Elephant and Endangered Sea Turtle Coastal Conservation in Thailand

Contribute to the preservation of two endangered species, while exploring the coasts of Southern Thailand and the forested hillsides of the North.

Durations:  8 weeks

Program information

Contribute to conserving two of Thailand’s most precious species, the Green sea turtle and the Asian elephant, both of which are classified as endangered. Experience life in both Southern and Northern Thailand, experiencing the distinct habitats, cultures, and conservation issues faced by both regions. Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water and #15 Life on Land.

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undefined 31 May 2022
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Included in your program

Make the most of our unique programs with these exclusively curated local adventure and wellness experiences.

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

Connect with our alumni
Want to connect with some of our past participants about their adventures? Get in touch with hundreds of friendly ambassadors all over the world who would be more than happy to answer any questions.
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Jonathan Berry

06 Mar, 2019
My name is Jonny and I spent my summer of 2018 at the GVI Chiang Mai project focusing on elephant conservation. I wasn’t aware of GVI’s overall development goals. I chose the GVI elephant project as I am a huge supporter of wildlife conservation and elephants are my favourite animal. I couldn’t have imagined that the project would change me as much as it did. Seeing the environmental work that the team in Thailand do is so worthwhile and the seeing the results they have achieved is amazing. I know that when GVI started their programme in the village of Huay Pakoot it was a much different place. Some early pictures show how the village was filled with litter and GVI have since introduced bins around the village. The team in the village do a weekly litter pick on site and are helping to educate the volunteers and villagers on how to better dispose of their waste and produce less waste. The base in the village has six bins all for different waste. One for general waste that is collected by a waste disposal team once every 2 weeks, one for cardboard that is burnt for fire tinder, one for cans and one for bottles which are sent to a recycling firm. Any fruit waste is placed in a compost heap. The other two bins are used for separating food waste, one for rice and one for other food. The rice is fed to the pigs in the village and the other food is fed to the dogs. These disposal methods are used to eliminate the amount of waste and to also eliminate any waste of resources. Since returning home from the village I have become much more aware of reducing waste in my own life. I understand the importance of not using plastic carrier bags anymore and will only use bags for life now. I have bought a metal straw which I take out to use for drinks. I check products I’m buying to make sure they don’t contain palm oil. These are just a few things which I have learnt during my time in the village. I was taught the importance of looking after our environment and the ways we can conserve it. Another great development goal that is being achieved by the GVI Chiang Mai team in sustainable and decent work and economic growth. The village was a much undeveloped place when GVI first started there. Due to the constant flow of volunteers it means that the village has a constant new income source changing on a fortnightly basis. When GVI started in Huay Pakoot there was one shop. The village now has 5 shops, a restaurant, a smoothie shop, a coffee and internet café and a launderette. All of these businesses have been set up by the people of the village to provide them with a new source of income as an alternative to farming. GVI support this in all aspects of village life. For example, as opposed to buying a minibus or truck, they employ the villagers to drive volunteers to and from Chiang Mai. The village of Huay Pakoot is constantly growing thanks to GVI’s help. I believe that two new restaurants have opened up in the time since I left the village. The part of my volunteering experience which I enjoyed most of all was the community aspect which involves attending the local school to teach English to the children from the village. In my opinion this is one of the most important development goals; a quality education for all. During my time in Huay Pakoot I took part teaching all grades in the school and loved every minute of it. I was given the chance to plan my own lessons and get the reward of teaching these amazing children how to communicate better and give them a better chance to expand their horizons and go further with their education. The skill of speaking English is very important in the Far East as it can give people greater career prospects and allow them to access the western market. Being part of a team giving children the skills to speak English is amazingly rewarding and allows you to learn some of the language spoken by the villagers. The base in the village has a variety of medicine and first aid supplies that are there in case of injury or accident but these are also used to treat any villagers that become unwell. The staff in Huay Pakoot have given up their own time to educate the people of the village on how to better look after themselves and keep good health. Overall the village of Huay Pakoot has developed so much since GVI has been there. They are contributing to achieving the majority of the UN’s sustainable development goals and are helping the people of Huay Pakoot amazingly. They are making life on land better, they’ve introduced sanitary water stations, and they have helped with quality education, they have virtually wiped out poverty in the village and are also promoting well being and good health in the village.

