Elephants have a proud history in Thailand, symbolizing centuries of tradition and bearing great cultural significance. With the threat of habitat loss and cruel tourism programs taking advantage of these gentle giants, Further Travel is on a mission to help Thai elephant sanctuaries protect and preserve elephant populations. Discover how you can get involved with Camp Thailand and assist elephant populations through impactful work. 

The rich history of elephants in Thailand has a big influence on current preservation efforts. To help you be as informed as possible, we’ll explore:

  1. The history and significance of elephants in Thailand
  2. How to prepare for your Camp Elephant experience
  3. The benefits of volunteering and working with elephants

At Further Travel, our mission is to create purposeful travel opportunities. We connect you with the best destinations across the globe for exploring and volunteering. Let’s dive into the history of elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a favorite location for Camp Thailand.

The History of Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The elephants of Chiang Mai have a complicated and challenging past. At Camp Elephant, you’ll be educated on the importance of Southeast Asian elephants, their significance in local communities, and the threats they face today.

In this section, we’ll dive into:

  • The history of Chiang Mai
  • The importance of elephants in Thailand
  • Why the elephants need your help

Like many endangered animals, elephants have a rich history and play a crucial role in their natural habitat. Let’s explore the evolution of Chiang Ma and how it has affected elephant populations in Thailand.

A Brief History of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, sitting in the mountains at an elevation of over a thousand feet near the basin of the Ping River. Founded as a royal residence in 1292, the town of Chiang Mai quickly developed to serve as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom until 1558, when it fell to Myanmar (Burma). By 1774, Myanmar was driven out and Chiang Mai retained some independence from Bangkok until the 1800s. 

While present-day Chiang Mai is a city, it retains the appearance of a large village as it is orderly, traditional, and sprawling. Older parts of the town contain the ruins of 13th and 14th-century temples, however, the more modern areas have become popular tourist destinations due to the development of resorts. 

Chiang Mai hosts the summer home of the Thai royal family, PhuPing Palace, and serves as a hub for northern Thailand, the neighboring Myanmar, and has strong cultural ties with Laos. Chiang Mai serves as a central point in Southeast Asia for religion, culture, education, and transport. 

Small neighboring villages keep traditional crafts alive including:

  • Silverwork
  • Wood carving
  • Pottery

The city hosts many Thai festivals including Loi Krathong, the celebration of the Lunar New Year, and Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year which involves a citywide water fight. Thai culture is a huge part of Chiang Mai’s identity and informs the way natural resources and wildlife are treated in the surrounding environment.

The Cultural Significance of Elephants in Thailand

In Thailand, Asian elephants are considered a symbol of national identity, representing strength, wisdom, spirituality, and historical significance. 

In early Thai history, elephants played an integral role in warfare by helping kings establish and defend their kingdoms. As time passed, elephants became instrumental in simplifying labor-intensive tasks such as transporting heavy loads. 

In Thai royalty, the white elephant, known as the chang samkhan, is a revered symbol. White elephants are considered a sign of good fortune and prosperity and were often used as a gift from one ruler to another as a mark of high status. They are still a prominent symbol in the Thai royal emblem and have roots in Buddhism.

Elephants serve as a frequent symbol in Thai arts and crafts due to their cultural significance. Inspiring traditional paintings, sculptures, and carvings, Thai artisans create intricate wooden carvings and paintings depicting elephants, showcasing the animal's grace and strength.

In more recent history, the treatment of elephants in Thailand has raised concerns amid the appeal of interacting with elephants for tourists. Animal welfare issues and awareness of the importance of protecting elephants and their habitats has grown. 

Why Elephants Need Your Help

Across the world, a wide range of factors threaten the lives of elephants. Some of the most common threats to the safety and preservation of Southeast Asian elephants include:

  1. Environmental changes that result in habitat loss
  2. Poachers who are hunting for ivory
  3. Tourism programs that treat elephants poorly

With the ongoing threat of climate change and the continued development of urban sprawl, elephant habitats are decreasing rapidly. This leaves elephants to take drastic measures to ensure their survival by trekking far distances to find safety. When asked why Asian elephants are on the move, Joshua Plotnik, assistant professor of elephant psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, told the BBC:

"The truth is, no-one knows. It is almost certainly related to the need for resources - food, water, shelter - and this would make sense given the fact that, in most locations where Asian elephants live in the wild, there is an increase in human disturbances leading to habitat fragmentation, loss and resource reduction." 

