from 2,995€

Brilliant 4.7rating (193)

Elephant Conservation Internship

2 - 12 weeks  ·  Age 18 - 50+

rating  Brilliant 4.7  · 
  Verified by Volunteer World
  Good response rate

Volunteer project with the highest quality. This project sets unprecedented standards in quality - an unparalleled level of excellence.


  • Leadership training
  • Have the incredible opportunity to observe the elephants in their natural habitat;
  • Lead conservation surveys and Contribute to scientific research
  • See the elephants in a more natural setting, interacting with the forest, the mahouts and each other as a semi wild herd.
  • Become fully immersed in a new culture as you live with a local host family

Especially suitable

Age 18+

About the program

Support community efforts to help reintegrate elephants into their natural habitat, from their previous lives in the tourism industry.

Volunteer in the mountain forests of Northern Thailand and spend part of each weekday in the field with elephants relieved from working in tourist camps. Leaving their tragic pasts behind, these gentle giants now live improved and more natural lives in the Chiang Mai Province of Northern Thailand - ...

About the program

Volunteer in the mountain forests of Northern Thailand and spend part of each weekday in the field with elephants relieved from working in tourist camps. Leaving their tragic pasts behind, these gentle giants now live improved and more natural lives in the Chiang Mai Province of Northern Thailand - an area famous for its traditional elephant keeping communities.

Volunteers can learn about elephant behaviour and contribute directly to the elephants’ lives by providing working alternatives for the owners, mahouts and villagers, allowing the elephants to live in the forest. You will observe elephants alongside mahouts who draw on generations of tribal knowledge about elephants.

During your stay in Northern Thailand, you will learn about elephant history, behaviour, training, biology, social interactions and more. You will have the incredible opportunity to observe our elephants in their natural habitat. While learning about elephants from the local Karen community, who have worked alongside elephants for centuries, you will witness the improved welfare conditions you are involved in bringing to these incredibly intelligent animals.

Project Life

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.

GVI Internship Program certificate 

One online certificate for each individual course below that is completed and passed:

  • Wildlife Conservation course
  • Leading Teams for Impact course
  • Careers in Sustainable Development course

Volunteer work

You will quickly learn that village life takes its own pace, rising with the sun in the morning and relaxing later in the day. After volunteers and staff convene at base early morning, for a shared breakfast , the mahouts lead groups of volunteers and staff out to where the elephants have stayed overnight in the forest.

Occasionally you will have the opportunity to assist with a quick but thorough health inspection of the elephants, providing a few minutes of close contact time to truly appreciate the beauty and size of our elephants. The rest of your hike involves following the elephants as they move through the forest, and/or harvested fields (depending on the time of year), socialising and foraging as they would naturally. During our time observing the elephants, interns and long term volunteers collect data on their social interactions with one another and their food-plants preferences. You may also have the opportunity to survey forest biodiversity such as gibbons, deer, snakes, birds, a variety of insects, spiders and plant species diversity.

Volunteers will also have the opportunity to occasionally have lunch in the forest. Not only will we bring our packed lunches to share with the group in the forest, but volunteers are encouraged to assist the Mahouts in cooking traditional food in the field using natural materials, such as bamboo as a container to boil noodles. After adequate time to observe the elephants and eat lunch, we then hike back to the village for the rest of the day’s activities.

Afternoons in the village vary every day of the week, with opportunities to get involved in the community and build relationships among the villagers, fellow volunteers, and the staff team. This is optional and is up to you to get involved in the programs. Volunteers are highly encouraged to help teach English as assistants at the local school, weave baskets with a local community member, play football with the Mahouts, cook with their homestay families, and make the most of such an amazing project in such a remote and beautiful area.

Health & Hygiene:

The work we contribute to across the globe remains important and new measures allow our participants to continue to join our programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. Changes to our existing protocols have been made by our health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities. Please inquire for more information on the protocols. 

Typical day

This is a hands-off, ethical elephant project aimed at reintroducing asian elephants to a natural living environment. The project was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants in the forest.

Volunteers typically work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday being ...

Typical day

This is a hands-off, ethical elephant project aimed at reintroducing asian elephants to a natural living environment. The project was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants in the forest.

