Contribute to the preservation of two endangered species, while exploring the coasts of Southern Thailand and the forested hillsides of the North. AND get career training from Conservation Careers!
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.
Thailand is known worldwide for its breathtaking natural beauty and unique biodiversity. However, like many other natural areas and fragile species around the world, those in Thailand are under threat. You can contribute to the preservation of Thai environments and species by joining our combination coastal, island, and wildlife conservation program in Thailand.
The first part of the program takes you to the Southern province of Phang Nga where you will work with an international team of conservation professionals to assist local partners, like sea turtle nurseries, with achieving their goals. Then it is on to a Karen hill tribe village north of the city of Chiang Mai, to assist local elephant trainers with reintroducing Asian elephants to a semi-wild life in the forest, as opposed to their previous lives in tourist camps, and developing alternative incomes for the mahouts and their families.
Throughout your time on the program, there will be free time allocated to explore both regions Thailand, visit some cultural sites, and fully experience the gorgeous landscape of each location.
- Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water and #15 Life on Land.
- Work to preserve endangered sea turtles and Asian elephants.
- Explore the turquoise-blue waters, pearly white sandy beaches, limestone cliffs, and tropical islands of Southern Thailand.
- Immerse yourself in Karen hill tribe culture.
- Live and work with people who share common interests, values, and goals, potentially making new lifelong friends.
- Gain a thorough understanding of global conservation issues and those specifically faced in Thailand.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up with an award-winning, mission-driven organisation with a team of passionate experts across the globe who will make your experience a truly unforgettable one.
Founded in 1998, they run programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives of local partners. They welcome participants from all around the world and help facilitate their development into global citizens. This is how they achieve their mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Their commitment to running high-quality sustainable development and experiential education programs has earned them recognition from numerous organizations such as Panthera, the Seychelles Parks & Gardens Authority, as well as Stanford, NYU, Duke, and Ohio State.
If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!
To see all our Conservation Careers Internship opportunities, please click here.
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.
Our base in 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 the Karen culture and the warmth of its people. The houses aren’t far apart, separated from the main road, and typically stilted and built in the traditional style. Homestays usually come with their own rooms or single hut, and each homestay has its own bathroom. The homestays are located all around the village, usually a quick walk from the base. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy the fresh morning air and the sights of the village. There is cold running water available for showers and filtered water for drinking, shared bathroom facilities and shared base duties, including cleaning and other chores (all part of the experience).
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 travel around the local area on foot. On weekends, you can explore the town of Mae Chaem by car, arranged at your own expense. Mae Chaem gives you a chance to meet other Karen people as it’s the nearest main town. There is an amazing fruit and veg market, and the town hosts festivals and major events throughout the year. During their free time, or on weekends, many participants share transport if they travel away from base.
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 usually available at Root’s coffee shop in the village, but be aware that power cuts and storms can make it unreliable. Mobile phone reception is possible and quite reliable on-site, and SIM cards can be purchased to use with your unlocked cellphone.
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 nutritious, and is primarily vegetarian with optional fish or meat available once or twice a week. During the first week, a staff member typically eats with each volunteer at their homestay, to help integrate them into the family. Every few weeks you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to make traditional Karen dishes. Join other participants at the homes of Karen community members. You’ll learn how to prepare Karen dishes and learn a little of the Karen language through a shared passion for great food.
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 based in a mountain community, the temperature usually drops at night, giving a pleasant reprieve from the heat of the day. Monsoon rains are heaviest from August to September. If you bring some rain gear and a sunny outlook you might see the elephants enjoying a muddy wallow after the rains. Whatever the weather, all our project work continues as usual throughout the year.
This 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, 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 PARTICIPANTS | ORIENTATION
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
Community: Women’s Empowerment
Learn about gender equality, skills development and examples of income-generating activities.
Community: Human Empowerment
Learn about our empowerment principles.
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, classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.
Learn the practical skill of how to weave baskets from bamboo with the Old Chief of the village.
You will have the opportunity to take part in a traditional Thai cooking class where you will learn how to make some of the local delicacies.
You will have the opportunity to go on biodiversity hikes, which vary depending on the season. You may learn how to collect birding data, how to set up mammal traps and camera traps, how to identify snakes and reptiles, and more.
Ethical Elephant Training
Learn about the methods used to train the elephants, how the elephant industry in Thailand works, and how we ensure the elephants in Chaing Mai are treated ethically whilst still being safe to work with and be around.
