Elephant Care - Volunteer Reviews

THAILAND

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Elephant Care project

Jade - 2020

“I really loved my experience volunteering at the Elephant Project. It does involve a lot of hard work, especially with the hot weather, but it's so rewarding and something I will never forget. I made so many friends from all around the world, and you get to see a lot of different animals on a daily basis which is really nice. Over time you get to see all of the elephant's different personalities and it's really amazing to be involved with their daily care. Although challenging, especially doing harvest, I would definitely do this again!!

What did you find most rewarding?
I found that helping the elephants on a daily basis, feeding them, showering them and walking them made my experience so rewarding and an experience I will never forget. Getting to see them each day, you really start to notice their different personalities and it was really nice to see that.

What did you find most challenging?
I would say working in the heat. Getting up for work at 6.30am each morning was challenging but you get used to it, and get into a routine, so it really wasn't that bad. I also found the first few days to be a challenge because I felt homesick, but honestly that goes away after a few days and you get used to life at the Wildlife Centre and really enjoy the time there.

Is there any advice that you would give to others who are considering this placement?
Don't expect it to be easy because it's not, these animals have had traumatic past lives and our role is to help them to live in a caring and peaceful environment. It is however very rewarding and amazing working so close with the elephants. It is something you will never forget and it's one of the best things I have done. Just remember to bring hats, lots of sunscreen, and plenty of clothes you don't mind getting dirty! Also, bring a lot of plasters, your feet will need it!”

Liz - 2020

“The Elephant Care project is one of the few (Maybe only) truly ethical wildlife and elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. It was not only a very educational, but also a very heart warming, experience. I bonded with people from around the world of all different ages and have still been in contact even after my volunteer week ended. I am normally a night person, but I must say I loved waking up every morning to the sunrise and the sounds of the animals waking. My living house was right next to several animals including pigs, monkeys, and of course all the adorable cats and dogs that roam the site. Mama and Kevin are some of the volunteers’ favorite dogs. Kevin always hopped in the truck with us to come spend a day at work with the elephants. He is a sweetheart.

The elephants are all very unique in their experience and personality. I think my favorite daily tasks were making the banana balls and if you are lucky you can walk an elephant with the supervision of a Mahout of course! The Mahouts are very sweet and often make jokes. I was always smiling at work even when it was time to pick up elephant poop. (And that is coming from a techy from SF). The kitchen staff is also incredibly kind and will make you smile too. There is a kitty who likes to sit in the sick / play with you when you try to wash your coffee mug. The experience is a full day of hard work but you go at your own pace and everyone there is super supportive if you need a water break or if you need to rest. There is a nice little bar/snack counter and the smoothies are delish! But nothing beats a Chang (beer) after a long day's work. 😊

Every day is a new day with new people which I enjoyed very much. Variety is definitely the spice of life. When you get there people might "warn" you about harvest and how intense it is, but I found it to really not be that bad. Again this coming from a 5ft petite woman who doesn't work out regularly. You just go at your own pace and honestly its quite a unique experience. The groups are usually fun and play music to get you motivated and the Mahouts there are super helpful too. I loved seeing where the elephant's food comes from. You really get to be part of an end-to-end experience. Plus you get to swim in the river after! Harvest is only 1 of 3 shifts in your day too so its not like you are carrying trees for a full day.

I went to Cha Am beach on my day off. (You get 1 day off per week). It was so relaxing and beautiful. You can get lunch, a massage, a pedicure, or just lay on the beach all day. I could honestly write a novel, but instead I would just encourage you to go an explore yourself. It really is an immersive experience that is unforgettable. I went for a week but several people I met were staying for 4 weeks to 12 weeks.”

Horalia - 2019

“This was one of the best experiences I have been a part of. I love elephants and I was very grateful to spend a week in Thailand working with them. The Pod Volunteer group gave me an exceptional amount of information to prepare me for this experience. From the food to the accommodations to the risks of the labor, I felt like I was well prepared. With the information provided, I felt like everything went very smoothly. As for my time at the project, the local team was amazingly friendly and helpful. We all had long days, but working with them the animals made every minute count.
This was my first time volunteering at a sanctuary. Let alone, it was also my first time in Thailand. So I was a bit nervous during my travel there. However, the Pod Volunteer group provided sufficient amount of information to prepare me for the experience. On the first day of arrival, the local team was very welcoming and provided a thorough orientation regarding the rules and the animals. We woke up early in the morning each day to feed the elephants and created enrichments throughout the day. As I worked with the elephants, I learned that each one had different personalities. Some were sweet and like attention. Others were stubborn and wanted some tasty fruit. Knowing that most of these elephants were overworked or mistreated helped me understand and create a bond in order to help take care of them. When friends and family at home asked what I did or I helped, I compared it to taking care of dog except in a very very very large spectrum. During this journey, I met some incredible people from all over the world and made lasting friendships.
Working with these people taking care of these amazing creatures, made this experience very fulfilling.

