Family volunteering in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary
Immerse yourselves in an elephant lover’s paradise on your family holiday. Spend a week or more working closely with rescued Asian elephants in a sanctuary on the Malay Peninsula in Thailand. Rescued from street begging and tourist entertainments, these elephants need your help to rehabilitate and recover.
Dates: This project runs throughout the year. Arrival day is a Sunday.
Suitability: To work with elephants, children need to be a minimum of 14 years of age at the point of departure. You will need to be happy to get stuck in and mucky, prepared to live in rustic accommodation and be open to a very different experience.
You and your family can become important members of a team working to protect and care for rescued Asian elephants in Thailand. Currently home to 21 elephants, this place provides a beautiful haven where elephants can recover from their previous lives begging in the streets of Bangkok and performing for tourists. Their new home provides them with 20 hectares of greenery, where they are cared for by volunteers and dedicated animal welfare experts.
At the elephant sanctuary you will all be helping to harvest and prepare food for the ellies, as well as feeding them. In addition to this you will help bathing them and walking them through the forests. This is a hands-on project and, because of the nature of the work, it can be physically demanding. Because of this, and the size of these gentle giants, we ask that children are a minimum of 14 at the point of taking part.
What will we be doing?
Due to their size and poor digestion, elephants need to eat about 5% of their body weight in food each day. This means that you will be doing a lot of grass harvesting to cater for this need! Whilst this can be tiring and you will get mucky, you will experience the pleasure of feeding them when the hard work is done. And they will love you for it!
In addition to bringing food in to the elephants, it is important that they are also able to roam and graze as they please. One of the great highlights of this project is helping to walk the elephants, keeping a close eye on them and ensuring that they don’t eat anything that they shouldn’t! This is a fantastic opportunity to experience these creatures living in the wild as they were meant to, and enjoy it with them.
In addition to this, you will become immersed in basic maintenance tasks and bathing the elephants. Despite having their own large pools in which to bathe, these attention-seeking elephants much prefer the attention from the volunteering hosing them down and giving them a good scrub. Prepare to get mucky!
Where will we be based?
The elephant sanctuary is part of a larger wildlife sanctuary located on the Malay Peninsula, about 3 hours south of Bangkok. The location is fantastic as not only are you close the sprawling Kaeng Krachang National Park, you are also only 30 minutes from the beach towns of Hua Hin and Cha Am. There is a small village near the sanctuary with a weekly night market. There is plenty to keep you all busy when you want to be!
Accommodation and Food
You will live in the heart of a wildlife lovers’ paradise, surrounded by about 400 rescued animals including sun bears, monkeys, gibbons, macaques and more. This sanctuary backs on to the elephant sanctuary so everything is on site.
Accommodation is very basic by western standards, yet very good by local standards. It is simple yet comfortable, with en-suite western toilets and showers warmed by the sun. There is mosquito netting on the windows, yet you are welcome to bring additional mosquito nets. In the heart of the sanctuary, you will fall asleep to the call of the wild.
Three meals per day are provided. In the morning you will enjoy a DIY affair, with toast, spreads, eggs and fresh fruit at your disposal. Fruit here is delicious, and you will want to keep going back for more! Lunch and dinner provides an array of delicious Thai dishes, as well as occasional western fare.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Get fully involved in an important programme providing care and protection to rescued elephants.
- Interact closely with the elephants as you and your family help to feed, bathe and walk these gentle giants.
- Live in the heart of the beautiful Thai jungle surrounded by a huge variety of wildlife.
- Enjoy exploring the local village and its night markets, and head to the beach or nearby national park on your days off.
- Enjoy delicious and varied Thai food – one of the greatest highlights of visiting the country!
Whyshould I do this?
Taking part in something like this with your family can really open your eyes to conservation and animal welfare in a beautiful developing country. Not only this, it is a fantastic way for you all to immerse yourselves into a collective experience which will provide memories for life. One of our previous volunteer mums told us this:
“This was a perfect way for us as a family to enjoy spending time with each other and away from each other, all working in the same area and interacting with the animals and other volunteers, with a purpose, and in a completely safe environment. It opened our kids’ eyes to opportunities available, they mixed with people from all around the world, they developed confidence, they felt valued by what they were doing, they saw their parents as equals in the work rather than just ‘parents’, and were able to express themselves naturally. We all loved it.”
And to top it all, you will be working hands on with elephants!
You will fly in to Bangkok (BKK) where you will be collected and taken to the sanctuary. Please make sure that your flight arrives before 14.00 on a Sunday for your airport collection. The drive can take up to three hours travelling south of Bangkok onto the Malay Peninsula. Particularly the last section of the drive is beautiful, through small communities and green fields and forests.
Edwin was born in the Netherlands, and spent the earlier part of his life in the army. Following his army career he worked in Thailand and became increasingly involved in animal welfare. Concerned by some of the practices he saw, he founded the centre to provide a home for displaced and abused animals. Edwin has lived in Thailand for 24 years, speaks fluent Thai (amongst other languages) and is fully embedded into the Thai culture.
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure briefing covering medical and safety features
- Help and advice 24/7 from our UK office
- Visa advice (which will vary depending on length of stay)
- Met personally at Bangkok airport and taken to the project
- Full induction on arrival
- Clean, convenient accommodation on site
- Three meals a day, which includes home-cooked hot Thai food twice a day
- A practical and theoretical education on the challenges facing animal conservation
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A full passport valid for a minimum of 6 months after your return date
- Flights to Bangkok (Oyster can help you to organise these)
- Insurance covering your project time and any planned independent travel, we can introduce you to a policy
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Cost of a hotel in Bangkok if arriving too late for the transfer (before 14:00)
- Independent travel costs and return to the airport
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow maybe £30 per person per week depending on lifestyle)
- No visa is necessary for under 30 days from UK and most western European countries. Advice given on longer stays.
- You must have your diphtheria, tetanus and polio up to date – without these you will not be allowed to work on the project