Come live at a royally-affiliated project dedicated to the preservation of Thai elephants and earn up to 28 service hours as well as a certificate in elephant handling! Learn to ride, guide, bathe, and feed elephants as you help to ensure a bright future for these magnificent animals. The program includes formal classes, practical training, local accommodations, an overnight camping adventure deep in the jungle, an excursion to an elephant hospital, social time with the mahouts (caretakers), and plenty of quality contact with these peaceful pachyderms.
You’ll live at Thailand’s most prestigious elephant conservation centre, set on thousands of acres of forest about one hour from Chiang Mai. This facility is a professional training school for mahouts as well as scores of playful pachyderms of all ages. The conservation centre is also home to an amazing team of trainers who have dedicated their lives to elephants, and they will make your experience here truly memorable. This is one of the finest elephant care, study, and management facilities in the world.
You’ll train with elephants in an outdoor classroom and spend one night deep in the jungle, where you will camp with your elephants on the royal reserve. You will also have the chance to help at the largest elephant hospital in Thailand. Whether you are an elephant lover or simply wish to get acquainted with these amazing creatures, you should consider this legendary program.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to spend some hands-on time with Thailand’s most revered animal, the elephant. Learn about them, play with them, and care for them at the country’s only royally sanctioned conservation. You may have seen elephants at the zoo before, but there are not many opportunities in the world to see AND interact with elephants in their more natural environment. Like a lot of the majestic wildlife in the world, the number of Asian elephants has been drastically reduced in the recent past, pushing them to the brink of extinction. This is a chance to work with one of the most progressive elephant conservation centers in the world, and get up-close and personal with one of the most intelligent and social mammals on earth.
The chance to really engage and bond with the elephants.
At the start and end of the program, you’ll stay in a 4-star hotel in Chiang Mai, but the majority of your time will be at the Elephant Conservation Camp itself. At the Center, we’ll be in simple rooms with hot-water showers, air conditioning, and western-style beds.
No, this camp is operated independently year-around and is considered one of the finest facilities for elephant care in the world. Rustic Pathways has had a great relationship with this Center for years. Rustic Pathways staff will be at the camp full-time supporting our students.
Elephants are one of the earth’s most social and personable creatures. Elephants when threatened in the wild can be dangerous, however all the elephants interacting with people at the Center have proven extremely friendly. Rustic Pathways has never had a major incident involving an elephant and student.
You may be able to claim yourself as an amateur mahout soon! A mahout is an elephant’s keeper. These men stay nearly their entire lives with one elephant, working all day for 26 days each month!
Laundry will be available to students once during the week, though the Center will provide you with a special Mahout suit that you’ll wear most days. Your ‘mahout suit’ is made of denim, which over the week will absorb your scent making it easier for your elephant to get to know and trust you.
There are mosquitoes. They’re usually not too bad, but you will want to have a long sleeve shirt and long pants in the evenings. Be sure to bring insect repellent containing DEET, which wards off mosquitoes, ticks, and most other insects.
We recommend between AUS$100-$200 for personal expenses such as souvenirs, snacks and ice creams. You will want money to buy handmade crafts at local shops and at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. There will be all kinds of souvenirs and fun stuff to buy, so budget accordingly. Markets and local crafts are huge part of Thai culture and a great way to support the local community. Here are some approximate, sample prices (listed in US dollars) that should help you prepare a budget: hand-woven scarf = $3; hand-woven shoulder bag = $6; T-shirt = $6; small wood carving = $5; soccer ball = $10
Rustic Pathways will cover all tips for guides and activities during the program, but we do ask students to budget about 1,200 Thai Baht (200 Baht for each day of the program) as tip for their mahout at the end of the Thai Elephant Conservation Project. This is a recommended amount only, and students are welcome to leave as much or as little as they feel appropriate. Students usually also choose to leave a small gift indicative of their hometown as a gift for their mahout, who they grow quite close with during the week. The mahouts love to learn where you’re from, and a small trinket from Australia is a valued treasure here!
It is hot in the day and a little cooler in the mountains at night. Rainfall is short and gives way to sunny skies. Be prepared for heat and low humidity. Synthetic fiber clothes are great because they dry fast much faster than cotton can.
Rural Thailand is still quite conservative, and Rustic Pathways expects our students to be upstanding ambassadors of our home countries. As a blanket rule at the Conservation, we ask that shorts are at least fingertip-length and any tank-top straps are at least the width of three fingers. There will be many times, especially times that we are working closely with the mahouts that you’ll need to have your shoulders and knees covered.
Students will always have access to a phone, though we would like to limit use of cell phones while at the Center. Internet will be available at the beginning and end of the program.
Each trip is staffed by a combination of western (American/Australian) and Thai leaders, and in most cases each team will include a nationally licensed guide, a western man and a western woman. We never have less than one staff member for every five students.
You will be with other Australian Yr. 12 students. You may find yourself in a smaller, cozier setting or part of a big high-energy crew.
We will eat a wide variety of Thai and ethnic food, as well as the occasional Western meal. Thailand is famous for its food, and this trip will awaken your tastes to flavors you didn’t even know existed. Almost all dietary concerns can be accommodated, but please alert us of any relevant restrictions beforehand just to make sure. Vegetarians welcome!
You will be drinking only bottled water on this trip, and bringing a reusable water bottle is highly recommended. Bottled water is safe and readily available in Thailand.
The Center itself is about 30 minutes away from a very reliable hospital that caters to hundreds of Westerners each year. Under an hour away is Chiang Mai, which features world-class, private health care facilities.
Safety is a top priority, and all of our programs have staff certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or lifeguards.
Australians travelling to Thailand on an Australian passport do not require a visa. A tourist visa will be granted upon arrival into Thailand. Please note that non-Australian passport holders may need visas for entry into their selected destination(s). Please contact us for details or check with the appropriate consulate or embassy.
Participants will not be accompanied by a flight leader. Our program staff will greet participants when they arrive at Chiang Mai Airport in Thailand.
Chiang Mai is 12 hours by air from Brisbane, 13 hours by air from Melbourne, and 10 hours by air from Perth.
The start date listed is when you need to be in Thailand and the departure date listed is the date you will depart Thailand.
Participants need to arrive in the afternoon/evening on the arrival date and need to depart in the afternoon/evening on the departure date.
You will fly into Chiang Mai and travel by van to the Centre which is located in Lampang.
Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 participants.
Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.
Please visit HX Global or Smart Traveller for an up to date report on current situations regarding visiting Thailand. Staff will alert participants if any changes to safety occur within the country.
Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the following websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.
www.traveldoctor.com.au – The Travel Doctor
www.smartraveller.gov.au – Australian Government Travel Advice
www.cdc.gov – Centre of Disease Control (US)
HX Global is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to HX Global benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.
As a member you will have access to HX Global’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program.
Personal gifts, Internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.
Rustic Pathways Travel Pty Ltd
ACN 145 984 452 ABN 82 145 984 452
Vic Travel Agent's License No. TA-0032954-C
1800 321 435 (within Australia)
+61 3 5972 0862 (outside Australia)
+61 3 8738 1553 (fax)
PO Box 3453
Mornington VIC 3931, Australia