Experience the best cultural, adventure, and environmental activities that Chiang Mai has to offer.
Anyone age 16-23. Individuals from any country may apply. There are no pre-requisites for this program. It’s a great fit for students who want to live and work among elephants, but also want to see what this beautiful city and its surroundings have to offer.
It’s for students who don’t mind getting their hands dirty and are eager to explore a new culture, but who don’t want a language-immersion or homestay program. It’s for independent and interested students who want to travel with a group.
Each session of this program can accommodate a maximum of 16 students.
• Feed, bathe, and care for rescued elephants
• Zipline through the jungle
• Learn how to cook traditional Thai food
• Go rafting and hiking in Thailand’s beautiful wilderness
• See Itinerary here
*June 16 – July 2, 2018
Our Thailand 101 program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined with other Thailand two-week programs back-to-back, including:
Combine two programs for an automatic 10% discount on your tuition. Airfare costs stay the same. You can also combine Thailand 101 with Veterinary Service: South Africa for additional airfare.
Tuition is $3,450 USD not including international airfare. Airfare on the group flight from New York, NY is $1,779 round-trip including taxes and fees.
Tuition includes all meals and activities.
Your tuition includes donations to ARK and the Elephant Nature Park to help fund medicine, food, and care for the animals.
This program is designed for students from a wide range of educational interests and backgrounds. The program provides 40 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.
Loop Abroad can provide you with a pass/fail transcript for the course “Culture and Service in Thai NGOs”at your request. This course is the academic component of your program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for any assistance needed.
We’re extremely excited to show you what Northern Thailand has to offer. Chiang Mai is home to many of our staff and a very special place in the hearts of all of our students. It offers unparalleled cultural experiences in a safe, comfortable environment.
Home to over sixty elephants who are no longer able to work in elephant-based industries or have been rescued from inhumane conditions in logging, trekking, or circus operations. The Park and its founder, Lek Chailert, have been recognized time and again for tireless efforts to improve the lives of elephants in SE Asia.find out more
In this two-week program the group will spend one week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, working hands-on with the elephants and seeing first-hand how a successful NGO is run. The second week will be spent in the city of Chiang Mai with full days of cultural and adventurous activities. Check a sample itinerary here.
Week 1 – Chiang Mai
Our week in Chiang Mai includes the following activities:
Your itinerary may vary slightly based on weather, holidays, and a number of other factors.
Week 2 – Elephant Nature Park
The other week is spent living and volunteering with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in a specially-tailored volunteer program. Students work with the elephants, helping to feed them, bathe them, cut their food, clean their homes, and provide overall care for them. They will also help with sanctuary upkeep and have the chance to participate in cultural activities.
You will also have opportunities to volunteer with the puppies at the dog shelter on the property, visit an elementary school near the park, help with all sorts of farm chores, have a Thai lesson, and meet with Lek Chailert, world-renowned conservationist and founder of the Elephant Nature Park.
You’ll notice that elephant riding is not included in this itinerary. Learn about why we don’t ride elephants.
Note: Either the Elephant Nature Park or the Chiang Mai week may come first in your itinerary.
Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Thailand. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.
While most dogs are very friendly, some would rather be left alone. It is important to approach all dogs carefully.
At the Elephant Nature Park, we work only with female elephants. Elephants are accompanied by at least one trained caretaker at all times. The Elephant Nature Park has been hosting volunteers since the early 1990s and has an exemplary safety record. All dogs at ARK and the Elephant Nature Park have been vaccinated against rabies.
You will have the opportunity to bathe, touch, feed, and get plenty of up close photos with elephants, but it is important to also allow the elephants to have the freedom to enjoy their natural environment and the company of their elephant friends. It can be even more rewarding to watch the elephants interacting with their natural environment from a distance because this is when their true personalities shine!
Students will always be accompanied by trained guides and volunteer coordinators who will instruct students in how to safely interact with the elephants.
Learn more about Thai culture, conservation, elephants, or veterinary medicine
A special thanks to Charlotte Leonetti, teen book reviewer and student travel blogger, for helping us put together this book list from the huge amount of choices available. You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*
Chasing the Dragon’s Tail: The Struggle to Save Thailand’s Wild Cats, by Alan Rabinowitz. Alan Rabinowitz is one of the leading authors on protecting large cats in the wild. He is the director of the Science and Exploration Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and has led research expeditions all over the world. He is known for founding the world’s first jaguar reserve, which lies in Belize. This book is a sad and beautiful tale of the author’s struggle to understand Thailand and to help save the wild cat population of Thailand.
