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Exclusive Offer
Up to $4,000 off

Elephant and Endangered Sea Turtle Coastal Conservation in Thailand

Contribute to the preservation of two endangered species, while exploring the coasts of Southern Thailand and the forested hillsides of the North.

Program Code: THAL0440M

Program Information

Contribute to conserving two of Thailand’s most precious species, the Green sea turtle and the Asian elephant, both of which are classified as endangered. Experience life in both Southern and Northern Thailand, experiencing the distinct habitats, cultures, and conservation issues faced by both regions. Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water and #15 Life on Land.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Remote-Working Friendly
Reliable WIFI
Part-Time Options


Thailand is known worldwide for its breathtaking natural beauty and unique biodiversity. However, like many other natural areas and fragile species around the world, those in Thailand are under threat. You can contribute to the preservation of Thai environments and species by joining our combination coastal, island, and wildlife conservation program in Thailand. The first part of the program takes you to the Southern province of Phang Nga where you will work with an international team of conservation professionals to assist local partners, like sea turtle nurseries, with achieving their goals. Then it is on to a Karen hill tribe village north of the city of Chiang Mai, to assist local elephant trainers with reintroducing Asian elephants to a semi-wild life in the forest, as opposed to their previous lives in tourist camps, and developing alternative incomes for the mahouts and their families. Throughout your time on the program, there will be free time allocated to explore both regions Thailand, visit some cultural sites, and fully experience the gorgeous landscape of each location.


  • Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water and #15 Life on Land.

  • Work to preserve endangered sea turtles and Asian elephants.

  • Explore the turquoise-blue waters, pearly white sandy beaches, limestone cliffs, and tropical islands of Southern Thailand.

  • Immerse yourself in Karen hill tribe culture.

  • Live and work with people who share common interests, values, and goals, potentially making new lifelong friends.

  • Gain a thorough understanding of global conservation issues and those specifically faced in Thailand.

Program Details

Further Program Details

Your time in Phang Nga province will be spent in the small traditional Thai village of Ban Nam Khem. Here you will live with other volunteers, interns, and GVI staff working with local partners to carry out sustainable development projects in the local area. Coastal and island environments, like the Phang Nga shoreline and the islands off its coast, are some of the most fragile in the world, more susceptible environmental risks like erosion and invasive species than other natural habitats. These environments support rare, delicate species like sea turtles and mangroves, that are key to maintaining the natural balance of the important ecosystems like coral reefs and wetlands.

One of the main projects you will be working on during the first part of this program in Thailand, is tracking the growth of sea turtles at turtle research and conservation centres in Phang Nga. Volunteers are also asked to clean the enclosures of sea turtles, apply antibacterial and antifungal ointments to sea turtles with wounds, and study their interaction with enrichment objects. Beach cleans are also conducted on a regular basis as are bird and butterfly surveys. Conservation volunteers in Phang Nga also help the GVI team with conducting environmental education workshops in the local community at schools and with local tour operators. Once every month, volunteers also have the opportunity to travel to two nearby islands where we conduct biodiversity surveys and monitor elusive wildlife in the region using camera traps. During November to April, volunteers can also help with coral reef monitoring surveys.

There will also be free time in the evenings and on weekends for volunteers to explore the surrounding region, visiting nearby National Parks, touring the resort island of Phuket, or simply relaxing on the many beaches.

The second part of your conservation volunteer program in Thailand will be spent in Huay Pakoot, a village North of the popular tourism destination of Chiang Mai. The village was established by the Karen people and they still practice their unique traditions. Elephant training has been a custom in Karen culture, and indeed throughout Thailand, for many centuries and local elephant trainers are known as ‘mahouts’. Throughout Thailand’s history elephants have been used for transportation and heavy lifting. However in recent years, poaching and loss of forest habitat resulted in the Asian elephant earning the status of an endangered species. Many trained Asian elephants in Thailand today perform tricks for tourists visiting some of Thailand’s main cities. While the mahouts know this might not be the best environment for their elephants, this is their main means of earning an income. In Huay Pakoot, GVI works with local mahouts looking to introduce their elephants, who use to perform tricks for tourists in main Thai cities, back into their natural landscape, the hilled forest environment surrounding the village. In addition, we also support business development for mahouts and other local people in the village, allowing them to replace the income elephants helped them earn. This is done through supporting small business development, like homestays and handicraft businesses. We also contribute to educational initiatives, like English language learning, in order to support long-term professional development. English language fluency allows many local persons to earn jobs at local businesses looking to hire staff that feel comfortable communicating with Thailand’s many English-speaking tourists.

During this portion of your trip, you will stay with other volunteers at a local homestay. Days in Huay Pakoot begin when the sun rises. After breakfast mahouts lead volunteers on a hike to find the elephants. In collaboration with the mahouts you will note the feeding and social behaviour of the elephants. You might also have the opportunity to assist the mahouts with a health check. In the afternoons you will return the village to teach English to local children.

During weekends you can travel to Chiang Mai to visit the golden stupas of the Buddhist temples, Wat Phra That and Wat Phra Singh. You can also visit the waterfalls of Doi Suthep–Pui National Park.

Please note travel between Phang Nga and Chiang Mai is not included. Speak to your enrolment manager about options.

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What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.

The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19
pandemic – including destination ratings, flight bookings, and tests.


When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.


COVID-19 Safety

Please note that the above images were taken pre COVID-19. All airport pick-ups and program operations now run with enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place. Learn more.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


Our 10 Ethical Commitments


Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Program Ethics



We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos


We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases


When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.


We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.


We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.


We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures are in place throughout each GVI program. Learn more.


Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19
pandemic – including destination ratings, flight bookings, and tests.

Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov


It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.

1 Nov


As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.

6 Nov


The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.

5 Nov


Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.

What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency desk
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practise
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Required transportation for the duration of your stay
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Travel advice
  • Welcome meeting
  • Your own room within homestay

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • COVID-19: Health and Hygiene Fee
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)