What did you find most rewarding?
All volunteers at the project knew that we were there for the animals. It meant a lot when we woke up early in the morning and the first thing we did was feed the elephants before we ate breakfast.

What did you find most challenging?
There were some areas where the animals would make a lot of noise during the night and morning. There were a few days where I wasn't able to get a full restful night of sleep.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
While I was there, it rained quite often. Apparently, a few showers throughout the day is very common in Thailand. Even with the rain, we continued to work. On a regular basis we got wet and dirty. Volunteers definitely need old clothing during the day and can wear something nicer after work.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
After doing some research, I found Pod Volunteer to provide a variety of projects in a variety of locations. Also focusing on the ethical stand point of the projects.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes - thank you for this opportunity. Pod Volunteer is doing excellent work.”

Mairi - 2019

“I worked for 2 weeks with the Elephant Care Project and loved every minute of it. However, there was an unexpected rise in the average temperatures at that time of year (mid-end Feb) and working in the open in 37 degrees was very hard work! You just have to adapt and take it slowly...like the elephants! You get dirty, tired, wet and very thirsty...but each moment of hardship was outweighed by a million of privileged, treasured moments, up close and caring for them. Feeding, washing and walking with them....and being allowed to and able to be so close was just a life-changing and truly amazing experience!

Everything was organised efficiently and there was nothing that was left unanswered with queries at either end of the programme i.e. either from the UK liaison team or the actual volunteer programme.

What did you find most rewarding?
The moments when the elephants were free to walk with you whilst you fed them. Their freedom after a previous life of hell and the privilege to share it with them.

What did you find most challenging?
The harvest! And the realisation that even if you think you are pretty fit and healthy. This isn't every day housework or a gym workout! If you have a good team with you...and I did. They will work together and help you too. But be prepared!! Not so much the long days. But the long weeks...6 days is a real haul!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
It’s the best thing you will ever do! I am 64...nearly 65 and I keep well and fit - and you need to be! Just give your all, enjoy the huge privilege of the work. The delicious food that you never have to cook! You won't ever regret it and every one of those elephants needs your help, every day!

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? 
Yes”

Brad - 2019

"We really enjoyed our one-week trip to the elephant care centre in Thailand. We made meals for the elephants, helped harvest banana trees, cleaned out enclosures, walked the elephants, etc. We were well fed, and they supplied plenty of filtered water. The sleeping arrangements were simple but did the job. The entire elephant centre is well organized and the mahouts were proficient enough in English to understand. Still, I wish we had learned more Thai. We met many interesting and hard-working volunteers, some of whom we will continue to stay in touch with after returning home.

What did you find most rewarding?
Just being a part of this process of helping elephants was the most rewarding part.

What did you find most challenging?
Not having enough dry shoes.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Pack extra shoes and plenty of work clothes, prepare to get your hands dirty, and enjoy meeting people from all over the world.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? 
Yes - the Pod team has had great communication throughout this process."

Martha - 2019

“My overall experience in Thailand working with the elephants is indescribable. It was the most amazing experience I've ever had and will ever have. Working with the elephants that have been mistreated yet still show love and affection towards you is a feeling I will never let go of.

What did you find most rewarding?

Being so close to such magnificent animals 

What did you find most challenging?

Harvest. But I enjoyed it so much I was always asking to be on the harvest team

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Expect hard work and always wear a smile on your face

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

Safe and trusted company.”

Irina - 2018

"Words alone cannot express this experience. If I was younger, I would have certainly preferred to stay longer. The camaraderie is great. One can make friends for a lifetime. The setting is fantastic living in the tropical landscape with all the animals there. Never a dull moment. One will gain knowledge about every rescue and is able to give love to all the elephants. I’m just so happy that animals with decades of abuse have found this safe haven.