Illegal ivory trade remains a significant threat to elephant populations across the world. In a single year, more than twenty thousand elephants are killed for their tusks. Wildlife initiatives are putting pressure on governments to increase the penalties for these trades and slowly make change possible with refuge programs and sanctuaries to keep elephants safe.

The use of elephants in tourism across Asia is another key contributor to their endangerment. Elephant rides, in particular, have been criticized for the harsh working conditions and poor treatment of the animals. Sanctuaries that focus on restorative activities and are dedicated to the preservation and care of elephants have become a refuge for former captive elephants of tourist ride attractions.

Preparing For Your Elephant Volunteer Experience

Now that you have a clear idea of the threats facing Thai elephants, it’s time to get ready for your volunteering adventure. Ahead of your travel to Thailand, you’ll need to ensure a few crucial things are prepared. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with this short guide! 

In this section, you’ll discover:

  • Everything you need for Camp Elephant
  • Your Camp Elephant itinerary
  • What to expect at Camp Elephant

Get ready to pack your bags and jet off to beautiful Thailand with Further Travel! Our travel programs make it easy for you to explore new places, do important volunteer work, and make new friends. Let’s get started by looking at everything you’ll need to be camp-ready.

Everything You’ll Need For Camp Elephant Thailand

To ensure you’re travel-ready and well-prepared for Camp Elephant, we’ve developed a quick guide that covers everything you’ll need ahead of your journey.

We’ve broken the list down into the following categories:

  1. Essential documents required before travel
  2. Items you’ll need for camp
  3. Additional things we recommend bringing

Ahead of your travel to Camp Elephant, you must meet a series of travel requirements to ensure you are allowed to enter Thailand. As a UK citizen, there are a series of entry requirements that Further Travel must comply with for our camps. 

Some key information we recommend reading includes:

Now you’ve got a clear idea of the entry requirements, it’s time to start packing for your trip! At Further Travel, we recommend focusing on traveling light and being environmentally friendly when preparing to attend camp. With this in mind, we’ve got the basics that you’ll need to bring with you to Camp Elephant.

By far the most important item that you’ll be traveling with is your passport. Please ensure it has at least six months left before the expiration date ahead of traveling.

Other items you’ll need to bring with you include:

  • A backpack
  • Clothes for warm weather
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Any medications that you need
  • Your phone charger and an adapter
  • A swimsuit
  • Spending money

For many travelers, Camp Elephant is an exciting experience that exposes you to new cultures and environments. With this in mind, we recommend bringing a few additional items to make your travel experience more comfortable given you’ll be in an unfamiliar place. 

Items we recommend bringing to Camp Elephant include:

  • Insect repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Your own towel or washcloth
  • A padlock

There are so many exciting things about Thailand that make it a perfect destination for conservation-minded travelers. With all your essentials packed, you’ll be ready to dive into Camp Thailand and get to know some of Southeast Asia’s most gentle giants.

Your Camp Elephant Itinerary

Camp Elephant is a twenty-day experience filled with adventure! From the buzz of Bangkok to the tranquil temples in Chiang Mai, your itinerary is packed full of exciting stops and unique experiences.

Start your journey off in Bangkok. One of our shuttles will pick you up from the airport and take you to your accommodation, where you’ll meet your travel companions for the next few weeks. From here, you’ll get to know Thailand’s capital and make new friends.

Your next stop is Kanchanaburi, where you’ll visit your first elephant sanctuary, quickly followed by Chiang Mai. Your journey to Thailand’s north will cover a range of volunteer opportunities in local sanctuaries, schools, and communities. As part of a truly Thai experience, you’ll take part in cycling trips and tours of local temples before heading back to Bangkok for the final leg of your trip.

Spend your last few days in Thailand exploring Koh Chang Island and the surrounding islands, where you’ll enjoy beach days, nature treks, and have some free time to sightsee and explore. Before you know it, you’ll be saying farewell to your fellow campers as you depart from Bangkok. 

Eager to explore more of Thailand? Get to know the Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, and more with our exciting range of trips to Thailand

What to Expect at Camp Elephant

During your journey through Thailand, Camp Elephant offers you a range of opportunities to take on new challenges and responsibilities. Throughout your time at Camp Elephant, you’ll volunteer with local sanctuaries and institutions to support wildlife and the community. Let’s look closer at how you’ll assist elephant sanctuaries in Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai.

