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 Thailand elephant reserve on the Malay Peninsula. Rescued from street begging and tourist entertainments, these elephants need your help to rehabilitate and recover.
Duration: 1 – 2 weeks
Dates: Arrivals throughout the year
Arrival day: Sunday
Return day: Sunday
Eligibility: General level of fitness required. You will walk some steep inclines.
Age: Children must be aged 14+
- Giving the elephants a scrub and a shower – they love it, and may choose to make sure you get wet too!
- Walking through the forest with the elephants, experiencing their freedom and enjoying it with them
- Living alongside singing gibbons and chattering monkeys at the adjacent wildlife sanctuary
- Hit the beach and explore the night markets to soak up some of the best that Thailand has to offer
You and your family can become important members of a team working to protect and care for rescued Asian elephants. Currently home to many rescued individuals, this Thailand elephant sanctuary provides a beautiful haven where its inhabitants 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.
- Elephant feeding: grass cutting, food preparation and feeding – the elephants need to eat about 5% of their bodyweight each day!
- Maintenance tasks: building, painting and making enrichments for the elephants
- Manual jobs: Cleaning elephant bathing pools and harvesting food for the elephants. These jobs can be quite physical!
- Hands-on elephant care: Bathing the elephants and making sure they have enough water, food and shade
- Elephant enrichment: Creating mental stimulation for the elephants, or walking the elephants outside of the sanctuary, allowing them to graze and exercise
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.
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!
- Family accommodation in the heart of the sanctuary
- Western toilets and showers with water heated by the sunshine
- The accommodation is comfortable yet basic
- Communal areas are located at the centre of the sanctuary
- Three meals per day provided
- DIY breakfast of cereals, toast, eggs and fresh fruits
- Lunch and dinner are cooked and provided by local cooks
- Food is traditional Thai food with occasional Western options
- Most dietary requirements can be catered for including vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerance and gluten free. Please note, the options will be more limited and you may need to supplement / enhance the meal options, particularly if you are gluten free
- This project is not recommended for those with severe nut allergies
Airport: Bangkok (BKK)
Arrival day: Sunday before 14:00. You will be collected from the airport and transferred to the sanctuary
Departure day: Sunday after 12:00
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 wildlife sanctuary Thailand to provide a home for displaced and abused animals. Edwin has lived in Thailand for almost 30 years, speaks fluent Thai (amongst other languages) and is fully embedded into the Thai culture.
- Access to your own personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the program and manage your booking
- Dedicated contact time with an experienced destination manager to discuss the project, answer any of your questions and for us to find out more about you
- Help and advice from our UK office before arrival and whilst you are away
- In-country support
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and project advice
- Gold level, 24/7 Pharos crisis management and incident support cover
- Financial protection: ATOL (if we book your flights); IPP (if we don’t book your flights)
- Thorough orientation on arrival
- Accommodation (see the ‘accommodation’ section above for details)
- Advice on visa requirements
- Oyster plants a tree in Africa with TreeAid to help reduce the impact of global carbon emissions
- Met personally at Bangkok airport and taken to the project
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
- Flights – as an ATOL bonded company, Oyster can book flights for you
- You need a valid passport that meets the requirements of the country you will be travelling to
- Insurance (covering your time with Oyster and any planned independent travel)
- Any costs associated with changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Home country travel costs
- Spending money for additional trips, food and entertainment
- Cost of a hotel in Bangkok if arriving too late for the transfer (before 14:00)
- You must have your diphtheria, tetanus and polio up to date – without these you will not be allowed to work on the project
- Return transfer to the airport
General project protocol
- All volunteers must be double vaccinated with proof of their vaccinations
- All volunteers must bring masks, gloves and hand sanitiser
- Prepare for a thorough orientation on arrival regarding health and safety measures at your project and in your country destination
- Volunteers must wear masks during the airport transfers
- Protocol is, and will continue to be, followed with the aim to minimise risk to staff and volunteers
- Strictest hygiene controls are in place for equipment and all public areas.
- Isolation rooms for those who fall sick
Please find latest entry requirements for Thailand here (UK)
Without enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers, this sanctuary would not be able to run. Volunteering hands-on with elephants is a real privilege, and helping them to enjoy life after years of being slaves to the tourist industry is a great achievement. Volunteers love this as they can get stuck in to genuine conservation and protection, all the whilst learning more about these amazing creatures.
Taking part in something like this with your family 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!
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.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day at the wildlife rescue centre, but the structure will be broadly as follows.
Morning tasks: 6:30 – 12:00 with a breakfast break and comfort breaks
Lunch: 12:00 – 13:00
Afternoon tasks: 13:00 – 17:00 with comfort breaks
The sanctuary is designed to replicate a life in the wild, however as most of the elephants are so humanised, the human interaction and hands-on work needs to continue. The elephants roam freely and are very sociable creatures. Working closely with the elephants means helping to bathe them, feed them and walk with them daily.
