From immersing in Bangkok's bustling mega-city vibes to climbing in Railay's limestone ocean cliff walls, our trip in Thailand is incredibly diverse. The mountainous northern jungle is populated by 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. Traveling with us, you’ll have the chance to get off the beaten track and uncover the true essence of a South East Asian experience.
From cultural immersion in the mountains to beachside living, the program is deliberately staged with the ideal combination of adventure and relaxation. You’ll get a taste of everything from volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, practicing thai cooking, tubing down rivers in Khao Sok National Park, and getting zen at a meditation retreat! Join us on this truly scintillating and sensory journey that captures the ‘real’ Thailand.
✓ Are interested in wildlife conservation supporting elephants in a sanctuary
✓ Want to snorkel and relax on some of the world's best beaches
✓ Love getting amongst nature by kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and tubing
✓ Would love to explore, whether it be temples, jungles, vibrant markets or coastal cliffs
✓ Want to get hands on with an international community development project
✓ Want to receive a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to add to your resume
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 catalog provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions, testimonials and a comparison chart!
**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**
Welcome to Thailand! The program starts in Bangkok, a major cultural hub of southeast asia. The smells, sounds and sights are a whole new world! Bangkok is bustling and has many elements; fortunately we know the best places to go! We will get to know each other while touring on foot through the city. Your two experienced instructors will give you a brief on what to expect in the coming days and how to make the most of this exciting new landscape. We take a jump north to the old world capital of Ayutthaya, and explore the magnificent temple complex by mountain bike. From here, we’ll take an overnight train to Chiang Mai - a quintessential South East Asian travel experience.
You will see a LOT of elephants around these parts and we are about to dive into our first service-learning project with an elephant conservation program. We will be staying at an ethical sanctuary that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. This week is all about empathy and understanding in a local community. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left in Thailand. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry (i.e. tourists taking joy rides), 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 issues the animal conservation world is facing.
We will be using the vibrant city of Chiang Mai as a base as we move between the elephant sanctuary to our community development project. 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 and local communities that take a 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. We might help with planting seedlings, building greenhouses, digging garden beds, chopping bamboo to create fences, whatever the community requires while we are there. This is a unique opportunity to connect with a local Thai community and immerse in community living.
Once the project is finished, we will spend time in Chiang Mai exploring temples, deciding on our favorite restaurants and picking up some local souvenirs and artwork. We will get spicy with an authentic Thai cooking course - think pad thai, green curry and rice paper rolls. Locals add about 6 chillis to their curry, but we might just want to start with 2!
We’ve taken a deep dive into the culture and lived experience in Northern Thailand. It’s the ideal time for some peaceful reflection with our group. We transfer to a traditional meditation center outside of Chiang Mai and take a few days to learn about Buddhist philosophies, and honing in on mindfulness techniques. You can’t help but soak in the serenity in this luscious center. Meditation involves lifelong wellness skills that might just be one of the key lessons we take home from this program.
We take a domestic flight to the south and transfer to a spectacular wilderness area, Khao Sok National Park. The jungle here is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world and is home to the largest (carnivorous!!) flower in the world. The temperature hikes up a few notches and we will be in swimsuits and shorts from hereon out. Based out of our very own treehouse, we will spend our days hiking and exploring together. We’ll float down the Khao Sok river on tubes to soak up the stunning jungle atmosphere. The trees above you house birds and monkeys along with orchids and exotic fruits and flowers. Rattan vines, giant Pandanus trees, and massive tropical hardwoods line the river. From this freshwater paradise, we venture further south to the ocean.
We will spend the final week in Krabi, a quintessential destination known for its limestone cliffs, dense jungle, and the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. This is a world-class area for rock climbing and snorkeling, and we’ll get in all of these epic experiences! We will even get out on kayaks - the best transport for visiting the islands that dot the coast. As the program winds down, we will have some free time to explore together and organically reflect on the special times we’ve shared together. We have traveled north and south Thailand, authentically immersing ourselves amongst communities and making a difference. We’ve had a blast in National Parks and beaches with our close knit group. We’ve pushed comfort zones and made connections in this far flung South East Asian country. It’s difficult to say goodbye, but the memories made will stay with us for life.
*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
✓ 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
✓ Certificate in Human and Environmental Development with 30 hours of service
Medium 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. We will also head out on a two day hike and go on some fun adrenaline adventures- no experience necessary.
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 traveling 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:
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 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.