Thailand is a diverse country, and the way to find balance is through visiting the luscious northern mountains filled with fascinating hill tribes as well as getting down to the iconic white sand beaches of the south. This program takes us off the beaten track and gets us involved in grassroots conservation service work.
On our Thailand Mid Teen Summer Program, we will be hiking in the hills near Chiang Mai, bonding over world-class food experiences, and sharing traditional sleeping huts looking out over rice paddies. Head to an elephant conservation project where we get hands-on, learning about and protecting these gentle giants. It feels like another country when we take a flight to the south and immerse in the unique karst limestone Khao Sok National Park where we will tube and adventure through paradise. We will finish at the beach, climbing, kayaking, and snorkeling our way through the islands around the Railay Peninsula.
✓ Want to get hands-on experience in elephant and wildlife conservation
✓ Are interested in experiencing new foods and cultures
✓ Love to do outdoor adventures like hiking, tubing, and snorkeling
✓ Want to take climbing lessons on the limestone cliffs of Railay
✓ Want to receive a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to add to your resume
Traveling to Thailand with Pacific Discovery was everything and more that I could've imagined! It was the most courageous summer of my life! I was so out of my comfort zone I'm never going back. Everything from the volunteer projects, global citizenship, and the impact you have in the world, expeditions, amazing cities, the cultural immersion, inspiring leaders, the food, the group, and the adventures made this experience unforgettable. I’ve learned how to challenge myself physically and mentally, conquer my fears and not let them stop me. It was the best 30 days where I lived in the moment, challenged myself, and made lifetime friends!
- Cassandra, 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!
***The hub will be confirmed on student home locations and flight paths at the time of booking.
Welcome to The Land of Smiles! The group will arrive together in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. After an exciting briefing from the program instructors about what to expect over the coming days, we head out to explore the winding streets of this bustling city together. To give you some idea, there are 121 temples within the city limits of Chiang Mai. The sounds and smells are just a whole new world, and you’ll probably find your favorite spot for fresh orange juice, great coffee, or spring rolls that you can frequent. You will settle into your home base hotel in Chiang Mai which you will revisit several times in the first two weeks. In these first days, the focus is on getting to know the group. We will do a Thai cooking course (unmissable whilst here!) which always involves lots of laughter and full bellies. See how much spice you can handle, and perhaps try some deep-fried spiders at the local market!
We head out on a hike in the hills nearby Chiang Mai to meet local ethnic villagers (who all have unique languages, dress, and customs) and experience local life. We will just be carrying day packs, as each night we will sleep in our own traditional bamboo house and the community will put on a feast. It’s not about hiking all day - it’s about getting immersed in the culture, seeing the landscapes of the north, playing with local kids, and making the kind of travel memories that last a lifetime.
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 and they are threatened. 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 to care for them, wash them, feed them, and ultimately exploring the complex issues the animal conservation world is facing.
After saying goodbye to our giant friends, we head back to Chiang Mai city where you’ll have a free afternoon to recover from your whirlwind adventure with the elephants, before enjoying our final group meal at the world-famous Chiang Mai Night Market.
Some people think South Thailand is all beaches- they don’t know about the best-kept secret! We take an internal flight down south together and transfer to our treehouse accommodation, a magnificent jungle retreat. We spend our days hiking, tubing, and exploring this lush green jungle environment and even stretch out with a relaxing yoga class. Khao Sok National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforests in the world and is home to a 3-foot carnivorous flower!
Say goodbye to the jungle and hello to the beach as we head over to Railay in Krabi! Situated along the Andaman Sea coastline, Railay Beach is one like no other, and you’re sure to fall in love with its pure white sand and crystal clear ocean. These first glimpses of the islands around Railay are truly mind-blowing. This is a world-class area for rock climbing and snorkeling. You know those pictures of people scaling sea cliffs and falling into the water below - that’s here! We will discover Railay Beach from above the ground ourselves as we head off on an epic, yet supported rock-climbing adventure! We will also head out kayaking between the calm bays and islands together to make sure we see the beauty from every angle. It’s all fun in the sun for these last few days winding down together and reflecting on our amazing journey across Thailand. The instructors will facilitate conversation about all the learnings we can take forward with us in life.
**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
✓ 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
✓ Core Activities that encourage shared group reflection
✓ Certificate of Community Development with 25 hours service
Medium Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and 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.
Medium Camping Level: Be prepared to spend some time out in nature. You'll love the experience of camping, staring at the campfire, breathing in the fresh air, and stargazing the night away.
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 accommodations 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 in homestays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable, and carefully chosen to fit our needs. Students will share rooms with other members of the group. Sometimes they will be in twin rooms and other times they will be in dorm rooms. There will never be outsiders from the group present in the rooms. The instructors will be in a twin room near the students. Students will always be able to access the instructors for support at any time of the day.
Food is a highlight when traveling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian food every day! There is also western food available, but not in the mountain areas. 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 (instead of our group cooking) due to the local culture and accommodation. An average day on the program would consist of the following:
To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.
They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.
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 Hawaii 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.