What did you find most rewarding?

Everything. Including all the lovable dogs and cats

What did you find most challenging?

Sure the manual labour can be hard at times but every ache is worth it.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Take a few pairs of gloves and hand soap. Maybe a cap for the sun. One can buy pretty much everything in the village at 7/11. If one can afford a go pro camera that would be ideal for pictures and videos. People take hundreds of pictures. Also bring good insect repellent and some Band-Aids."

Louise - 2018

“I spent three weeks working with the elephants - this was something I had been thinking about doing for 20 years (I am 55) and finally had the opportunity to take time away from work and home to do this. It was a fantastic experience. I have learnt so much about the elephants and other wildlife animals at the project and the problems faced, not just in Thailand, as this is a worldwide issue, with elephants and wildlife animals in captivity. The work as a volunteer is interesting and has some variety aside from feeding and cleaning with "special projects" each day - this can be anything from helping clearing plant/weed off one of the elephant lakes to spreading fertilizer (aka elephant poop) around areas of land to encourage plant material to grow. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the centre, being part of the team and getting involved with the special projects.

What did you find most rewarding?

I have experienced the sheer joy of being among the elephants at the centre where they are given a chance of relative freedom, freedom from chains, freedom from abuse, freedom from brutal handlers, freedom from forced labour. Some now have the opportunity to roam at will around a large area of land, to graze naturally, to bathe in large lakes and to engage naturally with other elephants at the centre. Not all elephants or wildlife animals can be returned to the wild for a variety of reasons - with the elephants in many cases because they have been in captivity all of their lives - the centre provides a retirement home for them. I have been able to walk alongside some elephants, and have them take food from my hand - elephants that have in some cases been treated harshly by people for more than 30 years. I also enjoyed meeting new people. The majority of volunteers are very young, on a gap year, travelling and taking in the centre for a week or so, from all over the world - always impressed by how brave people are. I was one of the oldest people there but this was never an issue with anyone. Everyone was friendly and happy to share their knowledge and expertise.

What did you find most challenging?

The weather in Thailand whilst I was there in February was very hot, all the time - this can make just being out in the open for any length of time challenging, so working in the heat can be an even bigger challenge. For some of the tasks you are working under a shelter which does mean you are in the shade and there is water available everywhere at the centre. There are mosquitos around even though you don't see them - I tried to protect myself at all times with repellent but still found I had been bitten in the places I didn't have repellent…”

Monica - 2018

“Volunteering at the Elephant Care project was a life-changing experience. Not only are you able to help take care of the elephants, but you learn so much about how elephants are often mistreated. The centre also offers day tours to tourists that are very focused around education. The entire atmosphere at the project makes it obvious that you are there to help these animals and that they are the #1 priority. The project is also growing very quickly, while I was there I witnessed new elephants and wildlife coming in as well as helped prepare new enclosures and areas for them.

What did you find most rewarding?

Learning the stories of the elephants and what they had been through, getting to know them and really knowing I was making a difference in their lives.

What did you find most challenging?

The food.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

The longer you can stay the better. While there are a lot of people who come for only a week or two, you can definitely get a lot more out of it the longer you are there. Volunteers staying for longer than a week or two are trained to become team leaders for certain elephants while short term volunteers will most likely be with a different group of elephants every day.”

Krystina - 2017

“I have never been a part of a volunteer program like this before -- especially doing so alone. With that said, this was an experience like nothing I have ever experienced before. I will never forget the time that I spent volunteering in Thailand caring for elephants. The process to make this happen, all thanks to Pod Volunteer, was extremely easy. Not once did I feel that I wasn't in good hands.

Upon arriving to the centre, where I would spend a week living among strangers, I immediately felt at home and made life-long friendships. I highly recommend you find time in your busy schedule to do this for yourself. It was unforgettable.

What did you find most rewarding?

Waking up to elephants every day and caring for them was the most rewarding part of this job.

What did you find most challenging?

The days were long and tiring, but they also went by too quickly -- if that makes sense. The long, hard days were very rewarding.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Be sure you are prepared to put in long days of hard work. This isn't necessarily a vacation.

Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed?

Not really. I expected to be living in dorm-like accommodations with cold showers. That would be the only thing that wasn't entirely "comfortable" but I expected it so there wasn't any shock factors.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

It was recommended to me by a friend. I trusted her judgment and followed through with it.”

