Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand

Support community efforts to rehabilitate elephants that have previously been put to work in the tourism industry.

Durations: 1 - 12 weeks
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Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

Program information

Travel to Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province and volunteer with elephants relieved from working in the tourism industry. Assist with monitoring the elephants’ behaviour as they are reintegrated into the forests and work alongside mahouts (traditional elephant keepers) and other locals to establish alternative livelihoods. Discover the unique culture of the Karen community, and the lush mountain forests of Northern Thailand in your free time.

Book by 30 September 2022
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Overview
Dates & Prices
Life On Base
Covid-19 Response
publications
What's It like?
ExperiencesNew
Arrivals
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Flights
Testimonials
MEET THE TEAM
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Parent Info
Support & Safety
What's Included
Live Updates

Program overview

Volunteer in the mountain forests of Northern Thailand and spend time in the fields with elephants relieved from working in tourism industry. Leaving behind their lives in the tourism industry, these gentle giants now live more natural lives as a semi wild herd in the Chiang Mai Province – an area famous for its traditional elephant keeping communities.

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

Highlights

  • Learn about elephant history, behaviour, training, biology, social interactions and more.
  • Have the incredible opportunity to observe the elephants in their natural habitat;
  • Learn about elephants from the local Karen community, who have worked alongside elephants for centuries;
  • See the elephants in a more natural setting, interacting with the forest, the mahouts and each other as a semi wild herd.

Program details

Program type
Volunteering
Group
program
Location
GVI Asia, Thailand, Chiang Mai
Focus
Wildlife Conservation
Animal Care

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Exclusive offer. Book before the end of the month and receive up to 0 off this program.
COVID-19 flexibility. If COVID-19 prevents you from travelling, change your location and dates free of charge.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Life On Base

Located in the heart of Northern Thailand, our base in Chiang Mai is surrounded by breathtaking mountains, fields, and forests. With beautiful hills all around, we have a bird’s-eye view over the fields and forests below. In the rainy season, the clouds roll through the base at eye-level. Being the middle of the jungle, elephants can be found throughout the surrounding areas.

When you arrive on base you will be welcomed by the villagers with a traditional Geju ceremony, which they perform for all new participants upon their arrival. During the Geju, food is blessed and pieces of string are tied onto others’ wrists to wish them good fortune.

The project work takes place in the Mae Chaem District, a 5-hour journey deep into the mountains, where the famous Karen elephant-keeping community resides. This community shares a unique and sacred relationship with elephants.

From the base, it’s about a 50-minute walk to the river where you can see buffalo walking about. Despite being very afraid of people and quite shy, you might sometimes see them in the village. The open-air base is divided into two buildings. The older building is usually reserved as a study area – or for staff meetings, presentations and lectures. It has a table with chairs, a hammock for reading, and a few small desks. The newer building is where people socialise. The library is in the new building. It’s small and basic, consisting of a few bookshelves. You can enjoy beautiful sunsets right in front of the base, and there’s a fire pit which we use in the evenings . Moonglow Ridge is a beautiful area to take mats and stargaze. During free nights, we like to watch movies on the projector, sit around the firepit, visit a villager’s home, or take a night stroll. Games (board and card games) are well received and enjoyable to interact with the local community members. There are also a few friendly dogs around the base.

Accommodation

GVI Chiang Mai allows you to experience the local lifestyle. Each volunteer gets their own homestay with a family in the local community. This allows you to become immersed in t...

Transportation

We provide transfers to and from the Chiang Mai Airport. If you are not arriving within the pick-up window, you will find regulated taxi stands at the airport. You can easily tr...

Communication

You will have limited access to long-distance communications whilst on the program, so make sure friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. Wi-Fi is usu...

Meals

Breakfast is available at base before the morning hikes, and lunch and dinner are typically home-cooked meals provided by your individual homestays. Food is simple but nutritiou...

Climate

From November to February, Chiang Mai enjoys its cooler months, when the temperature is mild and mostly dry. The weather is hot and humid between March and June, but as we are b...

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.

The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI 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.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Read up on our COVID-19 protocols

Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research.

Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies.

We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.

Cap Ternay Newsletter, Last Quarter 2019

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1, Christophe Mason-Parker2, April Burt3, Pierre-Andre Adam4, Anna Koester2, Jennifer Appoo5, Nicholas Graham6, Shaun Wilson7, Rodney Quatre1, Isabelle Ravinia1, Dainise Quatre1, Mariliana Leotta2, Joanna Blumel4, Elke Talma8, Arjan de Groene5, Aurelie Duhec4, Richard Jeanne4, Jan Robinson9, Phillip Haupt3, Savi Leblond10, Josep Nogues11, Ariadna Fernandez11, Christopher Narty11, Jude Bijoux12

‘The Current Status of Coral Reefs along the North West Coast of Mahe, Seychelles Following the 1998 Mass Bleaching Event’

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

GVI experiences

We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards –  the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development. 

Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.

