. Each additional week is $329.
Volunteer Project Fee Includes
- Comprehensive Pre-Departure Information
- Visa paperwork (for projects over 8 weeks)
- FFA Volunteer Insurance
- Airport pick up
- Accommodation during orientation and entire project time
- Transportation to and from Chiang Mai and the Elephant Camp
- Breakfast every morning
- All meals from Monday morning to Friday afternoon
- 2 day Orientation (including half day city tour, cultural dinner and show)
- Onsite Coordinator
- 24 hour emergency assistance
- Written record of service completion (for volunteers that successfully complete their project).
Volunteer Fee Does Not Include
- Travel to/from Home and Chiang Mai (airfare, train tickets, etc.)
- Thailand visa costs (if applicable)
- International Medical Insurance
- Lunches and dinners on weekends.
Apply Now to Volunteer for this Project – Free to Apply
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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