Overview

Work alongside the traditional elephant caretaker as you embark on a journey to protect and care for elephants. Volunteer in a hill-tribe village and learn how to cook tasty Thai delights. Ensure a safe future for the elephants and learn the value of contributing to exotic Thailand with our summer programs.

Bangkok Exploration & Buddhist Monastery Stay

We begin our Thailand Summer Service Program in Los Angeles and board a plane to Bangkok, where we receive a Thai language and cultural orientation from our Thai hosts. During our time in Bangkok, we stroll through lively markets, visit the revered Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha, and cruise the canals on a traditional Thai long boat. We spend a night at the Suwantawanaram Buddhist forest monastery where we learn from monks about Buddhist customs. An overnight train ride takes us to the ancient walled city of Chiang Mai.

Nature Reserve and Elephant Sanctuary

Our elephant conservation journey begins at a respected nature preserve and self-sustaining eco-village tucked away in lush, forested wild elephant habitat. We float the jungle river into this protected land, which serves as a corridor for wild elephants and a variety of other native wildlife. Over the next four days we discuss elephant conservation with visiting biologists and veterinarians, visit local farmers to learn about human-elephant conflict, and work on habitat restoration projects within the nature preserve itself. We also spend time at a nearby elephant sanctuary learning to care for, feed and bathe these majestic creatures. If we are lucky, we may catch a glimpse of wild elephants, boars, deer, and other small creatures from the preserve’s observation tower.

Hill Tribe Village Service, Whitewater Rafting, and Cooking Class

Glimpsing Thailand’s true cultural origins, we travel north to the high country where tribes have managed to retain their own language, customs, mode of dress, and spiritual beliefs for centuries. Once in the village, we help with much-needed infrastructure projects such as building bridges, community houses, or renovating and improving the local school. We spend three days living in a village guest house, and lend a helping hand in the community while learning about Thai culture first hand. Our time with the hill tribe comes to a close with an exciting day of whitewater rafting on the Maetang River before our return to Chiang Mai for a full-day Thai cooking class where we prepare tasty Thai dishes like spring rolls, Pad Thai, and papaya salad.

Elephant Nature Park and Erawan Falls

Our time at Elephant Nature Park allows us to build upon our new knowledge of Thai elephant conservation and immerse ourselves in the daily routine of the elephant sanctuary. Our three days here allow us to gain perspective around the different approaches to elephant conservation work and tourism throughout the country. Before departing, we visit a spectacular national park renowned for its aquamarine pools linked by cascading waterfalls.

SCUBA Diving on Koh Tao

Reefs teeming with exotic fish, sea turtles and soft corals lure us to Koh Tao, our island home for the next five days. In these crystal clear waters, we become PADI Certified Open Water Divers, or upgrade to PADI Advanced Open Water Divers. (All students wishing to SCUBA dive must pass a thorough diving physical and cannot have used an inhaler or suffered from asthma in the past three years. For those not wishing to dive, alternative water activities are available.) We then travel by train back to Bangkok for a final celebration and bid a warm goodbye to The Land of Smiles.

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