Exclusive local GVI experiences
Learn traditional Karen cooking
Learn traditional Karen cooking
Learn traditional Karen cooking
Taste tradition...
Connect with the Karen people's culture
Connect with the Karen people's culture
Connect with the Karen people's culture
Faith in mountains...
Forage for forest medicine with a village elder
Forage for forest medicine with a village elder
Forage for forest medicine with a village elder
The earth heals...
Visit Thailand's highest peak
Visit Thailand's highest peak
Visit Thailand's highest peak
The Roof of Thailand...
Explore Thailand's elegant and mysterious waterfalls
Explore Thailand's elegant and mysterious waterfalls
Explore Thailand's elegant and mysterious waterfalls
Water travellers...
See amazing biodiversity on a night trek
See amazing biodiversity on a night trek
See amazing biodiversity on a night trek
The night calls...
Take a sunrise hike up Two Tree Hill
Take a sunrise hike up Two Tree Hill
Take a sunrise hike up Two Tree Hill
Into another world...
Sleep under the stars alongside Asian elephants
Sleep under the stars alongside Asian elephants
Sleep under the stars alongside Asian elephants
Starry, starry night...

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Please note: Both conservation- and community-focused programs are offered at this location.

GVI Chiang Mai’s programs work in collaboration with the local Karen hill tribe and village of Huay Pakoot. To promote sustainable ecotourism, we work with the elephant-keeping community to assist monitor the introduction of elephants into their natural habitat after their previous lives in tourist camps.

Your contribution will assist in keeping these elephants in protected forests, continuing the conservation of these beautiful animals and what remains of their fragmented forest habitats, as well as providing funding to keep the project running. We also offer alternative livelihoods and English lessons to the local community. Upskilling in English helps facilitate a self-sustainable ecotourism industry. The goal of this project is to have semi-wild herds of elephants living, socialising, and foraging in their natural habitat – supervised by their mahouts from their local village.

Elephant Surveys

We work with local mahouts to track elephants in the forest – collecting behavioural data through observation, taking note of the following:

  • Two-minute interval activity budget on each elephant
  • Interaction with other elephants
  • Vocalisation recordings (written not audio)
  • Monitoring stereotyping behaviour.

Every week we do a health check (eye drainage, tongue check, etcetera). It’s important to note that we have a hands-off approach.

Gibbon surveys
We conduct comprehensive surveys of the daily activity pattern and habitats of White-handed gibbons under natural conditions, which include:

  • Five-minute interval activity budget on each gibbon group member.
  • Recording the feeding, travelling, resting and social activities of gibbons, through various methods.
  • Document location and movement through continuous GPS readings with handheld Garmin GPS receivers.
  • Survey groups for one minute on sighting, with each individual observed for 10 seconds.
  • Observe feeding and collect voucher specimens of the plant foods that are identified by preparing herbaria.

Biodiversity Hikes

We conduct day and night biodiversity hikes, recording any species we see, including birds, gibbons, bats, snakes, reptiles, lizards, amphibians, frogs, and toads. We add images to iNaturalist and eBird.

Quality Education

We work with the local government school – with both teachers and students. Our school-based teaching involves English language, health and wellness workshops, environmental education workshops, and sports activities. Our community-based lessons involve adult and child learners in the community. These are often informal evening sessions, based around what the learners want to learn.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). We want to be able to measure our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, so all our staff and volunteers know which UN SDGs they’re making a substantial contribution to. This also helps our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you’ll be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. Then, once on base you’ll learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also insight into how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Our partners

Project objectives

 

GVI Chiang Mai Long-term Objectives:

1. Increase and promote ethical elephant tourism.

2. Create a viable self-sustaining eco-tourism program for the village. As well as supporting a stable herd of elephants living naturally in the forested area of the village.

3. Improve standards of living and job opportunities for people in the Huay Pakoot village.

4. Improve sustainable natural resource management in the Huay Pakoot area.

5. Ensure a thriving population of wild White-handed gibbons in the Huay Pakoot area.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Flights

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Testimonials

Claire-Marie Dechany

27 Oct, 2020

The GVI Chiang Mai program with the Elephants is by far the best volunteer program I have ever done! Mixing Community and Conservation, this program will make your experience uniqu ...

Emma Baker

14 Jan, 2020

My name is Emma and I am 46 years old. I have just returned from a 4 week stay at GVI Chiang Mai, Thailand. I really didn’t know what to expect from this trip as I had never tried ...

Kirsty McCreath

06 Mar, 2019

I found GVI through searching on the internet volunteering abroad. I am a huge animal lover and had always been keen on volunteering in different parts of the world to help aid tow ...

Ryan Kennedy

06 Mar, 2019

Hi! I’m Ryan Kennedy, and I spent ten weeks volunteering in GVI Elephant Project in Huay Pakoot, Chiang Mai. I was currently studying at university and off for the summer, so I dec ...

Katie Searle

11 Oct, 2018

When choosing a project in Thailand, the GVI elephant project stood out to me due to its strong animal welfare objectives. Unlike other elephant projects in Thailand, the GVI eleph ...