Volunteers typically work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday being either travel days back to Chiang Mai or as days off to relax around the village. Many volunteers like to take the opportunity to relax or volunteers are welcome to arrange trips to nearby towns or cities. Your accommodation is very basic within the traditional community, so you should be prepared to adapt and appreciate living conditions that are sure to be very different than your home country

  • Hikes each day with the elephants - The length of hikes can vary depending on the time of year. Hikes can range from 2-7 hours. Sometimes very easy with minimal effort, but other hikes can be intense and very hard work! During hikes we collect data on ele behaviours - specifically their interactions with each other and their mahouts, how they spend their time etc.

  • Twice per week we do health checks on the eles during hikes to look for physical signs of ill-health.

  • Can participate in biodiversity hikes instead of eles- gathering data on bird, butterfly and frog species, camera trap surveys, bat surveys and medicinal hikes

  • Options to get involved with community work too - teaching English 3 days a week at the local primary school, twice a week to homestays, mahouts and women’s English groups. We also teach at the local kindergarten and nursery once a week and have after school clubs at the local nursery throughout the week (bare in mind the duration of your program determines the amount of community involvement you will have). This is all optional and it is up to you as the volunteer to get involved.

  • Other village/cultural activities - basket weaving, rice picking, tree planting, bamboo cup making, language lessons.

  • Social activities - quiz nights, movies, games at communal base hut. 

  • Optional night hikes.

Free-time activities

It is a 2 hour drive to the town of Mae Chaem. Travelling around the local area is easily done on foot. There is no public transport but visits into the city by car can be arranged at your expense.
In the village we have a local vendor where you can buy some snacks and also the best coffee in the ...

Free-time activities

It is a 2 hour drive to the town of Mae Chaem. Travelling around the local area is easily done on foot. There is no public transport but visits into the city by car can be arranged at your expense.
In the village we have a local vendor where you can buy some snacks and also the best coffee in the world! 

In your down time you will be free to travel in the local area. The program is unscheduled during weekends. In this time you could visit Doi Inthanon National Park, go bamboo rafting, or make a trip into the Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son for some western comforts. There is the opportunity to go into Chiang Mai every two weeks, with the staff and volunteers going in for the new volunteer intake.
Short or extended trips to neighboring Laos or Thailand's beautiful islands and beaches are also possible after completion of the program.

We also now include cultural/local experiences. These experiences will take place once every 4 weeks. 

These activities may include: 

  • Learn traditional Karen cooking 
  • Connect with the Karen people's culture
  • Forage for forest medicine with a village elder
  • Visit Thailand's highest peak
  • Explore Thailand's elegant and mysterious waterfalls
  • See amazing biodiversity on a night trek
  • Take a sunrise hike up Two Tree Hill
  • Sleep under the stars alongside Asian elephants 



Minimum Age: 18 years

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.

Language Skills

You need to speak English (intermediate level)

Criminal Background Check


Required Documents

Medical Form and Passport copy

Nationality Restrictions

No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.

Other Skills

The language spoken in the village is not Thai but, "Pakinyow" a dialect of the Karen villagers. Volunteers do not need to be fluent in English though they do need enough to understand all training and health and safety guidelines

Time Commitment

Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

What's Included

What's Included

Services by GVI

What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff provided online 8 weeks prior to program start:
  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practise
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Required transportation for the duration of your stay
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting
  • Your own room within homestay

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs

Airport Pickup at Chiang Mai International Airport

GVI can provide airport pick-ups between 12pm and 5pm on the project start date at Chiang Mai Airport. After arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport, please make your way to Exit 2. You will be met outside the exit by pick-up staff  who will be wearing a marked T-shirt and holding a sign with your name on it. 

If you are not arriving within the pick up window you will find regulated taxi stands to your left upon exiting the baggage pick-up area there you can arrange a taxi to the Eco Resort. The fee should be a flat rate of 200 THB. Alternatively, Eco is not far away, and a Red Truck Taxi or Tuk Tuk should cost between 20 to 80 THB. 


First night accommodation is in shared rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

In the village, each volunteer has their own room in a local homestay. This will either be in the homestay with the family (private room) or in a private hut away from the main house. There is cold running water for washing and drinking water is provided. Asian style squat toilet facilities are available., Participants will also be given at least one base duty day whilst on project to help keep base hygienic for everyone to use.