A one-hour presentation that gives you basic training on how to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), including how to teach vocabulary, and classroom management techniques.
Learn how to collect three different kinds of elephant data – behaviour, health check, and activity budget. You will be shown examples of the different types of behaviour and how to use data sheets to record the information.
Pakinyaw Language Lessons
Learn the local language Pakinyaw during your time in Chiang Mai with five basic Pakinyaw lessons with our Community Liaisons, followed by more advanced Pakinyaw lessons in the following weeks, if you choose.
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.
- 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
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.
The Karen people have lived side-by-side with elephants for hundreds of years. They don’t view them as pets, they see them as family members. Skilled in making medicine for the elephants, they spend a lot of time with them, and even have conversations with them. The Asian Elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, but there are also many other notable species found in Thailand. These include two species of bear (the Asiatic black bear and Malayan sun bear) gibbons, and a dhole (also known as an Asiatic wild dog). You might consider doing a night hike while on base to look for snakes, frogs, and other nocturnal animals. Or try your hand at identifying unique birds and insects, or surveying the biodiversity in the forests around the village.
Spirituality and religion
Most people in the village are animists and believe in spirits. There are a lot of Christians living here too. You can go to church at the top of the village near Christmas time and every Sunday. Some men become monks in Huay Pakoot. As part of this journey, they leave the village and live in nearby caves for three weeks.
Many visitors to Thailand choose the destination because of its amazing food culture. From street food to culinary delights in the finest Thai restaurants, you will never be short of local dishes to try when exploring Thailand. The national dish of Thailand is Pad Thai – is a popular rice noodle dish combining the flavours of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Made with stir-fried egg, tofu, sprouts, and other vegetables, the dish is served with lime and crushed peanuts. During your stay in the Huay Pakoot village, you will have the unique opportunity to sample traditional Karen food, which is very different to Thai food.
There are festivals throughout the year, the most notable being Songkran – the Thai New Year and water festival – held in mid-April, and the lantern festival in November. National Thai Elephant Birthday is the week before Songkran. This is a huge celebration of all the elephants in the forest – showing how significant they are to Thailand. The villagers prepare a huge fruit banquet in the forest for the elephants.
Thai is the official language of Thailand and is spoken by roughly 36 million people across the world. In the project location, their first language is Pakinyaw, which you will learn whilst on-project. The Karen people were originally immigrants from Burma. They came to Chiang Mai and were not allowed to settle there, so they were afforded space in the hills. They have their own language, Pakinyaw, which has a number of different dialects. The language is no longer written, only spoken.
BONUS! Conservation Career Kick-Starter online training programme (worth £295)
Do you want to spend your career helping wildlife to flourish, but are feeling a little lost, confused or disillusioned?
Start your career in wildlife conservation with a unique programme of training, support community & jobs from Conservation Careers!
The Conservation Career Kick-Starter is a proven step-by-step system to get clear, get ready, and get hired as a professional conservationist.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
After going through the course, you’ll have created a personal career plan which will give you confidence in your job hunt and will make everything quicker, simpler and more fun!
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on the Kick-Starter when you get back from your placement.
Included with the Kick-Starter is a year’s full-access to the world’s biggest conservation job board with over 15,000 jobs, plus access to our private online support community, CC Pro.
Duration, Dates & Costs
Duration of fieldwork: 8 weeks
- 2023 – 30 Sep; 14 Oct; 28 Oct; 11 Nov; 25 Nov; 09 Dec; 23 Dec
- 2024 – 06 Jan; 20 Jan; 03 Feb; 17 Feb; 02 Mar; 16Mar; 30 Mar; 13 Apr; 27 Apr; 11 May; 25 May; 08 Jun; 22 Jun; 06 Jul; 20 Jul; 03 Aug; 17 Aug; 31 Aug; 14 Sep; 28 Sep; 12 Oct; 26 Oct; 09 Nov; 23 Nov; 07 Dec; 21 Dec
- 24-hour emergency desk
- 24-hour in-country support
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- All project equipment
- Food (except on long-term internship placements)
- Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
- Group introductory call
- Welcome presentation
- Endorsed Leadership Course
- Sustainable project work
- Leadership responsibilities
- PDF reference – upon request
What’s Not Included
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- COVID-19: Health and Hygiene Fee
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Medical and travel insurance
- Personal items and toiletries
- Police or background check
- Visa costs