Southeast Asia Explorer
A once in a lifetime trip to three of Southeast Asia’s most sought-after destinations: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Encompassing both wildlife & community-based volunteering projects alongside traditional backpacking, the Southeast Asia Explorer is perfect for first-time travellers and solo adventurers looking to set out on one of the world’s most iconic adventure travel routes!
- Immerse yourself in the cultural hubs of Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Volunteer at an elephant rescue sanctuary, one of our most rewarding experiences
- Soak up the sun on the idyllic Thai islands of Koh Tao & Koh Samui
- Watch stunning sunsets over the amazing temples of Angkor Wat
- Assist on a vital house-building project in Cambodia
- Take a boat ride on the famous Mekong Delta
- Marvel at the spectacular Halong Bay!
Week 1: Chiang Mai & Pai
Your journey starts in Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai. Hidden backstreets, mind-blowing temples and waterfall hikes make this the perfect location to begin your adventure! After exploring the stunning Doi Suthep Temple, you'll head over to Pai, a laidback town in a picturesque valley close to the border of Myanmar. You'll discover centuries old stalagmites and stalactites in Tham Lod Cave, one of Thailand’s most impressive and accessible caves, as well as enjoy the beautiful local scenery as you float down the Pai river in an inflated rubber ring!
The second week of your adventure will be spent volunteering at an amazing elephant rescue sanctuary! You'll assist local staff in caring for rescued elephants in an ethical and responsible way. With the help of the project owners and local staff, you will get the chance to observe and experience elephants in their natural, safe environment, free from exploitation and abuse. This truly is one of our proudest and most rewarding volunteer experiences - you don't want to miss it!
Week 3: Chang Khoeng & Bangkok
After a magical week volunteering with elephants, and before heading down to the stunning Thai Islands, you’ll make the journey from Chang Khoeng to Bangkok. Whilst in the bustling capital, a rite of passage for all gap year backpackers, you'll get the chance to really immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of this amazing city, spending a few days exploring the markets and canal systems. Don't tell anyone, but the Golden Mount Temple is a must!
Week 4: Koh Tao & Koh Samui
No visit to Thailand is complete without experiencing the idyllic beaches of the famous Thai islands. Koh Tao is one of the most popular islands for backpackers and it is no surprise - soak up the atmosphere in the beach towns, explore the rural inland island or just kick back and soak up the sun, sea and sand on one of the many paradise beaches!
*For those booked onto the 4-week trip, your program ends here and you'll be transferred back to Bangkok Airport for your flights home. For those of you on the 8-week trip, the adventure’s only just beginning!
Week 5: Angkor Wat & Community Volunteering in Siem Reap
After a bus journey through some of the most rural parts of Thailand, Angkor Wat and Siem Reap will introduce you to Cambodia in true style. Whilst Angkor Wat will wow you with its vast complex of intricate stone buildings, Siem Reap is the epicentre of Cambodia's backpacker scene! Get ready for perhaps one of our most rewarding community volunteering projects, working with a local organisation dedicated to providing housing and shelter to some of the most vulnerable people in Cambodia.
Week 6: Siem Reap - Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh
fter your fantastic work on the community volunteering project, it’s time for a travel week as you make the scenic journey from Siem Reap in northern Cambodia to the nations capital Phnom Penh in the south. Here you’ll visit the Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields, one of Cambodia's most important historical sites.
Week 7: Southern Vietnam
Next you head into Southern Vietnam starting in the incredible city of Ho Chi Minh City, then north to the stunning beaches of Nha Trang. No trip to Vietnam is complete without a visit to Hoi An (seriously!) This is one of the region's most beautiful places and you will fall in love with cycling around this quaint town, surrounded by countryside and rice paddies.
Week 8: Northern Vietnam
Continuing north, you will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Phong Nha-Ke Bang with its remarkable karst mountains, cave systems, and spectacular underground rivers. The final stop on your journey, naturally, is the ancient city of Hanoi. You will have plenty of time to explore and shop and visit the legendary Halong Bay.
*Please download the program brochure for full details!
For available start dates check out the 'Dates & Availability' section below - you may need to scroll right to view the prices and book on! You can secure your place on your chosen adventure with a deposit of either £300 or 10% of the trip price, whichever is higher. The remainder is paid leading up to the trip departing.
- Pre-departure support
- Airport pick-up
- Gapforce Leader
- Local support staff
- All accommodation & meals
- Program transfers
- Trips & activities as listed in brochure
- Return airport transfer
- 24/7 emergency back up
- Financial failure protection
What is not included:
- Flights to/from destination
- Travel insurance
- Visa & Vaccinations
- Spending money
- Tips and gratuities for local guides
Who is this program for?
This program is for anyone looking to volunteer and backpack through Southeast Asia’s most sought-after destinations. There is no prior experience required although the minimum age is 18 and you must also have your doctor sign our medical form confirming you are medically fit to participate. A reasonable level of fitness is required to participate, and if you plan to take part in any open-water based activities eg snorkelling and swimming from boats, you must be able to swim 200m.
Where will I be staying?
You will stay in a variety of diverse accommodations throughout your trip including local hotels, hostels and volunteer guesthouses. Most accommodations will be dorm style with shared bathrooms. At the elephant sanctuary, you will be staying in a traditional thai-style hut.
What is the food like?
Three meals a day are included, and these will be a mixture of local and western cuisine. Meals whilst at the volunteering projects are cooked for you, then whilst we are travelling we will either buy food to cook at our accommodation or visit local restaurants and cafes. Vegan and vegetarian diets can be catered for, please check with us regarding further dietary requirements and/or allergies.
Who will be supervising me?
Throughout your expedition you will be accompanied by a Gapforce Expedition Leader. At various stages of your expedition we utilise the services of local support staff including project coordinators, drivers and guides.
What type of transport will I be using?
You are responsible to getting yourself to and from the start point of the expedition. During the expedition, program transfers are included. Travel is a combination of day and overnight journeys using a range of transport including public and private buses, trains, boats taxis and pickup trucks. As is common on local road transport, seatbelts may not always be available. Please give us a call for more information on individual journey details.
Taking part in this trip was the best decision I made for my gap year and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to travel around Asia and explore new cultures , experience beautiful landscapes, meet new people from all over the world who become like family by the end and really find yourself while doing it all. The best part about the programme is while doing all this , with activities planned nearly every day for you you have an experienced trip leader who ensures you get the most unique authentic experiences and your safe while doing it all. Our leader Terence was the best leader we could have had he prioritized our experience , feelings and safety throughout and became a good friend as well . Also for young people who wish to travel alone and meet new people but find going completely solo scary this is a great form of travelling to meet a bunch of new people, many who haven’t met before and travel around together - you form strong friendships with these people and go through a lot together which is a huge part of the trip, even if it makes the good byes pretty tough! Definitely recommend!Cerys, 19
Best Trip Evaaaaa
If you're looking for a trip to introduce you to the world of backpacking then this is the trip for you. I seriously just had the best 2 months of my life travelling around Southeast Asia with 12 other strangers whom I now consider my family. Before starting this trip the thought of travelling alone seemed daunting but now I am so much more confident in my abilities in travelling and it is all thanks to our star leader, Terence. Throughout all of our excursions, T was exceptional at making sure we were all safe. I never once felt at risk while in his care. He was also very patient with answering our questions to the best of his ability while also encouraging us to be more independent and find out answers for ourselves. T was much more than just a leader however, he was our friend. When other members were going through hardships, he'd reach out to them to help them feel better. He'd show us the best places to eat, cute thrift stores, book shops, etc. Having T as our group leader was a big bonus as the trip really wouldn't have been the same without him.Be prepared for the busiest 2 months of your life. From bathing with elephants, to rock climbing in caves, and partying in the streets of Bangkok, there was never a dull moment. I have learnt so much about other cultures and lifestyles that I will continue to apply back in my life at home. Its cliche but I really did find myself in SEA. I'm much more confident and assertive day-to-day and I have a better understanding of what I want to do with my life. I would highly recommend this program to anyone of my friends and anyone who wants to change their life for the better.Emily Ann
Best 2 months of my life :)
I’m not exaggerating at all when I say choosing the SE Asia Expedition is probably the best decision I’ve ever made! The people I’ve met and the things I have experienced have changed me as a person for the better- I am more confident, happy and up for trying new things. Between jumping into rivers full of elephants, eating club sandwiches on boat roofs in exotic Thai islands and building a house for a poor Khmer family, this trip is both incredibly fun and also extremely eye opening. Our leader Terence couldn’t have done a better job at making me feel safe, providing emotional support when I needed it and making sure everyone was enjoying their trip to the best of their abilities- thank you T you the man!!The people I was with on this trip became family to me- choosing this trip means choosing to make friends for life.Thank you Gapforce for providing this awesome adventure for young travellers, it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.Tori, 18
Southeast Asia Explorer
I wasn't quite sure what to expect this trip to be like, but I am so glad I decided to go with a group like this. It was a very authentic, backpacking experience, which was fun but also character building. Staying in loud busy hostels, being constantly in the heat, and frequently taking night buses creates a sense of adventure, but it also isn't for the faint of heart. It's easily exhausting, but the locations we visited were worth it all. We saw a lot of Thailand in a relatively short time, and every place was unique and amazing in it's own way. Cambodia was also a very eye opening and life changing experience. There was a good balance between it feeling like a vacation while on the Thai islands, and productive while building a house in Cambodia for a family in need. While being abroad, I was able to create relationships with people from around the world, and the smaller group size allowed for great friendships to be created. I also enjoyed the sense of freedom this program creates. Our leader was there for us as needed and organized where we were going and staying, but we always had free time to find our own adventures. I definitely recommend this program for anyone that's looking for a true and authentic trip, able to be responsible for themselves but also able to be a positive and enthusiastic group member.Emily, 19
This was one of the most emotional experiences in my life. Traveling for the first time alone and learning so much about myself and also about other cultures.It was a good decision to travel with an organisation, because you do not have to book hostels or think about where you go or what to do. These tasks are taken from you, your guide knows the country well and you just can enjoy the trip. The safety of the trip was good overall, also because most of the time we were in groups.Thailand is such a beautiful Country.The volunteer project at elephants world in Kanchanaburi was amazing.I probably will never forget seeing my first elephant and the amazing Erewan waterfalls..We did so many funny activities, like white water rafting, tubing... and also saw and learned a lot of Thai culture (I (personally) would have liked to see a few more temples). [...] I would say this program is perfect for everyone, who don't wanna travel alone.I really would recommend doing it, because this is something you will never forget in your entire life.Ari, 19
This was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I got to meet some amazing people from around the world and travel to 3 different countries all whilst learning new things and having fun. The leaders were really nice and funny. They were always available if you needed help or even just if you needed someone to talk to. The volunteering was so rewarding and humbling. It was also really hard work but in the end, it was totally worth it. The places we visited were also very varied and so were the activities. We went to several big cities, had some outdoor activities such as hiking, we went to some museums and also several beaches.I really recommend this trip to anyone who wants to travel and discover a new culture all whilst having fun.Emilie, 18, gap year student from Europe
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- Duration: 4 to 8 weeks
- Departures: January, April, October