Food & Beverages

All meals are provided in the village. Most meals are rice based with fresh vegetables and meat/fish/egg. The food is typically richly flavored with chili and local herbs. Vegetarians can easily be catered for and spice levels can be adjusted. With dietary requirements, keep in mind the food will be basic. Breakfast is served at base on a daily basis. Lunch is provided by the homestay as a pack-up each day. Dinner will be served for the homestay in the evening, but volunteers do not eat with the homestay family.

Internet Access

Limited access at the project site

What's NOT included?

What's NOT included?

Flight Tickets

The nearest airport is Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) in Chiang Mai. We assist you to find cheap flights to Thailand. FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS

Travel Insurance

Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Thailand provides security and is a plus to have. GET A QUOTE


If you are intending to volunteer in Thailand you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Thailand. VACCINE CHECKER

Details on arrival

Due to the current situation you have the flexibility of changing the destination and start dates for this program at no extra cost. 

  • 02 Sep 2023
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Program fees

2 weeks (min. stay) 2,995€
4 weeks 3,695€
6 weeks 4,495€
8 weeks 5,095€
10 weeks 5,945€
12 weeks (max. stay) 6,595€
Average fees 1,023€/week

Program fees

1,023€ per week 2 - 12 weeks Age 18 - 50+

Payment methods

Visa Master Card Maestro American Express PayPal



2 - 12 weeks


The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.

Final Payment

Your final payment will be agreed with GVI during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Meet your organization


Brilliant 4.7 rating (193 reviews)

Agency - founded in 1998

Verified by Volunteer World

  Good response rate

Coordinated by


Spoken languages: English

About the project

GVI tackles critical local and global issues by operating award-winning education and training programs on sustainable development projects around the world.

Meet your organization

Founded in 1998, GVI runs programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each manned by our own staff and aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs as well as the objectives of local partners. We welcome participants from all around the world and help facilitate their development into global citizens. This is how we achieve our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

We are truly a global family brought together by our dedication to long-term positive impact. At the root of our success is our commitment to investing in authentic, meaningful connections with one another, which is why mutual respect and trust are central to our operations. Although we respond with empathy to difficult situations, we believe that most circumstances can benefit from taking a light-hearted approach. By sharing stories of local achievement with our teams worldwide we build the momentum to catapult us toward our vision for the future.

193 reviews · rating4.7

Joe Lomas rating4.4

2023 at Elephant Conservation Internship

It was a brilliant experience and a completely new experience to anything I have experienced before! The villagers that you stay with are very welcoming and although for a slight language barrier are very helpful and friendly. The staff are amazing, very informed on the local culture and wildlife, i ...
The GVI internships were amazing. I had the opportunity to learn and apply some new skills to real world partners that desperately needed help. So as well as building connections, earning a certificate, having fun, learning new skills, you will also make a difference to an organisation. I thoroughly ...
Mary Christensen rating5

2024 at Community Development Internship

GVI is a passionate organization that works diligently to promote life long learners and explorers. As an intern with GVI, I was able to explore the culture of my country of choice, serve a purpose greater than myself, and meet friends all around the world. I highly recommend this program to anyone ...
Pam Parkes rating5

2024 at Women's Empowerment Internship

I really enjoyed my recent trip to Siem Reap. The accommodation was very good, I upgraded to a single room with aircon and en-suite and had a fabulous room overlooking the pool. Food was excellent with plenty of choice, both in the guest house and local restaurants where we ate in the evenings ...
Rebecca Suter rating5

2024 at Empowerment of Women Internship

GVI Ghana has been absolutely incredible. The staff are so amazing at what they do and have an amazing balance between professional and friendly. It really feels like you are part of a family and the atmosphere on base makes you really feel at home. The work itself has been so rewarding. The ...
Nanna Madsen rating5

2024 at Empowerment of Women

My journey started out pretty chaotic as my flight to Ghana got cancelled. I got on a new flight and when I arrived in Ghana a day later than expected, the airline had lost my luggage. I called GVI Ghana and the staff helped me to sort the situation quickly. Overall I am really pleased about my ...


Asia > South East Asia > Thailand > Huay Pakoot

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