Volunteer Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
The Volunteer Thailand Elephant Rescue Project gives a safe sanctuary to Thailand's domesticated elephants.
These animals would otherwise be roaming the streets of big cities, be kept in bad conditions at working elephant camps or be otherwise exploited in the tourist industry.
Globalteer is UK registered charity providing volunteer placements working in Wildlife Rescue and Conservation in Asia.
Volunteers provide hands on assistance to the professional Mahouts (elephant keepers) to ensure these beautiful animals live a life as close as possible to their wild relatives. Volunteers bathe and wash the elephants daily, walk them through the forests to forage, clean their enclosure and learn all about these magnificent animals.
To find out more about elephant conservation in Asia, visit our Asian Elephant information page.
Please note that this is one of our most popular projects and volunteer places fill up quickly so applying as early as possible is strongly advised.
Duration: 1 to 12 weeks
Hours: 6 days per week
Activities: Walking, feeding and bathing the elephants
Accommodation: Shared rooms
Requirements: Aged 18+
Volunteer Placement Fee: From UK£485 / US$730
The Elephant Sanctuary Location
The elephant sanctuary is located 3 hours south of Bangkok near a small village. The centre is next to a lake, surrounded by dense forest and national parks that are important to Thailand's elephant conservation.
Less than an hour away are the beach resorts of Cha Am and Hua Hin where the volunteers go for shopping, days off and nights out. The local village has internet access and some shops but has no tourists, so is a real insight into the Thai way of life. During time off volunteers can arrange camping trips into the remote National Parks or go on night safaris to spot Thailand's wild animals.
To find out more about Thailand, visit our Volunteering in Thailand Fact File.
Getting to the projectThe nearest airport to this project is Bangkok, Thailand (Airport code BKK).
To help you find the best air fares Globalteer has formed a partnership with a division of The Flight Centre Group who will tailor make your travel arrangements for you at a competitive price.
You can contact them for a free, no obligation travel quote by calling 0844 560 9944 from within the UK, or if you are outside the UK you can call +44(0)203 056 1146. Make sure you mention Globalteer when you call and if you do purchase your travel through them, Globalteer will receive a small donation. However, don’t forget that it’s up to you to make sure your travel arrangements are right for you and your project.
Daily schedule at the Elephant SanctuaryVolunteers work a 6 day week, the working day starts early and can be long but there are many breaks throughout the day to relax or hang out with the elephants. You will work closely with the Mahouts who always accompany the elephants. Be prepared to work hard!
Volunteers staying for one or two weeks are required to arrive at the elephant sanctuary on a Sunday. For a duration of three weeks or more, volunteers can start on any day of the week.
An example of a typical day:
Start your day at 6.30am
Get breakfast from 8-9am
Lunch at noon
Workday ends approximately 5pm
Dinner at 6.30pm
Here is an example of some of the work you will carry out with the elephants:
• Cleaning the elephants’ paddocks each morning and evening.
• Washing the elephants in their paddocks with hoses and brushes, depending on the schedule.
• Collecting the elephants’ dung and food waste for composting.
• Walking the elephants to the lake or into the forest to forage.
• Collecting fruits for their big appetites, and harvesting banana trees, sugar cane, pineapple or corn for fodder.
• Learning all about these gentle giants, and performing basic daily health checks on the elephants.
• Sharing the responsibility of taking care of the domestic animals at the centre, including Sam, the rescued beach pony and the dogs.
These are only examples of what your daily activities may be. The elephant sanctuary is continually evolving and the needs of the elephants may change before or during your stay. Rest assured we are very flexible with volunteers’ personal needs, but we do require the same flexibility in return as the elephants are the top priority.
Please be aware that harvesting pineapple plants, banana trees and corn for fodder is essential and regular work for volunteers. This involves chopping and dragging plants and trees over rough ground. Some heavy lifting is involved, which can be quite tiring work in the heat. It is essential that you wear appropriate clothing (sun hat, gloves long sleeves and trousers) and sturdy footwear for this task, pace yourself, and drink plenty of water.
Got a question about volunteering with elephants in Thailand? Try our Thailand Elephant Sanctuary Frequently Asked Questions
Accommodation at the ProjectThe accommodation at the centre is in clean but basic bungalows and rooms most often are shared. The bungalows have comfortable beds, fans, western style toilets with a manual flush and cold showers. On site you will find a communal area for eating, a small bar and kitchen.
Volunteers have access to free hot drinks, filtered water, bread, jam and other essentials. Two main meals, Thai and occasionally Western food are prepared by the cook. Vegetarians, vegans and those with food allergies can be accommodated. Evenings can be spent watching DVD's, relaxing with a book or socializing with fellow volunteers.
Apply now for your volunteer placement at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
The Elephants at the Sanctuary
Many of the elephants have previously been used as "begging" elephants in various cities or working at elephant camps in tourist resorts. The sanctuary gives safe haven to approximately 10 elephants. The number of elephants at the sanctuary can vary based on space available and funds needed to rescue an elephant. Read on to learn about some of the elephants that you may meet!
Duenphen - Full MoonDuenphen is approximately 60 years old. She was caught from the wild at around 2 years of age which was not unusual at that time, although still illegal. She has spent the last 40 years of her life working mainly at an elephant camp entertaining tourists with tricks.
