Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Elephant Camp Volunteer Project – Additional Info

Additional Info about the Elephant Nursery Project

The daily schedule for volunteers at the Elephant Nursery

6:30 – 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 Nursery 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 Elephant Nursery.

The Elephant Nursery does not have visitors every day. Some weeks will only see one or two days where day visitors make the trip up. Whereas at other times of the year, it may be a bit busier.

12:00 – Lunch time.

After lunch – Volunteers will be split up into different tasks in the afternoon. These tasks will vary depending upon what’s needed at the nursery at any given time. The tasks normally include making herbal medicine balls for the elephants, planting or harvesting rice and other plants (seasonal), cutting elephant food (long grass, corn, etc.), other maintenance items that are necessary.

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 mahouts.

6:00 / 7:00 – Dinner

After Dinner – Relax and take in what was done throughout the day.

Volunteer Transportation

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 Nursery staff send volunteers to the Elephant Nursery 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 Nursery Volunteers spend their Mondays to Fridays in our volunteer accommodation at the nursery. On the weekends, volunteers return to Chiang Mai where they can share the week’s stories with our staff and their fellow volunteers in other programs.

This accommodation is rustic and unforgettable. All the accommodation at the Elephant Nursery has electricity provided from solar cells and gas powered 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 nursery, helping the cooks prepare dinner and connecting with the local culture and people.

Volunteer Safety and Security and Elephant Time

Although elephants are beautiful and mostly gentle creatures, they are very, very large, with adult elephants ranging from 6,000 – 12,000 pounds. By nature, some of them are gentle and warm creatures, but some are not. It’s important to keep in mind that these big, beautiful animals are not dogs or other domesticated animals. If in a situation where the elephant is threatened or frightened and around a new/unknown person, the elephant may 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 be rather skittish around people they are unfamiliar with. The total amount of hands on time volunteers in the project have with the elephants is a few hours per day. There are other times, throughout the day that volunteers are allowed to spend with the mahouts and the elephants informally. Volunteers are required to keep clear distance from the elephants when not with the mahouts (elephant trainers).

There is not much to purchase at the nursery, 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 nursery.

Elephant Care and Treatment

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 in the jungle, allowing the elephants to eat and do whatever they please, the elephants are chained in 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 nursery, 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.

Visit the Elephant Camp Volunteer Project Page

View advice written from previous Elephant Camp Volunteers