William - 2017

“Once in a lifetime. Nowhere else offers such ethical hands on work with elephants in such a beautiful part of the world. The work can sometimes be labour intensive, but the staff make sure you're well looked after and won't force you to do anything you can't do. I felt

safe and comfortable in my environment every day despite this being my first time in Asia. Every task is helping the elephants in some way, such as feeding, walking, and washing the elephants. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What did you find most rewarding?

Seeing the elephants enjoying enrichments which we had prepared for them.

What did you find most challenging?

Leaving!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Don't be afraid to get stuck in, you'll be surprised by how much you can achieve.”

Mollie - 2017

"This project was an incredible experience and, cheesy as this may sound, one I will not forget. I travelled to Thailand with one of my best friends and, for both of us, it was our first time travelling such a long way by ourselves which was intimidating. However, POD made our first experience stress free by organising a taxi to pick us up from the airport in Bangkok as soon as we landed which took us straight to the centre. So if travelling and transfers are a worry for you or perhaps your parents POD makes it very simple for you. 

The staff at the centre are so welcoming and give you a tour around the entire centre when you arrive, along with the other volunteers who have just arrived. This allows you to not only learn about all the animals at the centre but get to know the people you will be living with for the next few weeks.

You will be thrown straight into the deep end on your first work day. Work starts at 6:30 am and you will be assigned an elephant or group of elephants for the day. The work mainly revolves around feeding the elephants and clearing up after them! They are hungry animals and make lots of mess. Making banana bowls was great fun and the reward of hand feeding them to the elephants afterwards definitely warrants having squashed banana under your fingernails for the rest of the day.

Going to Thailand was truly an incredible experience and I would go back to the centre in a heartbeat, I was only there for 2 weeks and it wasn't long enough! If I were to go again I would definitely go for at least 3 or 4 weeks.

POD were so helpful and their communication was fantastic i cannot press how much assistance they gave me. To be working with these incredible animals was such a privilege and if you want to get close to elephants volunteering is the way to do it.

What did you find most rewarding?
Waking up everyday to see elephants just a few metres from our door, I could have watched these animals all day!

What did you find most challenging?
Not trying to scratch my bites!! If you get any insect bites put Afterbite on them straight away and antihistamine cream, if you scratch them so they are open you can get an infection which isn't fun!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this
placement?
Take gardening gloves or work gloves unless you don't mind picking up elephant poo with your bare hands! Afterbite is an essential item to pack as well as imodium as it can take a few days to get used to the water and food.

Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see
changed?
MORE ELEPHANTS!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Offered extensive projects and good support”

Emily - 2017

“I decided after a long time to join the elephant care project in Thailand through Pod Volunteer for 5 weeks. From the application to the end of my project the support from Pod was amazing, they explained every detail of the project and application process and when i had any questions they were always very quick to reply to email.

The project was a once in a lifetime experience and i am very grateful for the opportunity to work with some amazing animals and meet lots of great people along the way. While on the project i learnt so much and look forward to passing on the important message of ethical travel and supporting projects like the elephant care project to protect and rescue many different endangered and abused animals around the world. I would truly recommend this project to anyone.

What did you find most rewarding? Working with animals that have been rescued from abuse and being able to help provide a life they deserve.

What did you find most challenging? Working in the heat and the early mornings.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this
placement? Take clothes you don't mind getting ruined, take work gloves and a lot of sun cream and insect repellent.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I wanted a organisation to help me with my volunteering as i had never done anything like it before. After research Pod Volunteer was the most professional looking and had great reviews.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Carole - 2017

"I had a wonderful experience at the Elephant Care project. I am over 50 but never felt out of place although the majority of volunteers are much younger. The work is hard in the heat but very rewarding. Dave the volunteer coordinator was always on hand and very helpful. The mahouts (especially Aek who speaks very good English) are all really nice and very sociable. Everyone getting together - staff, mahouts and volunteers - in the evenings and especially on bar nights is a really good idea.

What did you find most rewarding? One to one contact with the elephants

What did you find most challenging? Working is such high temperatures

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Do it no matter how old you are!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Previously volunteered with them

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes"

Jack - 2017

“I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone doing DofE, anyone going travelling or just someone who wants a different experience.