Oyster assesses projects carefully to ensure that they offer high standards of animal welfare and environmental practice. We also check that volunteers understand key points of good practice before working with animals. To find out more, see our animal welfare policy.
This project is open to people from all walks of life, and as such you should expect to be with a group of volunteers of all ages. We cannot guarantee that there will be other families there at the same time as you.
Yes, absolutely. This can be arranged by the project staff once you are at the sanctuary.
We do not include the return transfer to the airport for environmental and financial reasons. As there are departures every Sunday, there are often people wanting to go back to Bangkok / the airport at a similar time. This means that volunteers can share a car and divide the cost of the transfer between them. We prefer to encourage shared transfers as it means that the environmental impact is reduced – and ultimately it might save you money too.
Thailand has a tropical climate and as such you can always expect rain and sunshine – and sometimes within minutes of each other! Typically the wettest season is September and October, so you should make sure to have wet weather gear at this time of year. This being said, the rain is often in short sharp bursts and doesn’t stop you from doing anything on the project. As a guideline, you can expect:
Cold season: November – February. Temperatures approx 15 – 30 celsius.
Hot season: March – June. Temperatures approx30 45 celsius.
Rainy season: July – August. Temperatures approx25 – 35 celsius.
Wet season: September – October. Temperatures approx 25 – 35 celsius.
We would recommend budgeting approximately £30 per person a week for food and free time activities.
There is really easy access to cash machines from the centre so you do not need to take all your cash with you.
If you are going for over 4 weeks, you might like to consider getting a cash card. Cash cards are a safe and convenient way to take your money travelling with you – they act just like debit cards but do not have the same fees as you might have to pay on your bank cards from home. Check out our blog for details on how the card works here.
No visa is necessary for under 30 days from UK and most western European countries. We will give advice on longer stays.
You will need to make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months after you arrive in Thailand.
You should visit your doctor or travel nurse to find out what vaccinations you will need. You must have your vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Without these you will not be able to work on the project.
It is strongly recommended that you are vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, rabies and tuberculosis. These are entirely optional (at your own risk) as these diseases do occur in Thailand but have not occurred at the centre. Please follow your doctor’s advice.
Please note that the Hep B vaccine can take up to 3 months for completion, so you need to act on this as soon as possible.
There are medical facilities approximately 30 minutes from the project sites. Larger hospitals can be found within 3 hours drive in Bangkok.
The centre is in a very secure and safe area and a full safety briefing will be given upon arrival. There is a safe on site for storing valuables. You will be sharing on-site accommodation with other volunteers and the coordinators live on site too. This is a hands off project, except with the elephants, and you will be fully trained for all aspects of the role.
The sanctuary is about 20 minutes from the tourist towns of Cha Am and Hua Hin. They are beautiful and used to having tourists frequent them. Please be aware this is a Buddhist country and you should not have too much flesh on show!
You will be living right in the heart of a small rural village in the sanctuary grounds. Walk five minutes into the small town in order to check the internet, get some laundry done and get to know the locals.
There is intermittent access to wifi at the sanctuary, however this is neither reliable nor fast. Many volunteers buy a local SIM card to access data on the move.
There is mobile phone signal at the centre and you can receive incoming emergency calls at the centre too.
Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT (GMT+7).
In Thailand, a mixture of European plugs and American plugs are used.
- The local village is just a short walk away and has a night market and shops.
- There is an on-site bar which is open until the early evening every day.
- Trips are often organised to Petchaburi, Hua Hin and Cha Am in the evening to see the night markets and explore.
- There is a weekly trip to a local shopping mall, particularly useful for those with specific dietary requirements
- For a night out volunteers can take a taxi to Hua Hin, which has lots of great bars and restaurants and also a night market which sells lots of cheap clothes and souvenirs.
- The Thailand animal sanctuary is located on temple grounds, so it is very easy to visit the temple and experience Thai culture on your days off.
- There are also amazing beaches just 15 miles away and fantastic hiking in the national park.
You will have evenings free and one day per week off.
Supervision will be fairly intensive during the first few days, when you will receive a thorough induction and work-related training. Once you are comfortable with things, you might not always have a supervisor working alongside you, but there will always be staff and other volunteers around to help, and you will always be accompanied for any high risk activities.
Staff at Oyster’s head office and in-country will be responsible for your safety and welfare while you are at the project. This will start from the moment you are picked up from the airport / your hotel until you are due to leave the project on your last day. Before and after these times, you will be outside Oyster’s responsibility and should make sure that you act safely and avoid risk. This is also true if you choose to leave the project during your time off. We will give you plenty of guidance and advice about this.