Thailand is incredibly diverse – the mountainous jungle up 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 and snorkeling spots. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. Traveling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of the country and uncover the true essence of Thailand.
We take you to the north where you take a deep dive into the hill-tribe culture and an elephant sanctuary for the beginning of the program and are rewarded with some of the most stunning beaches in the world for the final portion of the trip. Immerse yourself in elephant conservation learning; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle, islands, and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, Muay Thai and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-changing summer abroad!
✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world
✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in a new culture
✓ Love activities like kayaking, rock climbing, canyoning and Thai boxing
✓ Are enthusiastic about animal welfare and conservation
✓ Would love to discover spectacular temples, jungles and vibrant markets
This program helped me grow as an independent traveler while having my incredible instructors as guides to fall back on. I learned more about myself and I feel much more educated on culture and life in general post-program. I would recommend this program to literally anyone. Everyone could benefit from this and you’ll be able to succeed further in life after experiencing the world. Pacific Discovery offers this program to learn and see the world safely. I would tell my pre-program self to jump all in with both feet and take it all in! I loved this program and I’m grateful for the opportunity because I’m genuinely a changed person; I’m a better person because of my travels in Thailand, my instructors, and my group members!”
- Cabell Haneberg, 2021 Student
Get the full Summer Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions, testimonials and a comparison chart!
From Bangkok, we fly straight into Chiang Mai, the heart of northern Thailand. We begin our orientation and immerse ourselves in the kaleidoscope of new sensory stimuli.
You will see a LOT of elephants around these parts. Fortunately, you will be staying at an ethical elephant conservation park that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left within Thailand. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry, have a bleak future. You will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals, helping care for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is facing.
This week is all about empathy and understanding. We will be based in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai and work to support one of the minority tribes in northern Thailand. We will work alongside an NGO that takes an intersectional feminist, gender-neutral, grassroots approach to working with at-risk populations in ethnic minority communities.
The work we’ll be doing is connected to the local hill tribes and their agricultural practices. You might help with planting seedlings, building greenhouses, digging garden beds, chopping bamboo to create fences, or even something completely different. Afterwards, you can spend a day relaxing, and sussing out your favorite temple/cafe combo. To give you some idea, there are 121 temples within the city limits of Chiang Mai!
We head into the countryside and spend a few days working those arms; learning climbing and canyoning in a unique landscape. We will be staying in a small rural village and being exposed to the principles of permaculture. There’s also a night market to check out when we have some spare time, but trust us you will be feeling ready for bed after the climbing sessions!
After this workout, it's time to explore the capital of Bangkok. In Bangkok, cultures entwine in a symphony of sounds, scents, sights, and tastes – it is sensory overload! Just when you’ve had enough of the city fix, we travel from Bangkok to Southern Thailand.
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. Based from our very own treehouse, hidden amongst the jungles of this National Park, we will explore the area. We spend our days hiking in this lush green jungle environment, and start to open our minds and free our souls with a peaceful Buddhist Meditation session. There isn’t a place in the world more perfect to find inner peace than Khao Sok National Park. Bursting with beauty and tranquility, you’re sure to find your peace here.
Railay 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 and snorkeling. These first glimpses of the islands around Railay are truly mind-blowing. Get high with a bit of rock climbing before taking out a kayak to explore the islands.
We will be able to compare Railay with a more obscure island destination – Ko Lanta. We settle into our accommodation for a few days of relaxation and reflection. Sweat it out with two days jam-packed with muay thai (martial arts) classes. There will also be a Thai cooking course so that you can take something home from this sensory journey. There’s time for relaxing on the beach, swimming and reminiscing about our adventures.
Your last days will be spent digesting your experiences and sharing your final days with your fellow participants. Depart Bangkok for home having had an unforgettable month in the ‘land of smiles’.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
✓ All in-program travel and transport
✓ All accommodation
✓ All meals (not including snacks)
✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary
✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves
Low Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this summer program! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.
Low Camping Level: You will spend most nights on this Summer Program in comfortable guesthouses and modern hotels.
Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.
Our accommodation will vary from simple guesthouses and community homestays with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available often, except while on expeditions or on homestays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Food is undoubtedly a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.
All meals are eaten out at restaurants due to the local culture and accommodation. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.
We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!
We have been running successful Thailand programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look!
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.