Travel to the mountain forests of Northern Thailand and spend time in the fields with elephants relieved from working in tourism industry. Leaving behind their lives in the tourism industry, these gentle giants now live more natural lives as a semi wild herd in the Chiang Mai Province – an area famous for its traditional elephant keeping communities.
This is a hands-off ethical elephant project which was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants in the forest under semi-wild management.
This project is aimed at monitoring Asian elephants in a natural living environment.
We live in a communal atmosphere with the villagers and our English speaking staff who will be providing guidance throughout your time on the project.
The program also has a facet which is focused on community development and we encourage volunteers to get involved.
Volunteers typically work Monday through Friday.
A Typical Day
You will quickly learn that village life takes its own pace, rising with the sun in the morning and relaxing later in the day. You will convene at base early morning for a shared breakfast , after which the mahouts (elephant keepers) lead groups of volunteers and staff out to where the elephants have stayed overnight in the forest.
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to occasionally have lunch in the forest. After adequate time to observe the elephants and eat lunch, we then hike back to the village for the rest of the day’s activities.
Afternoons in the village vary every day of the week, with opportunities to get involved in the community and build relationships among the villagers, fellow volunteers, and the staff team.
Upon arrival to base you will receive a welcoming orientation. Throughout your program you will receive various awareness presentations on various topics including: elephant biology and welfare, ethical elephant tourism, biodiversity in the area, and the culture of the villagers here.
On this program you will be staying with a local home-stay family in the village. Your accommodation is very basic within the traditional community, so you should be prepared to adapt. All meals are included.
Saturday and Sunday being either travel days back to Chiang Mai or as days off to relax around the village.
The population of Asian elephants and their habitat is rapidly declining. With less than 1,000 left in the wild in Thailand, but around 3,000-4,000 in captivity. JCR program partner provides one of the few viable alternatives to the reality of their domesticated future within detrimental tourist camps.
Please note, this is an ethical volunteer program and we do not partake in riding elephants, demonstrating unnatural skills, or interacting hands-on with the elephants more than necessary. This project is one of the few viable models that puts elephant welfare as a priority.
Your contribution will help to keep these elephants in protected forests, continue the conservation of these beautiful animals and what remains of their fragmented forest habitats, as well as provide funding to keep the project running whilst offering alternative livelihoods to the local community.
The lack of viable alternatives for income from elephants is detrimental to their health and well-being.
As an unregulated industry, elephant tourism can be an ugly business. With a huge increase in the demand for tourist camps, elephants are deprived of their imperative self-medicating diet, migratory urges to move, complex social interactions and cognitive stimulation, leading to shocking repercussions in the health and well-being of the elephant.
Our volunteer project aims to provide an alternative way for the elephants to bring in money for the local village while continuing to lead healthy lives that will ensure their long-term conservation and survival.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For this program, our goals are to:
Volunteering with JCR not only allows you to participate on programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with JCR program partners. Our Chiang Mai field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Thailand!
Huay Pakoot is quiet rural Thai village, giving you a unique chance to learn about traditional Karen culture. Learn to cook Thai and Karen dishes with community members, and learn about everyday life in this traditional setting.
Included Side Trips:
The location of this project is remote. Leaving Chiang Mai city you embark on a 4-5 hour journey into the mountains. On the way, we pass through Doi Inthanon national park (Thailand’s highest peak) and usually stop for a short walk to one of the spectacular waterfalls.
Travel and side-trip opportunities from the village need special arrangements, but the prospects for immersing yourself in the local area and village culture are huge.
Optional Side Trips
While on the program, there is ample time for you to plan side trips and organise transportation. These are not part of the program and are best taken as a weekend trip or as an activity before or after joining the program. We are always ready to assist, provide recommendations and up-to-date information. Locally, trips can be arranged to neighbouring villages and towns like Mae Chaem and Mae Hong Son. These are great places to wind down, get a traditional Thai massage or explore temples.
Though we are off the main tourist route, opportunities exist, before or after the program, for you to go bamboo river rafting, rock climbing, , relax at a local resort/spa, and take advantage of everything that the Chiang Mai Province has to offer!
Further Travelling Opportunities
Thailand is a country with a massive range of fantastic places that you could visit. If you have the time and budget, you could consider going to see the following; the waterfalls of the picturesque Khao Yai National Park, the local tribes of Nam Province, the beaches of Ko Tao and Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, the golden kingdom of Ayuthaya, the temples and nightlife of Bangkok, just to name a few! Chiang Mai city abounds with tour operators offering a huge array of amazing side trips in the local province, throughout Thailand and beyond into neighbouring countries such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
1 – 12 weeks
1 WEEK $1,855
2 WEEKS $2,115
4 WEEKS $2,635
6 WEEKS $3,155
At JCR we have successfully been organising and sending young Australians on overseas placements for over 15 years. We think JCR has some great programs and we sincerely believe that cultural travel is a wonderful experience, an amazing learning curve and can help to positively prepare you for life’s rewards and challenges.
JCR have one goal and that is to make your volunteer experience the most amazing it can be. We work together to ensure that you are matched with the right program, we discuss your options and answer any questions you may have.
It is the reason JCR Volunteer overseas was created: to create lasting memories from amazing cultural exchanges.
Learn more about this volunteer program