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.
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 essential wildlife conservation work on land and sea – working with Asian elephants and endangered sea turtles.
Travel to Phang Nga province, a region known for its island lifestyle, mangroves, limestone cliffs and beaches. Then live and work in a traditional Karen village community in Chiang Mai, deep within Thailand’s tropical northern mountain jungles.
Contribute to ongoing environmental projects that address critical challenges aligned to the global UN SDGs.
Join local conservation partners and qualified professionals to ensure your efforts are highly ethical, meaningful and sustainable.
Venture outside typical travel itineraries to get exclusive access to extraordinary remote habitats, rare species and unique ecosystems.
Share epic experiences with like-minded, passionate changemakers from all over the globe.
With expert local staff and 24/7 support at every step – you can relax and enjoy the experience stress-free.
Disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature, yourself and your purpose.
Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.
Learn how to identify species and conduct surveys, and help collect data to build an inventory of terrestrial and marine species in Phang Nga.
Work at the Royal Thai Navy Sea Turtle Conservation Centre and assist with animal husbandry, enclosure enrichment studies, morphology studies, and tank cleaning and maintenance.
Hike through the nearby forest and hills to collect data on elephants. Take part in elephant health checks, and record information about their health and the behaviour you observe.
Get crucial career-building exposure working and communicating within a diverse and expert conservation team in a specific local context.
Develop self-awareness, leadership, resilience and confidence, with support and advice from experienced GVI staff members.
In your free time explore the different beautiful islands across Phang Nga or immerse yourself in the elephant-keeping culture of Chiang Mai.
Some of the partners we work with on base.
|24-hour emergency desk|
|24-hour in-country support|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|Food (except on long-term internship placements|
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Weekly group check ins|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
Our GVI base is located in the heart of a small fishing village named Ban Nam Khem, which is about one and half hours from Phuket airport, and about half an hour from the popular resort town of Khao Lak. Situated within the Phang Nga province, this region was the worst affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It’s estimated that almost half of Ban Nam Khem’s residents lost their lives in the tsunami, and today there is a famous memorial dedicated to them. Though steeped in tragedy, the people of the village refuse to be defined by their loss. The community has rebuilt itself and grown substantially since then.
Participating in this GVI program in Phang Nga offers you the chance to slow down and experience living and working in a traditional Thai community, tucked away from the usual busy tourist hotspots. The base is a short ten-minute walk from the beach and a fifteen-minute walk from the centre of the village – where you’ll find little markets, shops and street food vendors that are open daily. When you’re out and about, you’ll often be joined by Tiger, the friendly village dog who lives across the road. He loves to tag along on adventures and visit the base. You will share a house that includes communal spaces – here you can learn and relax with our GVI staff and other participants from all around the world. On the weekends, you can explore the numerous stunning beaches, islands, caves, and national forests that the Phang Nga region is renowned for.
Our house is situated within Ban Nam Khem village. There is a lovely coffee shop on one side and a beautiful jungle on the other. You will stay in mixed-gender, dorm-style accom...
On the morning of your program start date, a transfer will be provided from Phuket Airport Place to the GVI base. A five-minute walk from the airport exit, the Phuket Airport Pl...
Wi-Fi is available at the base, but bear in mind it might not be as reliable as you might be used to back home. If you plan on working remotely while completing a program with u...
This program gives you the opportunity to experience authentic Southern Thai cuisine, while still having the chance to share some of your own favourite meals from back home. You...
Thailand has a famously tropical climate, the perfect weather in which to enjoy Thailand’s many beaches. The temperature ranges from 22°C – 34°C (72°F – 93°C) throug...
When on project and in the local town participants will be expected to wear modest clothing and behave in ways in keeping with Thai customs.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards – the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development.
Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.
Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.
Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.
The Similan and Surin Island groups are both protected Marine National Parks. They are home to several world-renowned diving and snorkelling spots, but can only be visited betwe...
This is a very popular tourist spot. It’s filled with seemingly endless beaches, so many dining options you will be spoilt for choice, and hundreds of spas offering massages and...
Said to be more diverse than the Amazon, this 740 square metre rainforest reserve is home to elephants, deer, monkeys, lizards, birds, and the Rafflesia, a giant flowering plant...
This province is a treasure trove for travellers. Enjoy the crystal-clear Emerald Pond, the epic 1,237-step climb to the Buddha statue, the stunning views at the Tiger Temple Ca...
Phuket is a tourism hotspot – as popular for its spectacular beaches, diving, and surfing sites, as it is for its cafés, boutiques and hotels. You can also visit The Big Buddha,...
Thailand boasts some of the top beach destinations in the world, with Railay beach being one of the most popular. A peninsula on the Andaman coast, it consists of three separate...