Elaine Chen

11 Oct, 2018

My name is Elaine and I am an artist that attended the GVI program in Chiang Mai for a month in January. I was working as an animation background artist prior to coming on the prog ...

Sally Houghton

11 Oct, 2018

I have recently returned from being involved in two fantastic GVI programs – teaching Novice Monks in Laos and the elephant reintroduction program in Chiang Mai. My experiences ...

Claire Riddiough

11 Oct, 2018

My time in Huay Pakoot was truly life changing. Although I was only there 2 weeks, the experience had such a powerful effect on me that I have decided to return to take part in a s ...

Jenna Duncan

11 Oct, 2018

The time I spent on the internship in Thailand helped me grow so much as a person. Working with the elephants every day made me realise that this is the sort of thing I want to do ...

Ashley Moss

11 Oct, 2018

In 2014 I made the decision to leave home and have my first big solo adventure. It has always been a dream of mine to travel around the world and work with wildlife, so I felt GVI ...

Jasmin Stevens

11 Oct, 2018

My main focus on project is elephant foraging; which consists of collecting data on the different species of plants which the elephants consume, discovering new species of plants a ...

Natalie Gonzalez

11 Oct, 2018

I attend Cornell University and I am a member of a scholarship program called Cornell Tradition. In order to receive funding from my program, I had to meet certain requirements: be ...

Brittany Chiapetti

11 Oct, 2018

Traveling halfway across the world to work with elephants is a dream I never had until I became curious about elephants and research about them. I got more out of this experience t ...

Lola Ovarlez

11 Oct, 2018

What is so exceptional about volunteering in Chiang Mai is that you do not have to be fond of sciences, to be an explorer or anything. Being enthusiastic is enough. I spent 6 weeks ...

Katie Doull

11 Oct, 2018

The GVI project I had the pleasure of being a part of was the Conservation Project with Elephants in Thailand. I was there for a total of 4 weeks, this was certainly not long enoug ...

Julia Porter

07 Sep, 2018

The GVI Elephant program was a life-changing experience. I chose this program because I wanted to be up close and personal with elephants, not knowing how much of an impact the com ...

Silvi Tiivas

16 Aug, 2018

**A good account of staying with a village family and an appreciation of the new culture encountered.** **Testimonial** Thailand December 2014 - January 2015 (2 weeks) I spen ...

Rose Little

15 Aug, 2018

This summer I spent 3 months on an elephant reintroduction project in Huay Pakoot, North West Thailand with GVI. It was absolutely amazing being able to hike into the forest to see ...

Claire Wigham

25 Nov, 2013

I have had the opportunity to observe and work closely with these social and complex animals, which would be impossible with elephants in the wild. Staying in a traditional Karen c ...

Meet the team

Liam

Senior Program Coordinator

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more
Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Your Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Chiang Mai

Conservation: Survey Techniques and Logistics

An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.

Conservation: Biodiversity & Target Species Identification

Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.

Certificates & qualifications

GVI Online Wildlife Conservation course (optional)

If you have a passion for wildlife conservation then this course will provide you with the foundational skills and understanding needed to achieve your conservation-related goals. You’ll learn about the various methods of wildlife monitoring, as well as exploring the delicate balance involved in terrestrial ecosystem management. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Weekend Trips

Pai

Pai is an amazingly small backpacker town with a huge street-food market. Tours  to the canyon, caves, and waterfalls are available. Check out Pa...

Local Adventures

Karen culture

The Karen people are friendly, minimalistic, generous to outsiders, and caring towards nature and wildlife. There are a number of community elders who are very conversational an...

Village celebrations

Visit the village’s Buddhist temple which is set alongside a sacred lake. During Thai holidays, you may hear chanting coming from the temple, see parades taking place, or witnes...

Night in the forest

Ten minutes away from the village, there’s a campsite in a conservation forest. Upon request, we sometimes take what gear is available on base and sleep out in the forest. We st...

Football, volleyball and ultimate frisbee

Join other participants for a game of football, volleyball or ultimate frisbee at a field next to the school. Just be sure that it’s not being used by the local students for the...

Hiking trails

Take a hike along the corn fields to watch the sunrise. This trail offers excellent views of the forest. Or take the forest trail – you might even see some gibbons. This is quit...

Smoothies, noodles and fashion

Visit Boh Luh’s Smoothie Shop, a two-minute walk from base. Boh Luh sells delicious smoothies made from mango, banana, passionfruit, watermelon, and other fruit. Make use of the...

Movie nights

We have a projector at base as well as a large selection of movies. Sometimes we take a vote on which one to put on after dinner (or when we have a quiet afternoon).

...

Gym

If you need to get a workout in, you’ll find our gym on the lower floor of our base hut. It includes a gym bench and weights.

...

Ping pong

On the lower floor of our base hut, you’ll find a ping-pong table. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself engaged in a heated ping-pong tournament against some of the mahouts!<...

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.

Parent Info

Parent Info Pack

Download parent pack

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.