What did you find most rewarding? Knowing that every bit of work we did was improving the elephants' lives

What did you find most challenging? Getting up early every morning

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Make sure you are reasonably fit and expect hot temperatures which can make the work seem harder

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? It was recommended by DofE

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes. Staff were really friendly and the Thai staff at the centre were easy to get on with regardless of language barriers.”

Bonnie - 2017

“We both had the most amazing experience. It was a massively challenge for the both of us but so rewarding in the end. Thank you to POD for making it happen. Both myself and my cousin are true home birds and we took a risk and went and did the elephant care project in Thailand for two weeks. It was totally amazing, it was challenging but so rewarding & we worked among some fantastic people. For us, two weeks was a perfect amount of time as we got the opportunity to try everything and it meant we left the centre on a high! Volunteering at any project is so worthwhile.

What did you find most challenging? Our biggest challenge was arriving and not knowing anyone or anything. But that goes in about 3 days, it's crazy how quick you get to know people! All you have to remember is that everyone is in the same boat.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Go for it! But go prepared. Take scruffy clothes that you don't care if they get ruined. Say yes to everything - you are only there for a short amount of time and the days soon disappear. Speak to people - you are put with people from all around the world and their stories can be totally amazing.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? It looked the most professional on the internet and has good reviews.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Alexandra and Frances - 2016

“It was the best week of our lives! Being so close to our favourite animal was amazing. We mostly enjoyed making banana balls and then feeding them to the elephants. It was great to get to know most of the elephants within the week. Pin is a real character! We miss them all so much. We would highly recommend this project.

What did you find most rewarding?
Watching them eat the food you have prepared throughout the day.

What did you find most challenging?
Remembering all the elephants names!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Bring wellies!!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Good reviews!

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes”

Natalie and Rachel - 2016

"My daughter and I had an amazing time at the Elephant Care centre in Thailand. I had thought we would spend most of our time harvesting food but we spent lots of time with the elephants - we washed, fed and walked them every day. The mahoots were very supportive and I completely trusted them to keep us safe when we were in the enclosures with the elephants. You will never forget your time walking an elephant - they are amazingly intelligent and strong creatures. And once you have seen how the elephant trade trains baby elephants you will never let anyone you know ride one again. The co-ordinators at the centre were also very friendly, helpful and supportive. They clearly care a lot for all the animals. They also organised day trips for us on our days off (of which we only took half the allotted time as we enjoyed the work so much). If you want to learn about Thai culture I would recommend learning Thai as the mahoots do not generally speak much English.

The only points to consider before going are; in the summer the volunteer age range is 18-22. I am much older than that and felt a bit out of place sometimes. Also, there are a lot of dogs running around, occasionally fighting in the dining room - if you are scared of dogs then you will find this part difficult. I really miss being there!"

Steffanie & Morgan - 2016

“Organizing our volunteer trip to Thailand through Pod Volunteer was the best decision. I was traveling with my 17-year old daughter and had never traveled in South East Asia before. Navigating the country comfortably/easily was all arranged by Pod. All arrangements were flawless and communication was friendly, flexible, everything we needed to be informed and more. The Pod Volunteer site was a top notch operation with excellent values, knowledge, care for the animals, and business operations.

Our time there exceeded my expectations. We went in as animal lovers. We came out as animal advocates having made deep friendships with wonderful, like-minded people. The work was challenging, strenuous, precious, loving, and all for a wonderful cause. The site coordinators were flexible and caring about the volunteers as well and if you couldn't participate for some reason the "teamwork makes dreamwork" philosophy applied. We were all in it together and picking up where our teammates couldn't at that moment.

A very fulfilling and life changing week!

What did you find most rewarding?
Being in Thailand, caring for elephants, getting to know people from other cultures, with my amazing daughter.

What did you find most challenging?
The bathroom in our cottage. But I'm a 46-year-old woman who is used to a nice bathroom.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Absolutely do it. And if you can, travel for an additional week in Thailand and more time in surrounding countries.

Thank you for a great experience. You were a dream to work with!”

Ali - 2016

"This volunteer experience for me was life changing. The whole time I was there I was constantly learning and gaining new skills that are applicable to many aspects of life. Working with the elephants in itself was truly amazing, they are such beautiful animals and being up close to them and feeding them was very special.

