Contribute to conserving Thailand’s unique species and habitats while living and working with other international volunteers in one of the most naturally splendid regions in the world, Thailand’s province of Phang Nga. Assist with turtle conservation, plastic pollution prevention, bird and butterfly surveys, island biodiversity monitoring, and environmental awareness education, in an effort to work toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, UN SDGs, #14 and #15, Life Below Water and Life on Land.
Its natural beauty and unique land and marine life are two of the main reasons thousands of tourists visit Thailand each year. The region of Phang Nga, specifically, has developed a reputation for dramatic beauty among movie-makers. The area is known for its limestone cliffs that rise suddenly out of the warm, azure-blue waters. Visitors come to the area to relax on its many beaches, dive to see coral reefs and endangered Green sea turtles, and visit the nearby islands, some of which are home to critically endangered species.
However, Thailand’s natural environment, specifically its coastal regions, beaches and islands, are under threat. Plastic pollution threatens its wildlife species including Green sea turtles, whales, and other species, resorts built too close to the shoreline cause beaches to erode, unsustainable fishing practices and climate change are a threat to coral reefs, illegal logging causes deforestation, and kidnapping and poaching put key species at risk. These environmental threats negatively affect Thailand’s economic development as tourism is an important source of income for the country.
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.
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.
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
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.
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.
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.
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.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
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.
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.
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.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
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.
14 Jan, 2020
06 Mar, 2019
11 Oct, 2018
11 Oct, 2018
11 Oct, 2018
11 Oct, 2018
11 Oct, 2018
11 Oct, 2018
16 Jan, 2014
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 ...
We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.
Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.
Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.
Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.
Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.
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.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
Learn about our empowerment principles.
An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.
Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.
Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.
Learn about what a coral reef is, its importance, how it is formed, how this ecosystem works.
This presentation highlights the environmental issues caused by tourism to Thailand and helps volunteers make responsible decisions when deciding whether or not to engage in a wildlife encounter.
Learn some basic Thai words and phrases which will help you integrate further into the village community.
A Thai culture presentation to help you understand more about important cultural details, and to make you feel more comfortable with any cultural differences you may encounter.
If you have a passion for wildlife conservation then this course will provide you with the foundational skills and understanding needed to achieve your conservation-related goals. You’ll learn about the various methods of wildlife monitoring, as well as exploring the delicate balance involved in terrestrial ecosystem management. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.
This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.
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 ...