Volunteer with Elephants

Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand, an unforgivable experience related to you by volunteer Emmie who recently spend some time at the Elephant Nature Park in the Chiang Mai province – Northern Thailand.

Best part? Maybe bathing with the elephants in the local river or getting covered in babies elephant spit!

Read her amazing international volunteering experience!


Emmie and the Elephants...

All pictures supplied by Emmie

Where and When did you Volunteer with Elephants?

I volunteered in Thailand at the “Elephant Nature Park” through International Student Volunteers (ISV).

I heard about this opportunity through Uni and participated in November-December 2013.

The time spent volunteering was amongst the hill tribes of Chiang Mai. 


Where's Emmie? The International Student Volunteers group

How Long did you Volunteer with Elephants?

There were two total weeks of volunteering, wish it was longer!

  • The first week was volunteering at Elephant Nature Park with the elephants.
  • The second week was travelling 6 hours out of Chiang Mai to the Jamluang Hill Tribe where we helped with the local school there. 

Fashion for volunteers at the Elephant Nature Park...

How Was the Atmosphere as a Volunteer at Elephant Nature Park?

The atmosphere was amazing everyone was helpful and happy and very passionate about volunteering.

Many great friends were made and we all continue to keep in contact with each other.

What Tasks do you Have to Do as a Volunteer with Elephants?

"Morning walks meeting all the elephants.

This poor lady is blind from her previous owners slingshotting her eyes when she wouldn't work because of exhaustion.

Such a sad thing to see…"


We started off lightly, just going around and feeding and patting the elephants as we did a walk around the park. This way the Mahouts (trainer/owner) were able to give us the very tragic stories as to why each individual elephant had to be saved.

Then the chores got grubbier, with tasks like:

  • re-stack and cut up all the fruit and veggies for the elephants food

Now, elephants eat tones so we were at it all day: peeling bananas, cutting melons and pumpkins...


Preparing Elephant food

  • making mush for those elephants with digestion problems

  • cutting tall grass down from a field with blunt machetes

That was only for one day, but we had to fill a huge truck up!

While each volunteer individually had cut about 10-15 bundles for the day, each mahout managed to cute about 50 each.

Still all volunteers went back sore armed and blisters in their hands!


Cutting grass for elephants

  • Also we had a day where we went around Elephant Nature Park shovelling poop

We stacked the poop into wheelbarrows and empty it all onto a giant pile of poo...

It turns out that this poo is taken out to all the farms for more nutrients towards their crops. So in the end it is useful poop.

  • The best part however was every afternoon we were able to go down to the river that bordered the park and wash the elephants.

On these parts of the day, we were able to interact with them at a more personal level.


Emmie during her favourite part of the day: the elephant bath!

What are the Accommodation Conditions at Elephant Nature Park?

Accommodation was good; the beds were hard though but were given adequate linen and mosquito nets, the rooms were a 2-5 capacity size.


Accommodation at Elephant Nature Park

Who are you With when you Volunteer with Elephants at Elephant Nature Park?

There were about 13 of us within the International Student Volunteers group, but people from outside the organization are able to go and volunteer individually their time at Elephant Nature Park, which I highly recommend!


Interacting with Elephants...

How Much did your Volunteering Experience Cost?

The trip including flights cost $AUS4000, but with kind donations from people I managed to raise 3/4 of the costs.

As it is a volunteer trip I was able to fundraise most of it, where I used tins and asked family and friends for donations and businesses in my local area.

If we wanted to buy and gifts or extra food then we paid for it separately.

But we were given a buffet for breakfast lunch and dinner which had exquisite Thai foods.


Buffet provided, 3 times a day, for all volunteers

Do You Have More Specific Tips to Raise this Amount of Money?

Here are some of the things that helped me raise the money:

  • I made a Facebook page about my dream of volunteering wit Elephants. There I updated people on what I would be doing, the fact that I needed to raise money and how the fundraising was progressing.
  • I sold my old clothes at markets.
  • I made muffins and sold them too.
  • I did a suitcase rummage in the city one day.
  • I sent emails out to local businesses and said that I'd promote them if they donated over a certain amount of money.
  • And lastly I made tins with a label that just said briefly what I was doing and put them at the local pub.

Raise money by having an animal onesie party!

What was your Most Valuable Contribution as a Volunteer with Elephants?

I'm proud of having created some 'scratching posts' or in other words 'barriers for the trees' as these will stay on the park for a long time and if I come back to the park they'll still be there.


Emmie building Elephant scratching posts

What did you Learn from your Volunteering Experience?

I've learnt to be more grateful and appreciative of the things we use every day: transport, technology, beds.

Some of these Thai people have a thin yoga mattress on the ground but are happy because they are making money through the Elephant Nature Park to send their children to school, and the children are just the happiest and most grateful kids when they have hardly nothing to their name.

Emmie in the paper!

Do you Need any Qualification for Volunteering with Elephants?

There's no qualifications needed!

So there's no excuse to not get over to Thailand!


Elephant family...

What’s the Worst Part of Volunteering with Elephant Nature Park?

Poop picking up - it stank soooo bad and was so heavy!!

Any Funny or Special Story you can Share with Us?

The baby elephants would just run at you and try and rip your arm off when you had food, happened to a few girls and was hilarious!

They got covered in elephant spit!


Baby Elephant spit: Yummy

Would you Recommend Volunteering with Elephant Nature Park?

Definitely 110% recommend it! Great experience!

Volunteer with the elephants of Elephant Nature Park and help disabled, blind, and orphaned elephants that have often a history of abuse as working animals or as part of street begging.

You can see more about the conditions of booking your volunteer experience at the Elephant Nature Park Volunteer page.