Marion Thibaudeau of NGO Frontier, tells us more about how you can help Thailand’s retired domestic elephants on this volunteering holiday
Thailand is well known for its culture and history, for its white sand and crystal clear blue waters, and for its rich wildlife. Many impressive animals can be found in the deep Thai jungles, including bears, tigers, and elephants.
Well over two thousand elephants are domesticated throughout the country and sadly, its wild elephant population (of two to three thousand) is declining due to a caustic mix of problems: The ivory trade has put this majestic species at severe risk of poaching, and Thailand still suffers from illegal elephant trade and abuse, notably for tourism purposes, despite recent efforts by lawmakers to cut down on these activities.
Frontier operates the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary project, which gives volunteers a unique chance to spend time with a number of retired elephants. Take the ethical route to experiencing elephants in Thailand, and give these animals the care and attention they deserve.
Life as a volunteer on the project
Upon arrival in Bangkok, you will be spending a week in Singburi, immersing yourself in Thai culture, learning more about its history and language, and visiting temples and museums. You will then be taken to the elephant sanctuary to the north of the country. During your time there, you will be helping wash, feed and exercise the elephants during the week, with free time on weekends, leaving you opportunities to explore the surrounding area or participate in other events, such as water rafting. As the days go by, you will come to know the elephants and notice their individual personality quirks as you grow closer.
Accommodation at the sanctuary consists of thatched huts in the jungle, with all the basic amenities. In Singburi, volunteers stay in a shared volunteer house.
Traditional Thai food will be provided throughout the project. With influences from China, India and Indonesia, Thailand boasts an exciting cuisine with flavoursome mixes of sweet, sour, salty and hot, generally on a basis of rice or noodles.
Recommended for… This project is recommended for anyone wishing to interact with elephants in an ethical and controlled manner. While it is easy to see elephants in Thailand, many elephants presented to tourists are often raised and kept in poor conditions. This sanctuary ensures that its elephants are taken care of, and the volunteers visiting it can attest to that!
Be aware that… The cultural orientation week in Singburi is only available to those spending more than one week on the project.
For more information, including a full programme, prices, departure dates and booking, visit www.frontier.ac.uk
About the author: Marion Thibaudeau is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Check out Frontier’s blog ‘Into the Wild’ for more gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information about travel and volunteering opportunities available please visit www.frontier.ac.uk.