Explore the warm turquoise waters and limestone cliffs of Phang Nga by speedboat or sea kayak, stopping off at James Bond Island – made famous by the 1974 film The Man With the ...
This protected marine park covers a huge area, including over 50 islands. Visit the jungle island of Koh Chang, where you can snorkel or scuba-dive off the coast and experience ...
Also known as “‘Turtle Island”’ this is another excellent destination for snorkelling and scuba-diving, or simply relaxing on the beach. The visibility is fantastic and there is...
Explore the many natural sites of Nan, bordering Laos – like Doi Phu Kha National Park and Si Nan National Park. It is the perfect area to experience the dense natural forests t...
Explore the picturesque waterfalls of Khao Yai in central Thailand. Here you can spot unique Thai wildlife like gibbon monkeys....
Travel to the city complex ruins of Ayutthaya to learn more about Thailand’s heritage. This spectacular, but now abandoned city used to be the medieval capital of Siam....
Set in the verdant mountainsides of Northern Thailand, the golden city of Chiang Mai is a breathtaking sight to behold. Visit historic temples and hunt for treasures at local ma...
There is a reason why the capital of Thailand is one of the most visited sites in the country. Featuring gorgeous temples, the spectacular Grand Palace, and many excellent shopp...
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.
On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
February: Magha Puja is an important Buddhist holiday during which people make offerings at temples around the country.
April and May: Thailand’s New Year, also known as ...
Most Thai people subscribe to Theravada Buddhism. There are many local Buddhist sites in the region of Phang Nga that you can visit to learn more about Buddhist customs. Travel ...
The fluid movements and opulent gilded costumes of Thai traditional dancing are recognisable worldwide. Learn about the six types of Thai classical dance, watch a performance, o...
Thai food is famous the world over and is known for its fragrant, spicy flavours. All participants receive cooking lessons from our local staff, so during your stay in Phang Nga...
There are about 71 languages in Thailand with five main families: Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Thai, Mon-Khmer and Sino-Tibetan. Thai is the national language of Thailand which is ...
Known for its amazing limestone rock formations, pristine beaches, and rich culture, Phang Nga is a pocket of paradise in Southern Thailand. Its beaches and islands offer many o...
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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.
Meet Adele our Community Coordinator in Phang Nga, Thailand. She is originally from the United Kingdom, but loves her life in Thailand living next to a beautiful beach, enjoying ...
Conservation Program Coordinator
Meet Eve our Conservation Program Coordinator in Phang Nga, Thailand. She was born in the United Kingdom but has since lived and worked in many countries across Europe. She is e ...
Introducing Gay, who is our Community Liaison out in Phang Nga. Gay has studied business management as part of her master’s degree. She started her journey with GVI as a T ...
Senior Program Coordinator
Meet Katie, the Senior Program Coordinator at GVI Phang Nga. She has an undergraduate degree in geography and a master’s degree in sustainability. She is in charge of runn ...
Senior Program Manager
This is Vanessa, she is originally from the UK and joined GVI back in 2017 when she was completing a teaching program in India. Since this volunteering expedition ...
‘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.
GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.
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.’
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.
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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Tourism is growing at an incredible rate in Southern Thailand, often with little consideration for the effects on the environment. We work with the community to increase awareness of the importance of preserving their natural resources. The environmental issues that Thailand faces are many and varied. These include poor quality water, air and soil, as well as biodiversity loss. In addition, poaching, kidnapping of wild animals, deforestation, and unsustainable tourism threaten Thailand’s land and marine habitats and wildlife. Fortunately, the Thai government is constantly updating and improving environmental legislation and practices. In line with this, we assist local and international non-governmental organisations and community groups by working towards contributory conservation outcomes.
Sea turtle conservation project
A large part of the environmental project work involves working alongside our partners at the Royal Thai Navy Sea Turtle Conservation Centre, which usually takes place two days a week. This is a head-start centre. Turtle hatchlings are reared until they are between six and nine months old before being released back into the wild. Green turtles are the most common, with hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherbacks also found in this region. Turtle populations the world over are threatened, and it is estimated that only about 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive to reach adulthood naturally. These statistics are exacerbated by beach erosion, resulting from tourism development. Head-start programs aim to increase the survival rate by protecting the hatchlings until they reach a size where they will face a reduced risk of predation. The work you will carry out includes scrubbing the tanks to ensure that the turtles have a clean environment to live in, washing the turtles with an antibacterial solution to reduce levels of infection, and applying antifungal and antibacterial treatments to any wounds the turtles may have. We also conduct research at the centre –collecting data on turtle morphology (weight and measurements) and infection rates, as well as some behavioural research to monitor the effects of enclosure enrichment. We hope to use this data to gain further understanding of the best methods of turtle husbandry. This project runs all year round and if you are lucky enough to be on the project during a release date, you will assist in releasing hundreds of young turtles into the ocean.
Island conservation project
We conduct year-round biodiversity research on nearby islands such as Kho Kho Kao. We conduct surveys and run camera trapping research on the islands to build a picture of the biodiversity there. Travelling to these islands is an amazing experience. You will learn to set up and position the camera traps, interpret photographs, and enter them into the database. The islands are remote so there is no Wi-Fi, dry toilets are used, and we sleep in hammocks. The aim of this research is to provide motivation for the islands to gain formal government protection. We have already confirmed the presence of some critically endangered species on the islands, which proves they are of great conservation value. Through our continued and expanding research, we hope that we can further educate local authorities about the ecology of the islands and their importance of conserving these ecosystems.
*Please note that we only travel to the islands once a month, so participants who only visit for two weeks might not get the opportunity to conduct island surveys.
Bird conservation project
Another element to our conservation work involves carrying out bird surveys twice a week – which usually start at around 06:00. The surveys are conducted in and around the local area throughout the year. Commonly identified species include the Pacific swallow, Asian palm swift and the red-wattled lapwing. Birds are an important part of healthy ecosystems and as such, building species lists and monitoring populations and patterns of migration is a valuable way to build a picture of how well nature is doing in an area. Participants are provided with training on how to identify birds in the field. Currently our data is submitted to a citizen science project called eBird. We are also in the process of developing this project to create our own research plan.
Plastic pollution cleanups
Plastic pollution and litter is a huge issue in Thailand, particularly on the coast. Throughout the year we carry out beach, mangrove, lake, and village cleanups in our local area in Phang Nga. Litter is one of the greatest environmental challenges conservationists are facing today. Through regular cleanups we hope to make a difference by not only removing litter, but also by engaging with and participating alongside the local community members –raising awareness of the effects of waste on the environment and the need for effective waste management. In addition to working with members of the local community, we have joined forces with a partner called Trash Hero to maximise the impact of our cleanups. Trash Hero is a volunteer-led movement that drives change within communities around the world, motivating and supporting them to clean and prevent plastic waste. We often use the waste that we collect to create ecobricks.
During the dry season (November to April) we carry out a weekly snorkelling survey on nearby coral reefs, such as the reef off the coast of Kho Kho Kao. We monitor the health of the coral, and also look at the variety and abundance of fish species present. Coral reefs are incredibly important ecosystems which are vital to the health of our oceans, which in turn means that they are vital to humans too. Globally, coral reefs are being affected by overfishing, climate change and irresponsible tourism. We aim to monitor the reefs close to where we are based – looking at how well they are doing and establishing if there are any actions that could be taken to improve or protect them further. Through these surveys, we are also able to assess the recovery of the marine ecosystem in the area following the 2004 tsunami. We work in partnership with Green Fins Thailand. The data we provide to them is entered into the citizen science databases, iNaturalist and eOceans, which contribute to research and monitoring of the world’s coral reefs.
*Please note that you will not be doing any scuba-diving while conducting these surveys, only snorkelling.
Mangrove conservation project
We work with the Department for Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR). We assist with planting and cleanups, and identify and monitor the different species. Mangroves are essential to coastal conservation, and they absorb more CO2 than the Amazon rainforest. We work across six different mangrove sites – planting and then monitoring them to see which species currently grow in which site and which other species start to appear. Research has shown that managing suitability by having the right species in the right areas is crucial for their long-term viability. In addition, we take boats or kayaks out into the mangrove forests to collect trash and clean up the environment – which usually includes sightings of many interesting species of crab.
Beach profiling project
We measure the beach at different points along the coast and create graphs and data sets that can be shared with the DMCR. Using this data they can see what is happening to the beachline over time due to climate change and development. This is critical to understand the shifting animal and plant life along the coast as the beach recedes. We have found that some beaches have lost the forests that used to run alongside them, while others have shown signs of new wildlife springing up.
Butterfly conservation project
There are a number of different locations (including the mangroves) where we catch and identify the butterfly species that are present. Some of the species we have identified include the grass blue, cerulean and gram blue butterfly. This data is entered into iNaturalist, which is another citizen science app. The newly planted mangroves are famous for attracting many types of beautiful butterflies. Butterflies are an indicator species that can tell us the overall condition of the area and habitat.
GVI Phang Nga Long-term Objectives:
1. Contribute to global species databases that assists with research and monitoring.
2. Increase our in-country capacity building by providing conservation and education training to upskill staff.
3. Assist and develop local conservation efforts by providing practical support to project partners through research, awareness campaigns and habitat restoration.
The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research. Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies. We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.
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.