Written on: 28/03/2012 by r.nightingale
The month I spent in Huay Pakoot on the GVI Thai Elephants Project was by far the best in my life. This program is a truly amazing experience for anyone who like animals or likes experiencing other cultures.
This project aims to bring elephants out of tourist camps and street begging to allow them to live semi-wild in the forest, while at the same time financially supporting the families whose income relied on the elephants.
The project is set in a tiny, beautiful village nestled deep in the mountains of Northern Thailand. Each volunteer is assigned an elephant whom they work closely with, collecting data on its behaviour and conducting health checks regularly. You get to go up-close with your elephant, and learn about her personality, behaviour and needs. It was really humbling to be so close to such a magnificent animal, and getting to know your elephant is really cool.
Watching the elephants foraging in the forest and behaving like elephants should naturally was a really good experience too. It was when you could see that this program was making a difference to their lives.
Staff were very safety conscious when we were around the elephants which was comforting, though at times I almost felt like this was taken a little too far and it occasionally limited our hikes or time with the elephants.
Other day-to-day activities included English teaching, running events at the school, optional weekend trips and much more. I really liked the variety that this program offered - you could participate in as much or as little as you liked.
The villagers were such beautiful people. It was great getting to know them, especially the mahouts and my homestay family. It was very hard to say goodbye to everybody when the time came.
Life in the village is very laid-back and relaxing. Though living conditions were basic (matresses on the floor, squat toilets and cold bucket showers), I felt it was all part of the experience and it didn't make me enjoy my time there any less.
Value for money was very good in that it includes all food (which was delicious!), transport and accommodation.
GVI were extremely helpful during the application process. They contacted me directly via phone shortly after booking to satisfy any queries and fill me in on project details, and were very thorough with sending checklists of what you needed to prepare for a bring. They also looked after you well while on the project, organising all transport and training.
I would definitely recommend this program to all of my friends, and hope I can go back myself some day!