Your visits to elephant sanctuaries across northern Thailand involve helping care for the gigantic residents. From assisting in bathing the elephants to preparing treats, you’ll find there’s no shortage of things to do at Camp Elephant Thailand. There is no set schedule at the elephant sanctuaries for you to follow. Your duties will be defined as the workers at the elephant sanctuary determine them. It’s an exciting way to learn about the gentle creatures you’re surrounded by and immerse yourself in new activities.

As part of your volunteering during Camp Elephant, you’ll also be making stops at local schools where you’ll spend a couple of days teaching. Create lesson plans and teach English in local Thai schools as a way to give back to the community in Chiang Mai. 

In between all this volunteering, you’ll have exciting opportunities to immerse yourself in fun adventures like visiting the Huay Tung Tao Reservoir, the best beaches in Thailand, and exploring Chiang Mai in your free time. There’s so much to see and do during your Camp Elephant experience in Thailand.

The Benefits of Volunteering with Elephants

There are plenty of reasons to volunteer with elephants. From the humbling experience of being in the presence of great creatures to the satisfaction of doing impactful work, you’ll find your experience at Camp Elephant deeply rewarding. 

In this section, we’ll cover:

  1. Getting up close and personal with elephants
  2. Supporting wildlife conservation
  3. Seeing the world and making a difference

Get ready for a life-changing journey with Further Travel! Our programs boast exciting opportunities to immerse yourself in new cultures and travel with purpose. Discover more of our programs, in Thailand, Bali, and more!

Get Up Close and Personal with Thai Elephants

For any nature lover, the opportunity to spend quality time with Thailand’s gentle giants is a life-changing experience. Your volunteering activities will be determined by the needs of the elephants on the day of your visit, so be ready for anything when visiting the elephant sanctuaries!

Some examples of duties you’ll take on include:

  • Preparing fruit and sticky rice balls for the elephants
  • Bathing the elephants in nearby rivers
  • Planting foods like banana trees and sugarcane
  • Feeding the elephants

You’ll have plenty of time to learn about elephants in Thailand and get up close and personal with them! 

Camp Elephant offers a totally unique experience that creates lifelong memories. As our previous travelers have said:

“Anyone who knows me knows how important and special elephants are to me, so the fact that I had the opportunity to work closely with them is beyond words. I had the chance to feed, walk and bathe them at two different locations; Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin. I learnt about their history of abuse in circuses and riding trades and it broke my heart but there are sanctuaries and wildlife centres that dedicate their work to caring for and looking after them, which is so wonderful and was a joy to watch.”

Learn more about Hannah’s summer experience and her experience at Camp Elephant.

Support Wildlife Conservation

Your visit to elephant sanctuaries assists and supports local wildlife conservation. By participating in Camp Elephant, you’re funding elephant sanctuaries and doing important work to preserve elephant populations. Many of our programs work to preserve wildlife and connect with local NGOs who are driven to make a difference. 

At Further Travel, we offer plenty of opportunities for our travelers to support wildlife conservation across the world. Our programs help assist:

By booking your next trip with Further Travel, you can assist animal volunteer organizations and commit to being an environmentally friendly traveler. We take care of the itinerary so you don’t have to! Support local wildlife conservation projects and explore new places with our volunteering trips

See the World and Make a Difference

When you book a trip with Further Travel, you’re committing to impactful travel and giving back to the planet

Global travel and volunteering with wildlife conservation organizations offer a wide range of benefits. Do important work as you explore new places and get involved in key initiatives that help wildlife conservation NGOs achieve their missions. You’ll give back to the communities that host you and feel a sense of accomplishment when you take part in our travel programs.

Get to know the local wildlife, gain first-hand experience working in foreign communities, and make life-long friendships as you see the world and make a difference with Further Travel! From assisting with the care of elephants at Camp Elephant to supporting the Big Five at Camp South Africa: Animal Conservation, there are plenty of ways for you to get out of your comfort zone and give back.

Connect with Further Travel and Explore Exciting Locations

Kickstart your next adventure with Further Travel! We have plenty of options for eco volunteers who want to make an impact. Start your application today! Got questions? Give us a call at 0161 222 3780; we’d love to help you find the perfect trip! 

Eager to learn more about how you can assist wildlife? Check out these articles next:

  1. Immerse Yourself In Wildlife Conservation Volunteering [Benefits, Tips, And How-To]
  2. Why Adventure Travel Volunteering Is The Ultimate Personal Growth Experience [And 7 Trips To Try!]
  3. Travel And Volunteer Abroad: Combining Adventure With Purpose [Resources + Locations]
  4. Travel With Purpose: Volunteer Around The World [Tips & Locations]
Aug 30, 2023

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