This volunteer experience also gave me the opportunity to work closely in teams, which were different every day, allowing me to meet and connect with so many different and interesting people from across the world. Some of those people I can confidently say will be lifelong friends and I'm going to visit later in the year!

The volunteer work was not always easy, but the challenge was so much fun and the fact that you're doing it all together as a team and that it's for the benefit of the elephants make all tasks enjoyable and rewarding. I am already trying to plan for another trip back, it was so hard to leave!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Just book it and go! Be open and be yourself, learn as much as you can and throw yourself at every opportunity. You absolutely will not regret it and you have nothing to lose!

I chose Pod Volunteer because I read excellent reviews about them online and because they are a non-for-profit organisation so I know my money was going to a good place. Pod Volunteer made this experience so incredibly easy! With great communication and information they went above and beyond what I expected. I would definitely recommend Pod Volunteer to anyone planning a volunteer trip. Also through speaking to other volunteers who organised their trip through different organisations, they ended up paying more for the same experience and also did not receive anywhere near as good support as those who organised it through Pod."

Andrew & Hazel - 2015

"The Elephant Care project is an amazing project, the centre supports so many rescued animals and you do make a difference, the work is sometimes hard but worthwhile and he can feel and see the benefits. Working with so many other volunteers from across the globe is very special and warm relationships are soon developed, I don't know anywhere else where you could experience this.

The elephants are majestic and it does not take long to get to know them and their mahouts, so many wonderful memories.

We intend to go back to the project, maybe with a group of young people or just us, Thailand is a magnificent place to visit and explore, and the people are so warm and friendly.

What did you find most rewarding? All of it was rewarding and we truly felt we were making a positive contribution to the elephant’s wellbeing and care.

What did you find most challenging? Getting up at 05:45 every morning!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Take your camera, be prepared for some hard work when harvesting

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? From previous experience and PODs ethical view point"

Saskya - 2015

“I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Elephant Care project in Thailand - it taught me so many things as it is such a humbling experience to be able to work very hard so that these rescued animals can live a better life. I got to meet people with similar mind-set, get a tan, eat great food, work with other hard working volunteers, embrace the Thai culture, and see so much beauty in the green rainforests near the site. Just remember to bring plenty of insect repellent as there are a lot of flies and mosquitoes!

What did you find most rewarding? The fact that I was helping animals live a great retirement, far away from places where they have suffered.

What did you find most challenging? The manual labor when harvesting the heavy banana trees.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Really good for your CV, especially as it is helping others in need."

Jo - 2015

"This is without doubt the most rewarding and amazing thing I have ever done. I went by myself and had no idea what to expect or how I would get on as I had never undertaken anything like this before. I am so glad I did. Firstly with the support of Becky and the POD team in the UK, I was brave enough to get myself there. Then, with the support of the team in Thailand, I had the most fabulous time. I actually surprised myself and some of those half my age - I enjoyed the work and although tough, it wasn't so bad.

You can prepare for most things, but the heat and the humidity is something you just have to get used to. The harvests can be brutal, but I just told myself 'boot camp' and kept going. I met some truly kind, lovely people and we had the best of times. I am sure everyone does something like this for their own reasons; for me it was to push myself and do something I had never done before, completely out of my comfort zone. I certainly did that and more. I came away with a sense of real achievement and felt I had gained so much more than I could ever have anticipated.

What is a typical day at the Elephant Care project in Thailand? Usually awake around 5.30 a.m. to the most fabulous alarm call of Gibbons shouting “MORNING!” across the forest. I usually grabbed a coffee to start the day and everyone was ready to start work at 6.30. For me, this meant collecting the baskets of fruit for the particular elephants I was caring for that day. Make banana balls and feed the elephants and then a compost (muck out and tidy enclosure) and then back for breakfast. Everything there that you need and you make the breakfast you want, toast, cereal, eggs, fruit, etc. Then back to shower an elephant, more feeding, composting. Cutting up loads of fruit. Sit and watch the Elephants and then lunch. The afternoon was more of the same and taking an elephant for a walk - yes really! Dinner at 6.30 and evenings free to do as you pleased. The town is only a 15 minute walk away. We did the Harvest every other day, leaving after breakfast around 8.30 and back around mid-day. Not so bad. If I can pick up a banana tree trunk and put it on my shoulder then anyone can.

What did you find most rewarding? Being with the Elephants. It just kept getting better.

