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Hike through the jungles of Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province as part of an elephant re-introduction program in a Karen village. Learn about the rehabilitation of elephants and help provide elephant keepers (mahouts) with working alternatives.
In your free time, explore the riches of the culture and landscapes around you with exciting excursions and activities.
You will live in a communal environment with villagers and English-speaking staff providing guidance throughout your time on the project. Early mornings and long days spent in the field and on community projects are rewarded by a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, and the noticeable positive impact that you will make on the lives of the elephants and the local community where you will live.
The members of the village own more than 60 elephants distributed around tourist camps in the area. The project works with villagers giving them the incentive to return their elephants to the natural habitat where they belong and to forage in Huay Pakoot’s forest. 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 in captivity, we are 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 participants will not partake in riding elephants or demonstrating unnatural skills.
You will quickly learn that village life takes its own pace, rising with the sun in the morning and relaxing later in the day. After volunteers and staff convene at base early morning, for a shared breakfast , the mahouts lead groups of volunteers and staff out to where the elephants have stayed overnight in the forest.
Occasionally you will have the opportunity to assist with a quick but thorough health inspection of the elephants, providing a few minutes of close contact time to truly appreciate the beauty and size of our elephants. The rest of your hike involves following the elephants as they move through the forest, and/or harvested fields (depending on the time of year), socialising and foraging as they would naturally. During our time observing the elephants, interns and long term volunteers collect data on their social interactions with one another and their food-plants preferences. You may also have the opportunity to survey forest biodiversity such as gibbons, deer, snakes, birds, a variety of insects, spiders and plant species diversity.
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to occasionally have lunch in the forest. Not only will we bring our packed lunches to share with the group in the forest, but volunteers are encouraged to assist the Mahouts in cooking traditional food in the field using natural materials, such as bamboo as a container to boil noodles. 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. Volunteers are highly encouraged to help teach English at the local school, weave baskets with a local community member, play football with the Mahouts, cook with their homestay families, and make the most of such an amazing project in such a remote and beautiful area.
Volunteers typically work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday being either travel days back to Chiang Mai or as days off to relax around the village. Many volunteers like to take the opportunity to relax or volunteers are welcome to arrange trips to nearby towns or cities. Your accommodation is very basic within the traditional community, so you should be prepared to adapt and appreciate living conditions that are sure to be very different than your home country.
|Population||67,959,000 (2015 estimate)|
|Climate(s)||Tropical Savanna, Monsoon, Equatorial|
|Major Airport(s):||Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), Phuket International Airport (HKT), Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)|
|Economic Driver(s):||Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Manufacturing, Energy, Tourism, Banking/Finance|
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Length of Trip: 2 weeks