Previous Volunteer Thailand Elephant StoriesHere are a sample of experiences from previous volunteers at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary. You can also read about some of our volunteers' fundraising endeavours in our Volunteers' Fundraising Hall of Fame.
“It is hard for me to put into words just how much I enjoyed my time at the sanctuary, and how much of an impact it had on me.”
Eva is a designer, reiki master healer and animal communicator from the US who volunteered at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
for two weeks in November 2015.
I looked into several organisations, in different areas of the world. Globalteer was the one that impressed me the most. The amount of money that goes to the sanctuary, the interaction with the elephants, the respect for the animals, and the quick response time when I had questions, and also that there no pressure to hurry up and book, unlike the other places I looked into. The website had everything spelled out, and the staff responded to my questions in a timely fashion.
Working at the sanctuary
The day to day work I did at the sanctuary included feeding the elephants, taking them for walks, giving them baths, cleaning the enclosures, as well as special projects like painting fences and planting trees. I also helped in harvesting banana trees for the elephants, cleaning the kitchen and washing the dogs.
There are so many things that I will treasure about my time at the sanctuary. I made new friends from all around the world. I got to walk several elephants, and feed them. I got to feed a baby elephant. I watched the mahouts interact with their elephants, and could see that they truly enjoy their work, and respect and care for their elephants. The sanctuary staff truly love the elephants and are wonderful to the volunteers.
Getting to know the elephants
Pai Lin was my absolute favourite elephant. She is the oldest, at 75, I believe, and I was fortunate to work with her for four days. She's gentle and just wonderful. She takes her food gently, she walks nicely and seems to enjoy eating the fruit we cut up for her to eat during her baths. I know that in the time that we have at the sanctuary, we can't really ‘bond’ with the elephants, but I got to spend enough time with her that I felt a closeness to her. I have to say that each elephant that I worked with was just wonderful and they each had their own personality. It is amazing to me that they are so gentle and calm; they are truly beautiful creatures with wonderful souls.
A life changing experience
For me, this was a life-changing trip. I've been struggling with having a purpose in life, and volunteering made me realise that I need to change direction in my life, and work to be the voice for animals. I will definitely visit the sanctuary and volunteer there again. I hope to return in November, and then make it an annual trip!
“Volunteering for a week at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary for my 21st birthday was the best decision I have ever made.”Salomae is a student from Australia who volunteered at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary in September 2015.
Volunteering at the sanctuary
Every morning I woke up to the sound of gibbons singing and set off for a day of hard and rewarding work with 15 amazing elephants who all had their own dark pasts and distinct personalities.
Being able to get up close and feed, bathe and walk the elephants such as Pai Lin is without a doubt the one of the best experiences of my life. Saying that, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly sad that I could have this experience to begin with, as in an ideal world no elephants would have gone through the devastating Phajaan process (the taming of wild elephants for domestication using cages, punishment or negative reinforcement) and need to be at the sanctuary in the first place. However, as a person you can only choose to do the right or wrong thing, and by helping these elephants at the sanctuary rather than supporting elephant tourism you are making the right decision and making the best of the situation in Thailand.
Getting to know the elephants
Not all of the elephants were as placid as Pai Lin. One of the highlights of my trip was bull elephant Khan Khluey throwing a rock at me! Although scary it was a hilarious moment and it was so beautiful to see that although he had gone through the Phajaan process at age one he was still "wild" enough to do this.
Even more heartwarming yet was the story of baby Pin being reunited with her mother Pun at the sanctuary and knowing that the cheeky little bub will never have to go through the Phajaan process herself. I want to return in the future to see what Pin is like when she grows up, as seeing her, her mother and her "aunty" elephants grazing and trumpeting to one another just made me stop and stare in awe of the beauty of it.
An incredible opportunity
Volunteering for a week at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary for my 21st birthday was the best decision I have ever made. I had such a wonderful insight not only into the conservation of elephants and other wildlife but into Thai culture being on temple grounds and eating traditional Thai food most nights, meeting a great range of like-minded people from all over the world and I have memories that I will cherish forever!
Thank you for this incredible opportunity – I will cherish these memories forever!
“If you are thinking of going to the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary, then make sure you do!”
Emma is a Pharmacy Technician who volunteered at Globalteer’s Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
in August 2015.
Here, she talks about her experience helping to take care of the elephants at the sanctuary, and also learning more about these magnificent creatures. Choosing Globalteer
After going through many websites I chose Globalteer because they seemed the most genuine and professional and had good reviews from previous volunteers.
Helping at the sanctuary
We prepared food for the elephants, showered them, walked them, provided enrichments and cleared up a lot of poo! I was also involved with the vet team and helped treat an elephant for a skin fungal infection where I had to moisturise the elephant (it took ages)! Every other day was harvest, and we would fill up a truck with banana trees for the elephants, which was physically hard work and not for the weak hearted.
I was also involved with the dogs, and once a week I did ‘doggie duty’, which was shampooing and showering the 15 dogs at the sanctuary as well as feeding them.
Working with the elephants
Having hands on interaction with the elephants was amazing! I can’t imagine anywhere else where you would be able to do this in a safe environment for both volunteers and the elephants.
My favourite elephant was Boon Mee. I looked after her as team leader for most of my second week, and she is so gentle and friendly and gives you a big smile after every mouthful of food that you give her. She is very clever and knows when it’s feeding time, so she stands as close to the elephant kitchen as she can, looking in and starting to flap her ears and wave her trunk!
My main concern before starting at the project was being a solo female traveller, but as soon as I arrived this was a distant memory as most of the volunteers were also travelling alone and I felt completely safe. I ended up meeting some amazing new friends from all over the world, and we are even planning another trip next year together! Since all of us were travelling alone this was so nice.
If you are thinking of going then make sure you do – it's a totally hands on experience and without a doubt the best experience of my life!