What did you find most challenging? Working in such heat and humidity is draining at first, but you do get used to it. The accommodation is obviously shared and basic, but clean and comfortable and perfectly adequate.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Don't worry too much about the kit list - you can get everything in the local town which is only a short walk away, but do take good working gloves. Drink loads of water. Remember it is not a competition just do the best you can. The rewards far outweigh any of the challenges.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I did a fair bit of research and Pod just stood out as one of the better organisations. I followed my instincts really and I was proved right."

LeeAnne - 2015

"My daughter and I took this trip together and made a lifetime of memories. I was one of the older volunteers at the Center, but don't let your age hold you back. It was delightful to be around so many dedicated young people from all over the world. Watching the elephants as their personalities emerged was a rare opportunity, and though the work was physically demanding, I took away a real sense of accomplishment.

What did you find most rewarding? I loved walking with one particular and seeing her scratch herself on trees and sigh with contentment when I rubbed her cheek.

What did you find most challenging? The banana tree harvest was difficult. The first time I went it was HOT and the trees were heavy!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be prepared to be hot, dirty, sore, and tired. But you'll forget about all that and have an incredible memory of your time there.

Why did you choose Pod? I read the testimonials and it looked great."

Caroline - 2014

"What was a typical day at the Elephant Care project? Many people there for the same reason you are (ANIMALS) and want to laugh, love and have fun while doing it. A lot of singing would erupt out of nowhere hehe.

Why did you choose Pod? Non-Profit volunteer program and seemed more organized compared to another we had in mind. Pod is mentioned in the Wall Street Journal as number 1 volunteer program."

Tyler - 2014

"The banana tree harvest and pineapple harvest were the most challenging aspect of volunteering. These harvests, especially the banana tree harvest, involve a lot of heavy lifting. It's very hot and humid in Thailand and your clothes will be covered in sweat and dirt. Be prepared to throw away all your clothes when you leave because they will be too dirty to bring back. They offer laundry service at the center if you are staying long term.

Please bear in mind, this is not a petting zoo or a 5 star hotel. These are wild animals and they must be respected as such. The living conditions are very basic. You are provided a roof over your head, a small bed to sleep on, a bathroom with a non flushing western style toilet and cold shower. But that shouldn't deter you from volunteering. The experience is life changing and I highly recommend it.

I chose Pod because they were the most knowledgeable and organized non-profit volunteer placement organization. Becky was so helpful from day 1 and was always available to answer any of my questions. My trip could not have gone smoother and I owe this all to Becky and the entire staff of Pod."

Tammy and her daughter - 2014

"I had no idea the amount of work that was in tailed daily. It is not for the faint of heart or for someone with any physical impairment. The work, though extensive and arduous, was rewarding and worth every back breaking moment when you hear the abominable stories that most of the animals came from. The people that run the center are passionate and work well on their shoe string budget. The Thai people are kind and gracious. It is a rewarding and memorable experience one that will never be forgotten.

What did you find most rewarding? Connecting with the animals and meeting the other volunteers from all around the world.

What did you find most challenging? The manual labor , meagre accommodation, and the heat.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Don't go thinking this is a holiday. You will be working long days and if you do it correctly it will be hard work. Bring clothes that you don't care will get dirty and stained, because you won't be able to wear them again after. Respect the customs of the country and follow the rules and guidelines set forth by the charity ti is disrespectful not to.

Why did you choose Pod? My daughter found you on line and after reviewing your site and the organizations you supported as opposed to other websites we believe you had grandest vision of the real importance of setting up volunteers with groups that had the best intent of why they created their sanctuaries."

Lynsey - 2013

"This is a fantastic placement full of a wide range of volunteers; different ages, solo, group and family travellers, with shared meals and dorms there is plenty of chances to get to hear everyone’s' stories. There are routines for the animals but, despite the routines, which are needed to keep the elephants happy no day is the same and all the elephants are amazing to work with. It is such a privilege to be able to work so close to these amazing animals! Showering the elephants and taking them for walks and just seeing them enjoy live in a calm and safe environment after 40+ years of working in awful conditions is an amazing experience to be part of. I volunteered for a week and it wasn't long enough! I would love to be able to go back for longer next year!

