Elephant Care - Volunteer Reviews

THAILAND

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Elephant Care project

Tanya - 2017

“A superb, once in a lifetime experience!! Completely surreal and breath-taking!! I loved every minute of it and I came home desperate to do it again, maybe trying a different project elsewhere, who knows!!

The weather was painfully hot and the humidity drives you bonkers but somehow you end up loving it as it makes it part of the experience.

I still can’t believe I’ve actually worked with rescued elephants and to see how they are loved and cared for was amazing considering what awful histories they have had, I found this heart breaking but oddly enough educational and I came to realise that it’s us humans that need to be trained and not the animals!!

Pod Volunteer is a company I would highly recommend and most certainly use again. As a single woman, travelling on my own for the first time, I have never felt safer and fully guided through the whole project with contact names and telephone numbers in both England and Thailand.

What did you find most challenging?

The temperature and humidity made the work seem a lot harder than it actually was.

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

Go for it! My outlook on life and the way we treat each other and animals has been completely changed.”

Olivia - 2017

“The Elephant Care project in Thailand was such an amazing experience! Being able to care for the elephants and ensure they have a much higher standard of living than they previously had was a special reward. The elephants have such lovely personalities and it was a pleasure working with them. Everything was so enjoyable, even the disgusting bits (picking up elephant poop)! smile

What did you find most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing about the project was being able to walk and shower the elephants after a hard morning at harvest.

What did you find most challenging?

Harvest was the most challenging thing, especially in the heat. However, the sense of achievement and being able to cool off in the lake afterwards is a huge treat.

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

Put on lots of sun cream!”

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.

Each day is slightly different depending on the elephants you're working with. Some you shower or walk, whereas, others you have a lot more enrichments to make. Pin for example, is the youngest elephant at the centre and as she is still a baby needs lots of enrichments to keep her entertained such as footballs and tyres filled with hay and fruit. A lot of time is spent preparing the enrichments for the elephants to destroy them in no time at all but it is a lovely thing to see them playing with them.

The work day usually finishes around 5pm and, although a cold shower may not sound that enticing, after a day being hot, sweaty and covered in muck (including elephant poo) it is so refreshing. In the evening the centre organises trips to night markets or other local attractions that you can sign up to. This again makes sightseeing so much easier as the transport is all
organised for you. Dave, the elephant coordinator at the centre also ran an educational evening for all the volunteers to teach us about the treatment of Asian elephants which was an eye opening talk. There was not a dry eye in the room but I am so glad to give the true story about the elephant tourist industry.

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”

Caroline - 2017

“The most rewarding and adventurous experience of my life. Would recommend for anybody- will change your outlook on the world for the better.

What did you find most rewarding?
Meeting new people and seeing and hearing what the elephants went through.

What did you find most challenging?
Leaving!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Don't be overwhelmed by the work and take in every moment.”

Elisa - 2017

“I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the 2 weeks I spent at the Elephant Care project. I never thought that the volunteers would be able to be so hands-on with the elephants, so being able to feed, walk with and shower them was an unforgettable experience. I would definitely recommend this project.

What did you find most rewarding?
Being able to directly care for the elephants

What did you find most challenging?
Harvesting the banana trees

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Take gardening gloves and lots of old clothes”

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”

Emma - 2017

"My volunteering experience was great. The overall process was very easy to apply for and everyone who I contacted were very willing to answer any questions or concerns that I had. Whilst at the sanctuary in Thailand I met a lot of new people, and because we were there for the same reasons I have made a few new close friends. The elephants themselves were the whole reason I went and I have was extremely surprised at how attached I became to them after only several days of caring for them. These gentle giants are beautiful animals and many, even though what they have experienced in life has been terrible are very kind in their nature.

What did you find most rewarding? I found caring for the elephants for 2 weeks the most rewarding and forming close relationships with both them, the people and the elephant carers, the mahouts.

What did you find most challenging? Before I went out I was nervous about the amount of stray dogs around the sanctuary. However actually being there I realised that this did not become a challenge.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? To make an effort to talk to the mahouts. Even though many of them do not speak much English they really do appreciate the interaction.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? After trawling through the internet I found POD and with research I discovered that they were DofE approved so that I could complete my Gold award with my residential section.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes"

Jobie - 2017

"The project has an amazing community experience where you have a chance to meet people from all over the world. The center staff, English and Thai, are very welcoming and informative and only build upto the experience. You learn so much about the Elephants and have an opportunity to bond with them on a level you wouldn't get anywhere else.

What did you find most rewarding? Being able to build a close bond with the elephants and their mahoots.

What did you find most challenging? Going out on the harvest four times in a row was killer and my shoulders were so dead

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Make sure you stock up on insect repellent and sun cream. Also take some clothes you don't mind ruining for harvest

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? To help organise a trip in a more secure environment

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes"

Emily - 2017

"The project provided me with an amazing life experience I will never forget. It felt so good to be a part of something that helps make a difference in these beautiful creatures lives and being able to see it first hand. Meeting people from all over the world, coming together for the same cause makes it feel even more rewarding to be a part of.

What did you find most rewarding? Seeing first hand that you are helping support these elephants live their lives free of the torture and suffering they've had to endure majority of their lives.

What did you find most challenging? Waking up so early.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Do not bring anything nice. The only expensive/nice thing I brought with me got destroyed which were my work boots. I left them on the porch to dry and the dogs decided to chew them up and ruin them. So if you bring expensive work boots you plan on keeping don't leave them out for the dogs to get. - My sandals were also eaten.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Research, Reviews and understanding POD's ethics.- I was also contemplating volunteering at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai but realized the location POD works with is less touristy.”

Jessy - 2016

"I had a fantastic experience in Thailand with some lovely elephants. I think the most interesting section is making banana balls for the elephants. It's like making art craft. I designed my own banana ball to a snowman by using grass and banana peels. I really enjoyed this part though the banana makes my hands really clammy.

What did you find most rewarding? I've learned a lot about the elephants and other animals and I've met many friendly people who love animals and work with animals. They encouraged me to do as many things as I can to protect animals and our environment.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging thing for me is carrying the banana tree on the harvest day. The banana tree is really heavy and takes a lot efforts to lift them on my shoulder.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I find Pod Volunteer on the DofE website and I'm doing this for my Gold award"

Kim - 2016

“I had the most amazing time at the Elephant Care Project. It was a lifetime experience and I would love to do it again. The volunteers were amazing as well as the staff the works there. The elephants are beautiful. It is a wonderful feeling to work with the elephants all day, receive three meals a day, warm weather and a nice room to relax in at the end of the day. Very soul fulfilling. I recommend volunteering at this project.

What did you find most rewarding? Walking along side and feeding the elephants. I loved looking into there eyes. They have beautiful eyes.

What did you find most challenging? Banana tree harvest was the hardest work yet I still enjoyed it because I felt like I was getting my workout in for the day.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Bring garden gloves, boots and band-aids.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Pod Volunteer is very organized and they make it easy to understand the application process”

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”

Rishi - 2016

“I really enjoyed my time at the elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The days were long and tiring but ultimately rewarding. Being so close to the elephants every day was an unbelievable experience. I learnt a a huge amount about elephants and wildlife conservation while also making great friends. I was also able to use my days off well to explore other parts of Thailand. Would recommend to anyone with the right attitude and willing to work hard to make a difference!

What did you find most rewarding?
Building relationships with the elephants

What did you find most challenging?
Initially the heat was certainly a challenge, especially coupled with the long working day but I acclimatised fairly quickly

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
If you want a great, personal experience with elephants, go for it! Bring gloves and old clothes"

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!"

Kayleigh - 2016

"This project was honestly life changing. I worked for two weeks with my dad and found that even two weeks is not enough! I'd recommend that two weeks be a bare minimum for working here. The work is tiring along with the heat, but it is so rewarding.

What did you find most rewarding?
Most rewarding was the feeling at the end of the day, knowing your work is done, and seeing all the good you are doing for this place.

What did you find most challenging?
The banana tree harvest. Hauling 50lb banana trees can be exhausting, with added challenges such as fire ants and mud. Even so, you get to swim afterward and it is very rewarding work.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Go more than two weeks! It was not enough for me. I just about got in the groove of things one week in, and then I only had a week left."

David - 2016

“What an amazing trip. Like dogs, elephants have a keen sense of smell and they use their trunks to identify you by smelling your feet, hands, and breath. The day that they stepped closer to me instead of away after the aromatic inspection was amazing. These gentle giants have had a touch life and know humans as monsters and caregivers, and thanks to this project these elephants know me as the latter.

Be prepared to sweat all day, swat at flies/mosquitos, pick up rugby ball sized poos, and scratch elephants. A fraction of each day is spent on some special project not necessarily related to elephants: planting/watering trees, raking leaves, making mulch, or general cleaning. Harvesting banana trees is hard work, but there is a special surprise afterwards.

When Pod Volunteer warns you that this is not a 'vacation' and that the accommodations are less than rustic, believe them: flush toilets and sinks are luxuries not found in all rooms. Look forward to being drooled on by elephants and know that even a bad shower at the end of the day can feel excellent.

What did you find most rewarding?
After about 6 days the elephants would recognize me and step in closer for a pet/scratch.

What did you find most challenging?
The heat and humidity. Having my clothes soaked through with sweat before breakfast was not something I am used to, but since most everyone was in the same situation it was okay.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Bring a durable water bottle, and possibly powdered drink mix, because you have to hydrate all day long. You can take up to 2 days off per week, most people take less, either come prepared with ideas or ask other volunteers for excursion ideas.”

Betsy - 2016

"Thailand is a beautiful country, with a serious exotic trade and wildlife exploitation problem. Working with this ethical foundation to help feed and care for wildlife that have been rescued from exploitation, tourism and abusive environments was one of the most rewarding experiences I could have imagined! I highly recommend going and helping such a worthy cause.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Work hard! There is nothing worse than someone who shows up but doesn't pull their weight. There is work to be done, and if you stand around you get in the way of those trying to work. Prepare to be worked, know this ahead of time, and if it is a problem for you then find another project. Elephants and wildlife require full time manual labor and a positive attitude!"

Steffanie & Morgan - 2016

“Organizing our volunteer trip to Thailand through Pod Volunteer was the best decision. I was traveling with my 17-yearold 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!”

Fran - 2016

"The Elephant Care project really is an incredible place and working with the elephants was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Working hands on with the elephants everyday was so rewarding and I really felt like I was making a difference. I definitely would go back in the future as 2 weeks wasn't enough - I was reluctant to leave! I would definitely recommend staying for more than a week if you have time as you get to know the elephants and all their unique personalities which is so interesting. Though I found it quite difficult to adjust when I first arrived due to the extreme heat and the rather basic accomodation; within a few days I loved it and the work made the heat worthwhile! It
was also great as a solo traveller to meet and live with the other volunteers - everyone was so friendly and I made some awesome friends. The foundation also helps you organise extra activities for your evenings and days off which was really helpful and allowed me to explore more of the local area. Overall it was a fantastic experience!

What did you find most rewarding?
The work with the elephants, getting to know their personalities and learning about their species.

What did you find most challenging?
The extreme heat

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
It is hot, expect to feel sweaty and dirty pretty much 24/7! Bring clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
It was an organisation that seemed to genuinely provide projects that helped wildlife."

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"

Luke - 2015

"I spent a week with the elephant care project in September. It was a very rewarding and inspiring experience, I enjoyed every minute of it. The center does some incredible work and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. Pod's service was excellent too! I made some amazing new friends at the project and can't wait to go back!

What was a typical day at the Elephant Care project? The day starts at 6.30am with breakfast for the elephants, before the volunteer's breakfast at 8. Priorities! Then depending on the elephant you're working with the day consists of walking, washing, feeding and mucking out the elephants. Every other day is the banana tree harvest which can be hard work, but is good fun with all the guys you're with.

What did you find most rewarding? Making new friends... Elephants and humans!

What did you find most challenging? The early mornings, even whith the help of the gibbon wake up calls!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go for it! It's a very rewarding experience. Bring plenty of old clothes and mosquito repellent though! Most important of all though... Do more than 1 week!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? What better way to travel than learning about and helping the local communities and wildlife?”

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."

Lauren - 2015

"I knew this experience would be an adventure, and it was. It turned out to be more impactful and life changing on me than I even anticipated. This was such a unique and incredible experience being at the centre and it’s one that I would love to have again. The most rewarding part for me was getting to know the personalities and moods of the elephants and getting to a point where the elephants were comfortable and curious about me, and vice versa. Also, getting to know the mahouts and building a fun, friendly relationship with them was awesome.

Probably the most challenging aspect was the accommodations and food. You get very basic Accommodation and sometimes cleanliness was not a top priority. Also, the food took some adjusting to, but volunteers are able to cook their own food if they want to.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do it! Any challenges or negatives that come along with this placement are far outweighed by the absolutely incredible experience that you receive. The simplicity of having your every day schedule and life revolve around elephants is something that can't be put into words. If you love elephants, this is an experience not to miss. I chose Pod Volunteer for their professionalism and constant support through the entire process of signing up for the project and helping with any questions or concerns that I had along the way. Becky was great to work with!"

Christopher - 2015

"I did a week volunteering with the elephants and found it the best week of my life. I was a solo traveller to the centre and felt I belonged to a community which made it a wonderful experience every day. Although I was nervous meeting new people, we were all in the same position and I found after the volunteering, we all met up on the islands such as Koh Phangan. I would of course recommend doing this project as it allows you to give back to animals that have been mistreated. The elephants are amazing and love interacting with all the volunteers!”

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."

Dallas and Caroline - 2014

"Pod knows what they're doing! I'm only 20 and have never traveled much at all within my own country (USA), so I went to Thailand and it was nerve racking. Becky helped us with every last question or worry we had and she didn't take days upon days to hear back from her which was amazing. These guys are on the ball. They booked our taxi cabs to and from the airports (5 flights.) They take care of their people so don't worry about a thing when you're in the hands of Pod Volunteer. Thank you all again, you were amazing!

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."

Elizabeth - 2014

"I can honestly say my week volunteering with the elephants in Thailand was the most amazing experience iv ever had! I fell in love with the elephants instantly and found it so hard to leave them at the end, I already want to go back out and see them!

Although only staying a week I felt as though I was there a lot longer and the sight soon became my home. Everyone was lovely, from workers to mahouts and made me feel very welcome and the food served was great (Im usually very fussy).

Surprisingly one of my favourite jobs was the one most others seemed to hate, the banana tree harvest. It was hard work, especially in the heat but great team bonding exercise.

I can't thank you enough for everything you have done for us and everything you do. Organisation has been great and you gave been more than helpful. I will definitely recommend pod to others and be sure to use it again myself!"

Evelyn - 2014

"Really amazing experience, love the attitude of the place and the way the animals are looked after but respected as wild animals. Opportunities to work as a team really make you bond as a group and I felt like I was at home with my family. The staff were welcoming and I loved how involved the co-ordinators for wildlife and elephants were. I would definitely go again and it has inspired me to find other projects similar to this is the future.

What was a typical day like at the Elephant Care volunteering project? Busy, structured and a degree of independence needed as you have to be willing to work and responsible about fulfilling your job role.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do it! As long as you are willing to work, it will be one of the most humbling experiences of your life. You will remember it forever.”

Why did you choose Pod? Recommended and really well organised."

Tyler - 2014

"My time at The Elephant Care Project - Thailand was one of the most rewarding and life changing experiences. Working with the elephants everyday allowed me to see first-hand how our collective hard work helps to make the elephants lives so much better. Along with caring for the elephants, the friends I have made are what I will cherish most. I wish I could have stayed longer.

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.

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.

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."

Beth - 2013

"I was looking for an adventure and something that would really open my eyes and this was exactly what I got and much more. In a group full of strangers I met some of the most amazing and interesting people full of stories and experiences, packed with a wealth of knowledge and passion. I have made some brilliant friends who will stay with me for life! It was at times very hard work, quite emotional and even tiring, but it was the most satisfying feeling at the end of the day having a cold shower knowing I'd been helping one of the most amazing endangered animals on the planet alongside some truly phenomenal people. I honestly would recommend this experience to anyone who loves these creatures and is looking for a way to help and be inspired.

This wasn't a holiday; it was a one of a kind experience.

What did you find most rewarding? I really enjoyed showering the elephants and connecting with them when feeding them fruit. I really enjoyed the harvest days and being so busy and knowing I was helping sustain the centre and the elephants.

What did you find most challenging? One of the parts I found most challenging was the emotional aspect of the torture the elephants had been victims of before coming to the centre. This is important to know and understand, but was difficult for me to deal with and process. I really enjoyed spending time with everyone, but the shared accommodation was a challenge in terms of getting enough rest as there are always people around and getting enough rest proved difficult for me as I wasn't used to it. But it did all add to the experience.

Thank you for all the help and support, my dealings with Becky have been brilliant. Becky has been brilliant and responded to all of my communication very promptly and been very encouraging and supportive. A huge thank you!! "

Eric - 2013

“Working with the elephants was an incredible experience. The main thing for me was what I learned about what is really going on in the world to these incredible animals. I cried, I worked as hard as I ever have, I was tired, wet, muddy, smelly, but never as alive and satisfied as I was when I was there. I plan on going back if they will have me. It is an emotional as well as physically demanding job. Minimum of two weeks should be spent. If I knew I would have opted for more time. Everyone who loves elephants needs to do this, and to learn more about the plight of the Asian elephant.”

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."

Emma - 2013

"Drink lots of water, that’s the first thing! It’s hot sweaty work but don’t let that put you off. Jet-lag depending, you wake around 6am daily to start work at 6.30. The main aim of your day is to ensure that the elephants get fed 4 times a day, everything else is extra. Food preparation can be hard, it may involve chopping up logs or fighting off the flies as you prepare pineapples and melons for the elephant with no teeth, but it is so worth it when you get to work so closely with these amazing creatures. You will more than likely go on a pineapple harvest (wear long sleeves and pants!) and a banana harvest, the sap from which will ruin any clothes in a 5 mile radius, but it’s still fun and you take lots of breaks, shading from the sun under a lucky tree which hasn't been felled yet (don’t worry there is a reforestation plan in place).You work alongside the mahouts to also clean up the enclosures before every new feed, to shower them and 2 of the elephants are able to be taken out for walks, always a fun experience! It is hard work and the routine repetitive and is based around the 4 feeds of the day, some days you may go out on a harvest, other days you may stay back to continue with the food prep and feedings. I didn't mind the structure though, you knew exactly what was expected of you to do every day and there are still enough break times to go and explore the remainder of the wildlife centre, and visit the monkeys, bears and the amazing dogs all have been rescued by the centre too.”

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.”

Suzy - 2011

“I did the Elephant Care program in Thailand. It was an amazing experience. Some days the work was challenging but very rewarding. It was overall a very welcoming and positive time. I felt very comfortable and at ease. The staff members are very accommodating and most friendly and understanding. The work carried out is very rewarding and by far the best was the education I received about Elephant welfare. I came out completely renewed and knowledgeable about the need for animal rescue. I recommend this program to all. They need the support from volunteers and what u get from the experience is priceless!

What is a typical day at the project? Get up 6am. Be ready for work at 6.30. The tasks set take about an hour. (It’s equivalent to having that morning run, gym session etc) then breakfast at 7.30am. The working day doesn’t begin until 9am so breakfast is leisurely and it’s plenty of time to prep for the day. Then at 9 u begin set tasks, cleaning, feeding, harvest trips which can be tough but fun. There is plenty of time at lunchtime as well to relax enjoy the prepared food (which is very good) and then prep for afternoon tasks. Finish time is between 5 and 5.30pm and can on occasion be earlier if all tasks are met. There are periods of downtime here and there where u can do domestic tasks if u plan well. Dinner is at 7 and it’s a nice time catching up with everyone and talking about the days events.

Most rewarding for me is of course the hands on time with the beautiful gentle giants but equally rewarding was the education I received.

What did you find most challenging? I struggled with some of the physical work but in saying that the challenge of it was very empowering. I really felt like I was making a difference because I doing work that was very necessary.”

Phoebe - 2011

"My time at the wildlife centre was really really amazing. It was very hard work too, but 100% worth it. I enjoyed every minute of it, and you never quite get used to the fact that you're actually standing next to a real elephant! This project exceeded all my expectations and it really is such a great thing to do. I was only there for 3 weeks and I felt so settled and I was having so much fun I didn't want to leave. Not only are the animals amazing but you meet some great people from all around the world which is also really great.

Typical day would be wake up as late as possible (my alarm was set for 6.16, 4 minute snooze and then get ready in ten minutes!) to meet in the volunteer house at 6.30. Everyone then looks at the rota for the day to see who they will be working with and which elephants they are assigned to for that day. You may also have other duties such as House duty which everyone takes turns in doing. Lunch is at 12 and hopefully the ice cream man will come! Once the working day is done you can either go down to the village for some beers and a look round the few shops. There's also a night market on Sunday nights and that's really good for getting some work clothes that are going to get very dirty so don't buy anything nice. On your days off you can plan trips to nearby towns and villages and even stay there overnight. You can also arrange to have your days off with other people too. Everyone normally goes to bed at different times depending on how knackered you are on that day!

I found the journey home from the harvests the most rewarding part of the experience. You ride back with the wind in your hair, on the huge truck full up to the top of banana trees and you think, yes I did this! It feels really good!

I found the harvests the most challenging. It’s SO hot and you get SO dirty and SO smelly! But you just get stuck in and get on with it and then its over before you know it. Don't let the harvests put you off because when you're with good people and you've got a bit of music to help you along it goes very quickly! And you just have to remember why you're doing it!

Volunteering abroad is so fantastic because you are 100% out of your comfort zone. You learn a lot quickly about things you never knew anything about, and also about yourself. I have gained a lot more self confidence from volunteering in Thailand because you have to trust yourself and your own judgements more. You also get to learn about a whole new culture and way of life whilst doing something worthwhile and not just being on a holiday.

I would and already have recommended Pod to others! I chose Pod because I thought the price was very reasonable and it seemed like a great organisation."

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.”

Sophie - 2010

"A very brief week that raced by far too quickly, but despite that, it was an amazing and extremely rewarding experience. The unique sights, sounds and smells (with the exception of some elephant flatulence!) will stay with me forever, along with what I learnt about the elephants from those at the centre and by simply being so near them - a privilege indeed. Knowing that all the hard work (harvest, tree maintenance, clearing the enclosures, etc) was contributing to improving the lives of these rescued animals was so rewarding. As weird as it sounds now back in the UK, picking up dung with bare hands isn't that bad. It was a truly wonderful week that has just cemented my lifelong love for the gentle giants

What did you find most challenging? Coping with the ant and mosquito bites (despite enormous volumes of repellent used)! VERY hard not to scratch!

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Just be prepared for being absolutely filthy and very hot for the majority of the time.....oh and LOADS of repellent!"

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