Chiani Ribeiro

05 Mar, 2019
GVI Chiang Mai was my first ever volunteering experience abroad, so I had little to no comparative perspective- and few expectations. I had never really traveled before, so having an interactive and informative conversation with Cormac (a GVI employee here in the UK) before hand, was an extremely helpful thing. I arrived at CNX, my belly brimming with butterflies and my mind rife with curiosity. I- much to my surprise- managed to barter with a tuk-tuk driver to take me to my hostel for a relatively respectable price. I found myself in the lobby of a beautiful hostel, waiting to bump into other volunteer's- which I did, Sophia, a gorgeous and bubbly German girl, and Brodie a strapping confident and absolutely hilarious Aussie bloke. I felt at home with them after a short while. I quickly found myself completely in my element, surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, (and this was the first few days). We gathered together a group of people who weren't too jet-lagged, and set to the streets of Chiang Mai with safety in numbers, to explore what it had to offer. We didn't plan, we just set off, and wandered where our legs cared to take us. We saw temples, ate incredible Thai street food, walked and familiarised ourselves with not only the area, but one and other. I remember laughing a lot that day. After we'd had the chance to get to know each other, we all met to watch a presentation and begin an initiation into the wonderful world of GVI Chiang Mai. I realised quickly, that the laid back- yet professional and organised way in which Danielle (the base manager) conducted our induction, would set the tone for the whole trip. We all piled into the back of two mini buses, driving five hours up into the mountains past Mae Chem, stopping for lunch at an authentic Thai eatery. We were taken to a waterfall that day, the biggest and most beautiful I've seen to date. Arriving in the village I can only describe as surreal. The tree covered mountains, and the sheer vast beauty that the topography of Northern Thailand is something that steals your words and thoughts, offering nothing but "wow". I think the living arrangements, staying with homestay families, provides a more authentic taste to the whole experience, as well as a sustainable income for families the involved. In staying with our host families, we had the opportunity to learn far more about the local culture- something which seemed to me to begin with, almost esoteric, grew to be simply contrasting beauty. We were given packed lunches to take with us on hikes in the morning, meeting for breakfast at base; sometimes I would meet other volunteers at Root's coffee shop- he makes the best coffee in the whole of Thailand I might add. I remember often cleaning my teeth as others put on their hiking boots. There was a real sense of community and family, both with our home stays, and the other volunteers and GVI staff members. Hikes were hard to begin with- almost impossible in the hard beating Thai sun, trekking through thickets of jungle and up the side of mountains; however, each hike it got easier, I felt a genuine sense of achievement, and began to feel healthier within a short amount of time. Either way, the challenge of the hikes were met by a reward of far higher measure; elephants. I can't really tell you about my first time seeing an elephant, I just remember being absolutely mesmerized, and so very lucky. These fantastic beasts, prehistoric, magnificent. One of the most extraordinary sounds I have heard to date (and I studied music) is the elephants trumpeting, it is a sound which doesn't leave you hungry for anything. I learned, even in my six short weeks, so much about conservation, culture and ethical elephant tourism. Some of what I learned shocked and saddened me, which is why I feel it is so important that GVI continue to do the work they do. I also I felt that after being in the presence of such prodigious animals, it was partially my responsibility to carry forth what I had learned sustaining and sharing the lessons that GVI had taught me.

Louise Gentle

11 Oct, 2018
The statement ‘the experience of a lifetime’ wouldn’t even begin to comprehend how life-changing my experience really was. I knew when I was picked up from my hostel and had met the others in the group, I had found a new home. I visited the Phang Nga region of Southern Thailand where I was lucky enough to clean baby turtles, take part in beach cleans and trek through the beautiful idyllic Lampi rainforest. I also gained something from this experience that I was not expecting: a family. The GVI family is exactly what you think it is, your sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles, mums, dads: all from people you meet in the jumbled up household you quickly call home. To top it all off back at the base the positivity in the village towards GVI is unrelenting, you can really feel how your work is giving back to community. Come rain or shine, everyday was full of activities and work to be done, which kept me constantly busy. However no matter how much you put into your work whether it be through teaching, playing sports, cleaning the beach or just trying to speak the common tongue, the people of that region will give back to you so much more

Daniela Tabilo

11 Oct, 2018
The relationship that GVI has with the local community is truly something I have never experienced before. I always felt welcome and appreciated at the Navy Base when working with the turtles and you can tell that our work there does not go unnoticed. GVI's volunteers are treated like a part of the community and I really felt at home on base and around the village. It was really great to see how the locals were excited and able to get involved in the conservation efforts that GVI is also involved in.

Matthew McClellan

28 Nov, 2014
My time spent in Huay Pakoot was unforgettable, unimaginably rewarding and overall one thing I would definitely tell others to do. GVI has left me with wonder and an honesty that can only inspire you to go back and do more.