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Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand
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Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

An amazing experience

I volunteered with GVI for 3 months in 2016. It was the first time I was travelling outside of the EU and the first time I was going alone. Being 19 and just out of school I was undoubtedly nervous but the staff at the GVI office patiently listened to all my questions and supported me throughout my pre-departure preparation.

I took off from Heathrow airport feeling anxious but excited to arrive in Thailand (my anxiety was not helped by my father's hilarious 'April Fools' joke telling me that GVI wasn't real just as my flight was about to take off!) When I arrived safely in Chiang Mai airport the smiling face of the GVI staff put me at ease.

Arriving in the stunning, rural village of Huay Pakoot took my breath away as it would each time we pulled onto the dirt road that lead through the village. I was lead to my homestay and knew I would be happy there. My family were welcoming and loving from day one.

After a day of getting my bearing of the village, I woke up early eager to go on my first hike. It was about an hour of walking in the scorching 40 degree heat before we stopped. I had to ask the question "where are the elephants?" The answer blew me away. Standing about 100m away from me the magnificent jumbo was hiding behind a dense patch of leaves. I cannot begin to describe my admiration for these gentle giants who move so easily through the forest. Hikes to return to the elephant left every morning, each hike was different. The elephants choosing where to go, the mahoots joking around and the variety of volunteers. One of my favourite things about GVI is that it is open to everyone so we had people from all walks of life at all ages (we had volunteers from the age of 18 to 66!).

Not only was there the opportunity to work with the beautiful elephants but there was an option to teach English at the local school twice a week. I loved seeing the children develop over the course of time I was there.

The only advice I can give about going to a GVI project is go for as long as you are available. For me 3 months was a lot when I booked on but when I arrived the time went too quickly and before I was ready it was time to leave and continue my adventures elsewhere.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Da Blue!

It has been an awesome experience, so sad that I was only there for a week. But it was well worth it. There has been some communication barrier, not only as the local speak the Pakinyaw, but as myself being Deaf as well.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It's been an amazing experience overall

Learning about the village itself, the culture, the people; teaching the beautiful children, and walking with the magnificent Elephants were the highlights of my trip. I've made some great friends here too, the staff included, it's been an amazing experience overall, and the staff are actively trying to improve base and the program itself, and are doing an amazing job.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Huay Pakoot Stole My Heart...

Completing an internship on the Elephant Reintroduction programme is one of my proudest achievements to date. It was a complete honour to have had the chance to experience the real authentic Thai culture, whilst living with my host family and being immersed into the community.
It was always a pleasure to hike and see the elephants every day, and completely mesmerizing to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
There was always plenty of activities to get involved in on a daily basis, and I learnt more than I anticipated. The friends I made from around the world, during my time on project, I shall remember for the rest of my life. The elephants, mahouts (elephant keepers), villagers, staff and volunteers made my experience unforgettable and I am so thankful to have participated in the project.

  • GVI responded to this review January 05, 2017 at 12:59 AM

    Hi Victoria,

    Thank you for your kind words about your time in Huay Pakoot, we always love hearing stories from our Alumni!

    Do you know that we run an Ambassador program which allows you to stay connected with GVI from home, and earn points towards a future program? If you'd like to find out more, you can email me and I'll be able to give you more details!

    All the best,

    Jon, Alumni Engagement Manager

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

The elephants!!!

Volunteering with GVI was one of the best part of my life. I was in Thailand working with the elephants and they are adorable despite their big size.

The best thing that happened was being immersed into another culture while also meeting people from other parts of the world. Also getting to know the mahouts and their elephants.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Amazing

Meeting all the amazing people on project and in the village and obviously meeting the beautiful elephants in their natural environment was a wonderful experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It removed me from the familiar (comfort zone)

Being witness to elephants being reunited with other family members & how significant that appeared to be. Living so simply with the Karen people in their village (them sharing their space with us). Being able to spend time observing elephants in their natural environment.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It's an amazing opportunity

I loved working with the elephants. It was an amazing opportunity. I also love how the people that we met are in Thailand. They are very happy and so helpful. I enjoyed my stay in Thailand and with GVI.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Good experiences and opportunity

The community involvement when not taking behavioural research data of the elephants - it was nice to have that as a break and be able to really indulge in such a different culture. Good experiences and opportunity to get out and see the world whilst making a positive impact and having fun.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

The staff exceeded all expectations!