A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, by Jaed Coffin. Jaed Coffin lives in Maine, and was raised in the United States as a Thai American. When he was twenty-one-years-old, he left college life in New England to be ordained as a Buddhist Monk in his mother’s native village of Panomsarakram, Thailand. This book is the story of his time in Thailand, and explores themes of displacement, ethnic identity, and cultural belonging. (NOTE: this book isn’t about elephants.)
When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy. This New York Times Bestseller was heralded as “A masterpiece, the most comprehensive and compelling argument for animal sensibility…”. Elephants are the national animal of Thailand, and are an important symbol in religion and culture there. They are also intelligent, social animals who are on the brink of extinction in Asia and Africa. This text is a great exploration of the emotional lives of elephants and an eye-opening tale for students of conservation and the behavior of animals, human or otherwise.
Elephant Memories, by Cynthia Moss. Cynthia Moss is founder and director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Africa. As a study of a family of African Elephants in Kenya over twenty-seven years, this book is a moving and important book. “One is soon swept away by this ‘Babar’ for adults. By the end, one wants to curse human civilization and cry out, ‘Now God stand up for the elephants!’”, wrote Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times.
Tales of an African Vet, by Dr. Roy Aronson Booklist says, “For a veterinarian, it’s one thing when one’s patients are cuddly pet cats, dogs, and the occasional hamster. It’s quite another when the cats turn out to be cheetahs, the dogs are part wolf, and the hamster? Well, that could be anything from a gorilla to an elephant, a puff adder to a crocodile. Through equal parts luck, timing, and desire, Aronson augmented his 25-plus-year career as a small animal veterinarian in South Africa with house calls to treat some of the world’s largest and most dangerous creatures. Except that in Aronson’s case, the “house” was anywhere from a rhino’s cage at the renowned Pretoria Zoo to a lion’s pride in the densest African bush. The case histories of the animals treated in these treacherous locations provide an exhilarating glimpse into the lives of numerous valuable and endangered species. As intrepid as Indiana Jones and as compassionate as Dr. Doolittle, Aronson shares harrowing, and sometimes humorous, adventures in an engrossing memoir about an unexpected career.”
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony Publisher’s Weekly says, “In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Anthony (Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo) purchased Thula Thula, “5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa,” transforming a rundown hunters’ camp (dating to the 19th century) into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism. In 1999, Anthony agreed to take in a herd of “troubled” wild elephants, the first seen in the area in more than a century. Winning their trust, becoming deeply attached, and even learning how they communicate (deep, rumbling “whispers,” sensed rather than heard), Anthony took enormous risks in the form of enraged elephants, distrustful neighbors, and poachers. Over time Anthony succeeds in his larger goal, winning support from the six Zulu tribes whose land borders the reserve (“most Zulus … had never set eyes on an elephant”); they eventually join Anthony’s venture as partners in a larger conservation trust. An inspiring, multifaceted account, Anthony’s book offers fascinating insights into the lives of wild elephants in the broader context of Zulu culture in post-Apartheid South Africa.”
Last Chain on Billie: How one Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, by Carol Bradley ” Like the majority of captive elephants, Billie was captured as a calf, surfacing in the U.S. in 1966 as a four-year-old. After several years in a private zoo, she joined the circus, where she was trained to perform. Circuses are an extremely demanding environment for elephants, with constant travel from one town to another, multiple shows per week, and continuous noise. Although she learned difficult tricks and was a star, Billie rebelled and began to be known as a difficult elephant, gaining a reputation for attacking her trainers. Meanwhile, two former elephant trainers had grown disenchanted with circuses and the distorted lives that circus elephants lived, and they decided to found a sanctuary for former performing elephants in Tennessee. The story of how Billie got to the Elephant Sanctuary, and of how the sanctuary overcame the prejudices of both the circus and zoo communities, is both heartrending and uplifting. Full of details of the brutal life endured by performing elephants, of battles between Billie’s owner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over her ultimate fate, and of Billie’s eventual adjustment to a life of freedom, Bradley’s newest has produced a well-researched winner.” – Booklist
*Links are affiliate links – thanks for helping to support Loop Abroad!
“This program allowed me to have the experience of a lifetime and build some lifelong friendships! I never could’ve imagined how amazing this adventure would be. I had such an amazing time gaining experience with elephants and building great memories with amazing people!”
Sarah B., Thailand 101 and Elephant Bonus Week
Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH