Immerse yourself in elephant conservation volunteer work at the award-winning Elephant Nature Foundation. Discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture. Explore incredible jungle, islands and beaches. Gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, Yoga, Muay Thai, rock climbing, caving and scuba diving. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a pivotal summer abroad.
Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia not colonized by Europeans during the 16th - 18th Centuries. The monarchy is strong and the King is revered for his social reforms. People are well educated and, as the country moves rapidly into the 21st century, are embracing global culture without discarding their own rich traditions. Most Thais are Buddhist and it is expected that all men will spend some time as a Buddhist monk during their lives. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. The country is geographically diverse – the mountainous jungle clad north is populated by numerous minority tribal groups and has stunning national parks, while tropical islands in the south have some of the world’s best beaches, snorkeling and diving. Thailand is an immensely popular travel destination. Travelling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristed slice of Thailand, and experience what makes it so popular.
This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available on this program.
This program can be combined with Fall or Spring semester program options in other regions of the world (Nepal & Tibet, China, South America, Central America, New Zealand & Australia) for an in-depth and enriching global gap year.
On arrival in booming, mega-city Bangkok, you’ll be met by your Program Instructors and transferred to our group accommodation. We begin our orientation and immerse ourselves in the kaleidoscope of new sensory stimulus. While here we traverse the city visiting temples, markets and getting a real sense of all the contrasts Bangkok offers before finishing up with a traditional Thai massage to loosen those jetlagged muscles.
Departing Bangkok we take the Northern Train Line to Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site, famous for its ancient temples. 1000 years ago, Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand. Today it is a tranquil riverside town. We explore the complex of temple ruins by bicycle before continuing north by minivan, to Chiang Mai.
After a refreshing night in Chiang Mai we head into the country side and spend two days learning climbing, rappelling and caving, overnighting in a small rural village and visiting nearby hot springs and waterfalls. We'll also start work on key Thai words and phrases and put these to use at the local market.
Based from our comfortable guesthouse in Chiang Mai, we cram these days with a variety of activities…an overnight Buddhist mediation retreat run by monks from Wat Suan Dok; a traditional Thai cooking course; an ‘Amazing Race’ around Chiang Mai; an intro to yoga and mindfulness; a Muay Thai (Thai martial art) lesson run by a Thai national champion. There’s also time to trawl Chiang Mai’s amazing night markets and food stalls.
We embark on an overnight trekking trip through teak and bamboo forest to stay in an ethnic minority village near the Thai-Burma border. You’ll gain insight into traditional tribal village life. On our return from trekking we will stay overnight Pai, a relaxing town nestled in a forested valley.
3 days of reflection and insight at a peaceful Buddhist Meditation Retreat taught by a Thai monk.
Based from our comfortable guesthouse in Chiang Mai, we cram these days with a variety of activities…a traditional Thai cooking course; an ‘Amazing Race’ around Chiang Mai; a Muay Thai (Thai martial art) lesson run by a Thai national champion. There’s also time to trawl Chiang Mai’s amazing night markets and food stalls.
We fly from Bangkok to Southern Thailand and travel overland to Khao Sok National Park. Based from a jungle lodge we spend three days hiking, kayaking and exploring this amazing jungle environment. Khao Sok National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world, and is home to the largest flower in the world, a carnivorous species with a diameter measuring 2-3 feet!
From Khao Sok we travel by road to Krabi, then leap aboard a longtail boat for the fun trip to Railae Beach. Railae is a peninsula on the mainland only accessible by boat, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, dense jungle and the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. This is a world-class area for rock climbing, snorkeling and diving. We settle in to private beach homes for a few days of relaxation and reflection. One day we go snorkeling, where you can see colorful soft and hard corals and an astounding diversity of fish. Another day we have a choice of options including sea kayaking or rock-climbing. There’s time for relaxing on the beach, swimming, and reminiscing about our adventures. On our final day we return to Bangkok.
Today we sadly farewell our group mates and this wonderful country. We depart Bangkok for home having had an unforgettable month in the ‘land of smiles’.
Note: Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, relax and explore independently with others in the group.
Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for conservation, humanitarian work, new experiences and different cultures. You need to be open-minded, and committed to and prepared for some physical work whilst on the volunteer component of the program. It is an excellent option for students and graduates wanting to be exposed to and immersed in a culture different to their own. You don’t need to have had previous experience with international travel or any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will vary from simple share accommodation with shared facilities to modern hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and WiFi will be available most days except while at the elephant conservation project. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Food is a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian or Western style food. 100% of meals are included in the program cost. We recommend you budget the sum of $10 per day for snacks and drinks not included in the program cost (approximately $300 for the program).
Visa on arrival*; All in-country travel and transport including two flights within Thailand; All accommodation; All meals; All activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary; Week-long service-learning volunteer conservation project; Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism, history, and development; Experienced Program Instructors and local guides. *Note: A free 30-day visa for Thailand is issued on arrival.