The staff exceeded all expectations! They were real scientists! We loved that! In addition to being knowledgeable of all aspects of the project and region, they are wonder people: kind, patient and encouraging. I would be honored to have any of the members of the staff stay as a guest in my home.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Spending time with the elephants

My most positive experience during my stay in the program of GVI in Thailand was spending time with the elephants in the conservation and of course becoming so connected to the community where we were posted.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Really felt like we are making a positive difference to elephant conservation

Loved the location and the programme was everything I wanted it to be. Really felt like we are making a positive difference to elephant conservation. Very well organised and GVI seem to want to benefit the local area rather than just a simple animal watching exercise.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I felt as though I helped them even in a small way

My most positive experiences were meeting the elephants and feeling as though I helped them even in a small way. As well as meeting new people and loving and learning with the Karen people during my stay in Thailand.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Unbelievable experience

My most positive experiences were the new friends I became close with, which were mainly the mahouts, as well as the unbelievable experience of living in such an opposite way than I do in the western world. Other positives include the educational presentations and the in-field experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It was everything very different than at home

It was everything very different than at home. This was a challenge to me and broadened my horizons.
But I felt too old - there were very young people. But it was really good to find out how they think, see the world and socialize. I know better understand my own daughter.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I loved everything

Loved the project, tried to extend my stay but couldn't fund it this year. Now interested in Costa Rica and Africa animal programmes in the future. I loved everything. The involvement in the community and elephants.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I loved living in a village

I loved living in a village away from the city with less internet access and everything. Also loved doing different hikes every day and seeing the elephants and other biodiversity. I've done other volunteer work before but the most off the other companies didn't explain much once i've arrived in country. Wether at the elephant project in Thailand the GVI staff members gave us all the information about elephants and other things during our first two weeks so not just all on the first day.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Enjoyed the hiking, the food, the views

Enjoyed having close contact with the local villagers. Enjoyed the hiking, the food, the views.

But we definitely had too much free time, but that was partly because lots of activities were canceled due to new year celebration. That should of been communicated to us before hand though. Was expecting more hiking as mentioned on the field manual (it said 3 to 5 hours, that was not the case.)

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

A very new experience and meeting like-minded people

Learning about issues relevant to the program and how program has progressed, Opportunity to spend time with elephants and contribute to program goals were the best parts of the program for me. A very new experience and meeting like-minded people.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Combining travel and volunteer work is a great experience which I am bound to repeat soon

My most positive experience during the program was staying in a homestay with the local community, the hikes in nature, and working with interesting people from different backgrounds. Combining travel and volunteer work is a great experience which I am bound to repeat soon

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It was a wonderful week

It was wonderful week and I was grateful for the opportunity to be able attend a GVI project just for a short period of time (many other organisations wont allow you to simply spend a week on project). The timing (i.e. over the christmas holidays) was convenient in terms of obtaining leave from work. I had a particular good group of people on project which made it even better... and the elephants were awesome.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

My experience as a whole was pretty good

The positive energy of the new project manager Nadia. She really lifted the project in the short time i was working with her. I have heard good and bad things about a few other GVI projects. I am willing to give another project a try, since my experience as a whole was pretty good.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Working with the elephants!!

My most positive experience was working with the elephants!!!! I enjoyed watching them free in the forest. I felt proud that I was helping/ supporting such an important project that GVI hosted in Thailand.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I loved the elephants!

I loved the elephants! My home-stay family were so welcoming, hospitable and helpful. The villagers were also very friendly and welcoming. Lyndsay the base manager was fabulous. Her passion and enthusiasm for the project and the elephants was infectious. Kylie one of the support staff on base was so nice. Kylie's extensive knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge was a real plus. Both Lyndsay and Kylie always made sure safety came first without being overbearing and restrictive which made the treks and activities informative, interesting and enjoyable. Both are great leaders. Patti Sai-ee is a true gentleman.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Working with the elephants was amazing

Working with the elephants was amazing, I think the best part of the program was being able to have a well-rounded experience of the culture, village and country. The organisation is very supportive not only on the program but also with travelling.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation