Journey to Freedom ethical elephant sanctuary

JOURNEY TO FREEDOM

By joining this unique project you will be one of a small group of volunteers who will spend an unforgettable week in the jungle caring for the elephants and learning about the Karen people who have a generations-old tradition of working with elephants. After the 1989 ban on logging, the Karen saw no other choice but to lease their elephants to trekking camps where they were often mistreated and overworked giving rides and performing, leading to physical and psychological injuries. Journey to Freedom was created to make it viable for the Karen to bring their elephants home to their villages where they can enjoy a more natural existence, socializing with each other and foraging in the nearby jungle.

As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of elephants and people in the local community. Some of the activities you and your group will take part in include planting and cutting grass for the elephants, teaching English at a local school, as well as helping to reforest the area and work on projects designed to improve the lives of villagers. You will also have plenty of time to observe the elephants and take part in educational and fun elephant-friendly activities. Experienced guides will be on hand to impart interesting facts about the elephants and the challenges they face in a modern world. This project includes an overnight visit to Elephant Nature Park where you can enjoy watching the resident herds and reflect on an amazing week with your group.

By choosing this project, you will be supporting the shift towards responsible, ethical elephant tourism that is sustainable over the long term. Elephants are one of the great wonders of the natural world and are deserving of our respect and admiration.

Spend time in the jungle observing and caring for the elephants and contribute to the local Karen community by offering your time and skills

Ethical elephant sanctuary Thailand

Volunteer Activities

  • Walk with the elephants and observe them interacting in jungle surroundings
  • Plant and cut grass - feed the elephants
  • Learn about Karen culture and traditions
  • Help make improvements to the village
  • Enjoy delicious vegetarian Thai dishes freshly prepared daily
  • Teach English at the local school
  • Blessing ceremony in thanks for your contribution to the community
  • Make lifelong friends with like-minded people
  • Celebrate with volunteers at Elephant Nature Park on the last night
  • Spend time with the herds the next day before returning to Chiang Mai

Volunteer Project Details

Number of Guests: 15
Number of Elephants: 5
Tour Type: One Week Volunteer
Fitness Level: Moderate
Age Suitability: Adults 16+

Volunteer Project Price

Adults 16+: 15,000 Baht per week

What’s Included

  • Transport from Chiang Mai to the project - to Elephant Nature Park - and back to the city
  • A practical education on the challenges facing elephant conservation
  • Simple tribal hut accommodation and bedding
  • Three freshly prepared vegetarian buffet style meals, snacks, bottled drinking water, tea and coffee provided daily
  • Qualified English speaking guide

About Your Volunteer Program

Start: Monday – 8:00am – 8:30am minivan pick up from your Chiang Mai city hotel. If staying out of town (outside the middle ring-road) additional charges apply. Please advise on your reservation form. All volunteers will then be taken to our office in Chiang Mai where you can pay the outstanding balance for your volunteer visit, complete the insurance form, and provide a copy of your passport. The minivan will leave for the project between 9:00am – 9:30am.
Travel Time: Around 2.5 hours (educational video about Asian elephants /safety video en route to project).
Transport Details: Transfer from an air-con minivan to a 4WD pickup for the last 30 minutes of your journey to the project.
Additional Information: The final night of your volunteer program will be spent at Elephant Nature Park. On Saturday you will be transferred to ENP via minivan with your group and guide, taking about 3 hours.
Return: Arrive back in Chiang Mai city on Sunday afternoon 3:00pm – 3:30pm.
Duration: One week only. Volunteer positions start on the Monday.
Accommodation: Volunteers stay in shared Karen style housing. There are no beds, but a comfortable mattress under a mosquito net is provided along with bedding. A cold water shower and toilet are located right next to the house. Electrical outlet plugs are available for charging devices, etc.
Baggage / Luggage Allowance: One standard check-in sized rucksack / suitcase / bag & one day pack per person.
What to Bring: Overnight bag with change of clothes for 7 days, long pants and long-sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, sunscreen, sandals/flip flops, change of clothing for river bathing, towel, walking shoes, camera, insect repellent, flashlight & personal medication.*Bring clothing and items suitable for wet weather if visiting in the rainy season (June – Oct). If visiting in the cool season (Nov – Feb), bring clothing suitable for cold weather. If you would like to bring items for the local school students such as pens, coloring pencils, notebooks, games, toys, etc. they will be much appreciated.
Travel Insurance: Volunteers are required to have travel insurance covering medical expenses and emergency repatriation.
Vaccinations: Please contact your doctor or a vaccination centre for details on recommended vaccinations.
Operational Months: All year round.
Age Suitability: Adults & teenagers over 16 (participants younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by a legal guardian).
Fitness Level: Moderate – daily walks through the jungle – sometimes up steep hills in muddy conditions.
Topography: Jungle, mountains, grassland & river.
Location: Mae Chaem, South of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
Nearest Airport: Chiang Mai (CNX) – we recommend you stay in Chiang Mai city the night before your volunteer week begins. Please note that we cannot collect you from Chiang Mai Airport – only from your Chiang Mai city hotel or guesthouse.
Booking Details: Bookings close 3 days before you are due to visit. When booking online, a 30% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your booking. The balance can be paid at our office in Chiang Mai on Monday morning – the day that your volunteer stay commences.

How You are Helping as a Volunteer

  • Elephants can return to live in the jungle near the Karen village where they are free from riding and performing in shows
  • Work alongside locals to help plant, cut and prepare food for the elephants
  • Make improvments to the local village by helping to build water tanks, toilets, plumbing, basic bridges, a nursery school, etc.
  • Teach English to students at the local school
  • Help protect the local forest and native animals in the area through reforestation efforts
  • Empower Karen women by purchasing their unique textiles, providing them with additional income to support their families
  • Help to care for animals in the village such as dogs and cats

Tips on Local Culture

  • Please respect the local culture by dressing modestly – no sleeveless tops, short skirts / pants or bikinis
  • Mobile phone and internet coverage at this project is limited
  • This is a remote location so please bring all necessary medications and articles of convenience
  • The use of illegal substances / drunken behavior is not permitted at this project

Ethical Elephant Tours
This is a small ‘Saddle Off!’ volunteer project with a limited number of guests. Our model is based on ensuring the well-being of the elephants, which means no riding or other unnatural activities.

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