Work closely with rescued Asian elephants in this inspiring elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Liberated from lives begging in the streets of Bangkok, these elephants have now found a home in this beautiful haven.
Also on site is a remarkable wildlife sanctuary, home to sun bears, primates and more. We can arrange for you to work with wildlife for at least 1 week of your stay.
Duration: 1 – 12 weeks
Dates: Arrivals throughout the year
Arrival day: Sunday
Return day: Sunday
Eligibility: General level of fitness required. Work can be quite physical and the temperature hot
- Giving the elephants a shower and a scrub – they love it, and may choose to make sure you get wet too!
- Walking with the elephants through the forest, experiencing their freedom and enjoying it with them
- Live alongside chattering monkeys and singing gibbons at the adjacent wildlife sanctuary
- Have the option to volunteer at the wildlife sanctuary, with sun bears, birds, primates and more!
- Hit the beach and explore the night markets to soak up some of the best that Thailand has to offer
- Limited availability
- Very limited availability
Volunteer at Thailand‘s first and only chain-free elephant sanctuary, currently home to 25 rescued elephants. In their previous lives these elephants were forced to beg on the streets of Bangkok, carry tourists on mountain treks or entertain in elephant camps. In their new lives, they live in freedom in 20 hectares of land, enjoying a lifestyle as close to the wild as possible.
The aim of the sanctuary is to allow the elephants to live as well as possible for the rest of their lives. As elephants are big grazers, in the wild they would be eating and moving for about 18 hours per day – a far cry from what they were allowed to do in captivity. For many of the elephants, this is the first time that they can eat food that is natural for them, and their health has dramatically improved since arrival at the sanctuary. Volunteers are essential to continue this positive change.
As an elephant volunteer in Thailand, you will take part in many activities. Some of these may include but are not limited to:
- Elephant feeding: grass cutting, food preparation and feeding – the elephants need to eat about 5% of their bodyweight each day!
- Maintenance tasks: painting, building and making enrichments for the elephants
- Manual jobs: Preparing, cleaning and maintaining the elephant bathing pools and harvesting food for the elephants. These jobs can be quite physical!
- Hands-on elephant care: Hosing and scrubbing the elephants, 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
On-site there is also a wildlife sanctuary, home to bears, gibbons, macaques, orangutans, otters, birds and more. If you would like to volunteer here for part of your stay, please do let us know and we shall try to arrange 1 or 2 weeks volunteering with the other animals too. Working in both parts of the sanctuary will give you insights into the very diverse conservation and welfare needs all of these animals.
- Shared accommodation in the heart of the sanctuary
- Expect to share a room with 2 – 5 others
- 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
Join a 13 day tour that goes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai across into Laos and then on to Vietnam. This budget backpacker tour is the perfect way to round off your volunteering.
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 centre 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
- 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
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)
- Return transfer to the airport
“I loved working with elephants in Thailand. This sanctuary is such an inspiring place, and it is amazing how quickly the elephants remember how to be “wild” again. I think that the greatest highlight for me was wandering through the forest with an elephant, simply enjoying her freedom with her”
Oyster is working hard to reopen this project. This will involve some changes to the running of the project including:
- Amendments to the accommodation – to be confirmed
- All volunteers must bring masks, gloves and hand sanitiser
- All volunteers must be able to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test (taken within 72 hours before departure)
- Prepare for a thorough orientation on arrival regarding health and safety measures at your project and in your country destination
- Social distancing of 1.5m must be observed during project work
- Volunteers must wear masks during the airport transfers
- There will be a daily check for temperature and symptoms
- 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.
Elephants in Thailand have had a tough time of it. Historically they were taken from the wild, domesticated, and forced to work in the logging industry. Over the years this industry focused more and more on machines, leaving elephants redundant and their owners with a large debt. To make money, owners took their elephants to the streets to beg and perform for money – a practice which is illegal. Others took their elephants to camps where they were forced to perform tricks to tourists or carry tourists on their backs on mountain treks. This project aims to provide a safe haven for the lucky elephants that have so far been rescued – 25 have been rescued so far, with many more needing help and protection in the coming years.
When visiting Thailand, elephant volunteering is a very popular option. Without enthusiastic and hard-working elephant volunteers, Thailand’s elephants would have a much poorer standard of welfare – indeed, this elephant rehabilitation project 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.
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.
These elephants have all been rescued from difficult backgrounds. Often forced to beg in the street, dance or perform tricks for tourists and or take tourists for rides, these elephants are now allowed to roam as freely as possible. The elephants all live in huge enclosures and they are taken out by the volunteers during the day to roam.
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.
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.
We are an approved activity provider for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. You are able to put the time that you spend volunteering abroad on this project towards achieving your Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. We are happy to sign off your completion of this programme to show that you have achieved the Residential section of the Gold Award.
The elephant sanctuary is part of a wider wildlife sanctuary. The two sanctuaries are part of the same animal welfare initiative and based in the same plot of land. The wildlife sanctuary is home to about 700 animals in total, including sun bears, gibbons, macaques, birds and much more.
Depending on availability, we can arrange for you to take part in this project for at least a week that you are out there. In this way, you can gain a full appreciation of conservation in Thailand.
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 approx 30 – 45 celsius
Rainy season: July – August. Temperatures approx 25 – 35 celsius
Wet season: September – October. Temperatures approx 25 – 35 celsius
We would recommend budgeting approximately £30 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. Cards work everywhere.
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.
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.
Most of our volunteers are independent travellers and you will become part of a group of people from around the world here. It is fine to travel with friends or as part of a small group too however- more the merrier!
The simple answer to this question is, yes absolutely!
It is important to bear in mind however that this may not be like other holidays that you have taken. Remember that you are volunteering, and this means that you will be put to work! This sort of holiday is a world away from sun loungers and cocktails, with our volunteers often heading home tired but immensely satisfied. If you think that you will need a bit of relaxing time on your trip too, do make sure to factor this in when your time on the project is complete.
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 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.
There are medical facilities approximately 30 minutes from the project site. Larger hospitals can be found within 3 hours drive.
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.
Volunteering with animals abroad does involve an element of risk, however you will be working closely with well-trained staff throughout your time as a Thailand elephant volunteer. You will be fully trained for all aspects of the role and well-supported by local staff.
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!
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.
Oyster has personally hand-picked some of the best volunteering projects out there. With so much amazing choice, it can be hard to make a decision. Our Animal Welfare Destination Manager, Anne, has written a guide to help you to choose the best animal volunteering project for you.