Volunteer with Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand Construction & Community Development



Imagine you could do something to help the endangered elephant population not just survive but thrive again. Picture yourself doing just that in a fascinating location like Southeast Asia. Enter Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand, a program offered by Global Vision International (GVI). When you participate in GVI's program, you'll travel to Thailand's Chiang Mai Province, a beautiful, mountainous region with a bustling capital (Chiang Mai). This is where you'll meet — and help — the majestic Asian elephant.

Specifically, you get to help elephants relieved from working in the tourist industry. These gentle giants have endured tough lives but have left the circus tricks, trekking adventures and painting exercises behind (we're sure you've seen pics of such activities on social media before).

Folks know Chiang Mai Province as a place with traditional elephant-keeping communities. This program aims to allow elephants to live freely in the jungle by providing owners, mahouts (traditional elephant keepers) and other villagers with working alternatives to tourist camps. So, these elephants have the chance to live improved, more natural lives in Northern Thailand — and you have the opportunity to help. Now that their harsh working days are over, they can live the way they're supposed to live: exploring, eating, socializing and sleeping in the fields and forests of Chiang Mai Province. That sounds like the good life, right?

You may get the chance to do a quick health inspection on the elephants if necessary, which is super cool as you get real close. But you'll mostly be observing them as they move through the wilderness. Watch closely — because elephants always remember where the tasty veggies are.

As you live and work alongside mahouts, who draw on generations of tribal knowledge, you'll learn about elephant behavior, history, biology and social interactions. If you're impressed by how intelligent elephants are, you won't be the first. Take the lessons these amazing creatures teach you to heart.

By joining this program, you'll do your part to enhance the welfare conditions of the Asian elephant. You'll help local Karen communities establish alternative livelihoods and advance the creation of a viable, self-sustaining ecotourism program for the villagers.

During free time, you can discover the fascinating culture and lush mountain forests of Northern Thailand. Learn the Thai language, teach English at a local school, sample the cuisine, and make lasting personal connections with villagers and fellow volunteers. You'll return home having had the experience of a lifetime.


You're not going for laughs and giggles (though those will occur). You're going to make a positive impact.

Well, know this: GVI's volunteer programs have short, mid- and long-term objectives that align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For the Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand project, you'll contribute to many long-term objectives, such as:

- Promotion of ethical treatment of elephants.

- Creation of a viable, self-sustaining ecotourism program for the region.

- Assistance to elephants returning to live naturally in the wild.

- Improvement of living standards and job opportunities for people in the Huay Pakoot village.

- Improvement of natural resources management in the region.

Field conditions

"Volunteering in Chiang Mai

Even if you don't believe in love at first sight, Chiang Mai, with its breathtaking mountain scenery, easygoing pace of life and welcoming people, wins you over. It's quite easy to ease into the lifestyle here.

Project work actually takes place in Mae Chaem District, a five-hour journey into the mountains. You could sleep on the ride, but the views are too good to miss.

When you arrive, you'll meet the famous Karen elephant-keeping communities that reside here. These communities have shared a special relationship with elephants for hundreds of years — and you're about to witness how unique and sacred it is.

Arrival and orientation

We live in a communal atmosphere with the villagers and our English speaking staff who will be providing guidance throughout your time on the project. Days will begin in the early morning and will be long, as you will spend time out in the field with the elephants and return later in the day to assist with local community and base projects. Although the project can be physically tiring, you will be rewarded with both a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day and the noticeable positive impact that we have on the lives of our elephants and the local community; through helping improve the villagers English language skills and generally spending time with members of the community.

The community of Huay Pakoot owns more than 60 elephants distributed around tourist camps in the area. We work with villagers giving them incentives to return their elephants where they belong, to forage in Huay Pakoot’s forest.

Your stay


  • HousingVolunteer house

  • Provided mealsBreakfast, dinner

Accommodation description

If you want a local living experience, you'll find it in this program. You'll live in a communal atmosphere alongside villagers and English-speaking staff who provide support and guidance.

Each day, you'll rise with the sun and head out to the forests and fields to spend time with elephants. Later in the day, you'll return to the village to assist with local community projects.

The project can be physically tiring, but you aren't expecting spa treatments and limo rides. You're expecting to make a noticeable positive impact on the lives of elephants and the local community. And you will.

In addition to helping with projects in the Huay Pakoot community, you'll help villagers improve their English language skills and spend time with them, living just as they would. The community of Huay Pakoot owns more than 60 elephants distributed across local tourist camps. The goal of this program is to provide incentives to the villagers to return their elephants to where they belong: foraging in Huay Pakoot’s forest.



from $1840 USDper week

from $1840 USDper week


What’s included

  • Your own room within homestay

  • Welcome meeting

  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)

  • Required transportation for the duration of your stay

  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)

  • Long term experienced staff

  • Location orientation

  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practise

  • All necessary project training by experienced staff

  • All necessary project equipment and materials

  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)

  • Access to alumni services and discounts

  • 24-hour in-country support

  • 24-hour emergency phone

What’s not included

  • Visa costs

  • Police or background check (where necessary)

  • Personal kit

  • Medical and travel insurance

  • International and domestic airport taxes

  • Airfare

  • Extra local excursions

  • Additional drinks and gratuities

Start dates

Select Saturdays Year Round

Founded in 1997, Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that provides volunteer and internship opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. GVI has sent more than 25,000 volunteers overseas on programs ranging from construction, to animal care, to education, and beyond with 95% of past volunteers stating they would want to travel again with them again.

GVI has been featured by National Geographic, CNN, the Daily Telegraph, and the BBC. Their university partners include Duke University, Stanford University, Northeastern University, and Ohio State University.

Since 1998, GVI has been running multiple-award winning, high quality and high impact conservation and community development programs worldwide. At the core of who we are and what we have managed to achieve is of our team of passionate individuals.

We are committed to our mission of making a difference because we believe in what we do and have seen the impact we make in the field first-hand. With most of our staff having started out as GVI volunteers themselves, they have confidence in our projects and are dedicated to ensuring you have the same amazing experience that they did.


All our projects are directed by our local partners and we ensure all rights and credits stay in the country.

Through our various partnerships with prolific organisations such as Save the Children, The Red Cross, WWF, SANParks and The Jane Goodall Institute, to smaller community based organisations on the ground, we are able to provide quality programs that provide aid when and where it is needed the most. So you can be assured that our projects are legitimate and are making a difference.


GVI supplies funding and manpower to multiple grassroots initiatives in developing countries all over the world.

Some of our biggest achievements to date have been awarding over 3,865 education scholarships; providing support to over 380 organizations worldwide; investing over 35,000,000 USD in our projects and running over 900 environmental sustainability initiatives in over 350 locations, including over 100 protected areas covering more than 12 million hectares.

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