Volunteers then often club together to go to the local spa, Hua Hin night market, the local temple or walk into the nearest town. However despite the routines which are needed to keep the elephants happy no day is the same and all the elephants are amazing to work with. It is such a privilege to be able to work so close to these amazing animals!!

The accommodation was very basic however I understand that the money goes on the animals first!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Bring a strong 50% deet + bug spray as the bugs have a real bite of them!

Why did you choose Pod? I used Pod previously when I volunteered in Peru and they were great, they have been great again this time and I will be using them again when I hopefully volunteer again next year."

Lucy - 2012

“I really enjoyed my placement, people are friendly, accommodation basic but adequate for your needs. The experience of looking after the animals is wonderful and it is also great to have the best of both worlds, although I worked with the elephants, I did get the opportunity to help out on the wildlife side. The work is hard but very rewarding, seeing the benefits all the animals receive. Additionally on your days off you get to travel to the nearest two cities and the beaches, which are amazing.

What did you find most rewarding? The experience of it all, the animals, the people, the wonderful environment, the culture and the ability to travel as well.

What did you find most challenging? Coping the noon day sun and heat, but towards the end of your stay you get used to it.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Drink plenty of water, wear very light clothing and protect your feet from blisters.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? The experience is so special; it is such a wonderful rewarding project to assist in.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend them? It is local to me if there were any problems and I wanted to work with elephants in Thailand. Yes, I would recommend them. Thank you for the opportunity of a life time wish.”

Rebecca - 2011

“This project is the most different experience I've ever had. From travelling by myself, dealing with bugs, physically pushing myself and of course being so close to the elephants. I felt tired and dirty a lot of the time, but I wouldn't change a thing about the whole trip! It's sad to hear about what has happened to these animals previously. Being part of giving them a better life now is what pushes you along. The project is a worthy cause and the experience is one that I'll never forget. I wish the centre every success for the future and would one day like to make a return visit.

What is a typical day at the project? Lots of cleaning, food prep and feeding. Maybe a harvest (a tough job, but good exercise). A walk with an elephant, helping to scrub the elephant and other duties around the centre.

What did you find most rewarding? Being with the elephant in the jungle watching them in a natural environment.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Embrace the whole experience. The good, the tough and the mucky!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? To enhance your outlook on life, meet new people and contribute to worthwhile causes.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend them? Pod had the ideal short-term project for me and yes I would recommend them for peace of mind if it's your first time doing this sort of thing. I found Erin prompt in her responses and informative.”

Gareth - 2010

“When I first found out about project all the reviews said 2 weeks was not enough here. After my 2 week stay, all I can say as well is 2 weeks is not enough! The staff and volunteers made this a great place to be whilst doing something very worthwhile. I hope the Centre continues to grow and rescue many more animals so they can live happily. Thanks to everyone here, hopefully our paths will cross again.

I found Pod via Responsibletravel.com who I found to be recommended in the Telegraph news paper. I would recommend one of trips to others.

I'm already considering revisiting the centre next year!”

Emily - 2010

“The project overall was fantastic. The centre provides such incredible conditions for the rescued animals and I was privileged to be there when they rescued another old elephant called June. When she first arrived her condition was terrible from mistreatment but towards to end of my time it was incredible to see the difference in June and see her actually put on weight and some of her wounds healing and best of all seeing her being introduced to another elephant was amazing.

The morning duty consisted of cleaning the enclosures from the previous night and then feeding and providing the elephants with clean water. Mid morning consisted of harvesting food for the elephants, which was every other day. When we were not harvesting we were helping with other jobs within the centre like cleaning the bear’s pool or fertilising the trees around the centre. After lunch we fed and watered again and then it was time for the elephant’s bath.

I found the whole experience rewarding, even though I was there for a short time I felt proud that I had been able to care for the elephants and give them special attention that they require.

I think they definately need to reiterate that you need long trousers and long sleeved tops for the harvests as the pineapples are very spiky and your arms can get scratched to bits if they are not covered up. Also a really comfy pair of shoes as some days you are walking quite a bit.

It is a wonderful and rewarding experience. I felt like I was in a dream when I was there as I couldn't believe how close to the animals I was or how they pulled on my heart strings.

I chose Pod for the specific project that I was looking for. They provided excellent information regarding the project and the communication was brilliant. I would definately recommend Pod and I would use them in the future if I was looking to do another project.”

Find out more about the Elephant Care project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal