Mahouts — people who look after elephants — mark a tradition that spans centuries in Thailand. A mahout is usually assigned an elephant at a young age, and the two become bound to each other for life. Elephants were traditionally trained for logging to support local communities, but since widespread bans in the logging industry came into place, mahouts have been forced into urban areas with their elephants to beg for money.
This volunteer project in the rural province of Surin provides a sustainable way of life for mahouts and their elephants. At the same time, it gives volunteers the opportunity to become part of a traditional Thai community and contribute to the future wellbeing of mahouts and their elephants.
Do you want to immerse yourself in a traditional Thai elephant village and help preserve a centuries old tradition? Animal lovers who want to enjoy a unique opportunity with elephants and local villagers have life changing experiences at our elephant caring project in rural Thailand.
- Costs: Starting at about 605€
- Duration: 1 to 12 weeks
- Location: Surin Province, Thailand
As a volunteer at the elephant caring project in rural Thailand, you’ll get stuck into the day to day care required for the elephants to stay happy and healthy. You’ll help with feeding and watering these magnificent animals, as well as mucking out their living areas and helping to bathe them.
You’ll also learn the important skill of safely walking an elephant. Remember that the bond between each mahout and their elephant is cherished, meaning no-one else can ride an elephant except the mahout.
The volunteering all happens to the wider backdrop of a traditional elephant village, so you’ll also give the villagers a hand to keep their community thriving. This can involve anything from planting and harvesting crops needed to sate the enormous appetites of the elephants, to helping with basic building repair work. You’ll get involved in any community activities going on at the time too.
Surin province, about 7 hours from Bangkok.
Feeding, watering and bathing the elephants, mucking out elephant living areas, walking elephants for exercise, helping the local community with crops and building maintenance.
Two Fridays a month – contact us for exact dates.
Four days in the elephant project, three day weekend.
Minimum age 18, knowledge of English, travel insurance.
Backpacker accommodation during orientation in Bangkok, hostel stay in elephant village, volunteer house in the city of Surin.
Breakfast in Bangkok, all meals from Monday at noon until Thursday at noon in the elephant project.
Included on specified arrival date.
Included from Bangkok to Surin, and between the city of Surin and the elephant village.
Donation to the project
Included in the rate.
In-country orientation, briefing at the elephant village.
Pre-departure information, local in-country support and 24 hour emergency support.
In addition, you need to arrange:
- Travel insurance (necessary)
- Vaccinations (please check with your GP or travel medical clinic)
- Transfer to Bangkok on the return journey
- Transfer to the airport on the return journey
- Other meals except those outlined above
- Any additional activities
Starts from €605
2 to 12 weeks.
Before travelling to the volunteer project, you’ll fly into Bangkok and acclimatise to your surroundings from a backpacker’s lodge on the famous Khao San Road. You’ll have your orientation with the group and meet your fellow volunteers, before enjoying a city tour of Bangkok where you’ll see the old city, temples and take part in a river boat ride.
After two nights, you’ll travel to Surin by air conditioned train or bus to start your project.
On Monday morning you’ll travel by truck to the elephant village just under an hour away from Surin city, where you’ll stay until Thursday. Each morning you’ll work on the tasks required to look after the elephants and the local community. You’ll have the support of a dedicated English speaking member of the team to make sure you get the most out of your experience.
After the hard graft of the mornings, you’ll have the chance to try out some relaxing and traditional local activities in the afternoons. You may go swimming or kayaking, give alms to the local monks, try out the traditional local fishing techniques, learn how to cook traditional Thai dishes, or even learn how to make paper from elephant dung!
From Monday night to Wednesday night you’ll be staying in a homestay in the elephant village. Accommodation is basic but comfortable and you’ll live ‘Thai style’ sleeping in up to five people per room on floor mattresses. You’ll have access to fans, mosquito nets, power outlets, cool showers and manual flush Western style toilets. You’ll also have access to shared kitchens where the local team will help you prepare your meals.
From Thursday to Sunday, you’ll stay in a volunteer house in Surin city, where you can enjoy long weekends off. Since it’s the capital city serving a mostly agricultural province, you’ll find many modern conveniences in Surin city, from ATMs and pharmacies, to bars, restaurants, market stalls and a regular calendar of events. Some volunteers also use the long weekend as an opportunity to explore other places, such as Khao Yai National Park and the beach at Koh Samet.
Note there’s no Wi-Fi access at the elephant village, and Wi-Fi can be sporadic in rural Thailand more generally.
Volunteers fall in love with the elephants and traditional way of life while on the elephant caring volunteer project in rural Thailand. From getting to know more about these huge creatures to helping the community preserve a traditional way of life, this is an unrivalled volunteer experience.
Security is one of the most important prerequisites when selecting our projects. That is why we take care of each of our volunteers personally and clarify all open questions regarding security before departure.
Find out more about security.