Duenphen likes going on walks, eating different kinds of trees in the forest, and having a bath in the lake. She also likes to wander around her large enclosure and enjoys her banana balls. She can appear a little withdrawn at times and does not seem to enjoy human attention and tends to prefer her own company.
Boonmee spent the early years of her life working in the logging industry before spending 25 years working in the tourist industry. She was rescued from an elephant camp in Kanchanaburi in November 2012 where she spent years carrying tourists on her back and being chained to a tree in the evenings.
Her rescue was not too easy, but she finally arrived and her first day in retirement started with fresh green grass, juicy fruits, a short swim in the lake and a walk into the forest! Boonmee is one of the most friendly and gentle elephants. She loves to go for walks in the forest where she can forage lots and lots! She is also rather fond of her banana balls and enjoys being showered by the volunteers.
Pai Lin - Gem Stone
Pai Lin came to the sanctuary in February 2007 after spending many years on the city streets. Upon first inspection, she was in poor physical condition, underweight, dehydrated and suffering from nasal and eye problems.
As a result of carrying a heavy ‘seat’ with possibly up to six tourists in it (this maltreatment is common in the tourist industry), she had several pressure sores and her spine is visibly deformed. Thankfully, she does not appear to be in any pain.
She is very gentle and sedate and tends to prefer her own company. She likes to go on walks where she can forage and enjoys getting into the lake in her enclosure. She does like her daily showers from the volunteers and also likes to cool herself down by spraying herself all over with the water.
Kaew Petch - Diamond Glass
Kaew Petch arrived at the elephant sanctuary in 2014 from a beach resort after spending years in the tourism industry. As a trekking elephant, Kaew Petch was forced to carry tourist each day even though she was malnourished and underweight. Suffering from a poor diet and neglect and Kaew Petch now has a skin condition which covers 60% of her body and causes her to be extremely itchy.
Kaew Petch is a very curious elephant who follows volunteers and staff in search of food and treats. She enjoys her showers and loved to be scrubbed by volunteers as her skin condition cause her to be extremely itchy.
Apply now for your volunteer placement at the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
Days off can be spent at the beach in Cha Am or Hua Hin which are less than an hour away. Cha Am is a quiet resort frequented mostly by Thais whilst Hua Hin is busier and has many western tourists. You can find great shopping opportunities (especially on market days), great nightlife and a variety of restaurants at both resorts.
On Monday mornings and Friday and Sunday nights, you can find the market in the local village where you can try a variety of Thai foods from the street stalls or shop for cheap bargains.
The centre is on temple grounds and therefore you can see authentic Thai temples and even a 15 metre long laying Buddha, all close to the centre.
Visit the local village to get an experience that very few foreigners get. The village is just a 5 minute walk from the centre but is not frequented by tourists, so you get a unique insight into true Thai culture unaffected by the huge influx of tourists that the rest of Thailand experiences.
Camping in the National park is an additional activity you can enjoy. Occasionally volunteers get together and hire a taxi into the National park. Overnight camping, treks and visiting the waterfalls in a rarely visited National park is an unforgettable experience that is highly recommended. You can see a variety of animals, birds, insects and amazing vegetation.
Volunteer Placement Fee
The volunteer placement fee to the project is stated in UK £pounds and US $dollars. The volunteer placement fee includes:
- Pick up from Bangkok airport / hotel, Cha Am or Thyang.
- Accommodation for the duration of you stay at the sanctuary.
- All main meals (breakfast is DIY - basics provided!)
- Full in country support from the project co-ordinator.
- Comprehensive information brochure.
- Assistance and advice for traveling to Thailand.
The volunteer placement fee does not include flights, visas or insurance although we can provide information as required.
Discounted rates are available at this project for combinations with the Thailand Wildlife Sanctuary as follows:
1 week with the Elephants and 1 week with the Wildlife project - GBP£700 / US$1,050
1 week with the Elephants and 2 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£800 / US$1,200
2 weeks with the Elephants and 1 week with the Wildlife project - GBP£800 / US$1,200
2 weeks with the Elephants and 2 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£900 / US$1,350
3 weeks with the Elephants and 3 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£1,150 / US$1,725
4 weeks with the Elephants and 4 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£1,340 / US$2,010
Click here to apply for the combined Thailand Projects
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Application process & requirements
The minimum age for volunteering is 18 years old. No previous experience or qualifications are necessary but we do require volunteers to be respectful and open minded to the cultural differences they will encounter in Thailand. Volunteers must be reasonably fit as the work can be demanding in the tropical heat. You must be able to speak English.
Volunteers must have a similar ideology to the mission of the elephant sanctuary. Wildlife trainers and those who exploit wildlife for the benefit of people are not suitable for this sanctuary.
- Click on the link below to fill out an application form.
- Add "@globalteer.org" to your E-mail safe list to ensure that you receive a response.
- Your application will be reviewed and if accepted you will be notified via E-mail within one week.
- Pay your deposit to secure your placement within one week of acceptance.
- Research your destination, book your flight, inoculations and ask us any questions you may have.
- Full amount is to be paid 10 weeks before the start of your placement.
- A comprehensive information folder will be sent to you with all information including a packing list, Thailand cultural differences, Buddhist Monk etiquette, useful language phrases, rules at the elephant sanctuary, useful phone contacts and full project information.