Courtney joined the Gapforce Thailand Adventure gap year program in the summer of 2016. As a fulltime Geography graduate student and regular traveller documenting her adventure on her blog, we were delighted that she took a moment to share some details on her experience in Thailand, here on the Gapforce Travel Blog!
Why did you choose to take part in the Thailand Adventure program with Gapforce?
I was looking for a great summer volunteering program that had a mix of volunteering opportunities and culture experiences. After looking at other programs that Gapforce offered such as their wildlife protection in South Africa, I chose the Thailand Adventure program as it had a great mix of volunteering and experiencing the wondrous Siam culture.
Once I had booked, the plan for my month-long program the following week-by-week itinerary:
- Week 1: Siam culture introduction week
- Week 2: Teaching English to a local school
- Week 3: Working at an elephant sanctuary and beach conservation.
What was your favourite part of your program?
As much as I loved and enjoyed every week of volunteering, the elephant sanctuary was by far my favourite and the most rewarding, unique opportunity.
Can you tell us a bit more about your experience at the elephant sanctuary?
The elephant sanctuary I volunteered at is located in the western Thailand province of Kanchanaburi. Elephants World helps old, sick, and disabled elephants to enjoy the remainder of their lives in a safe environment. Each elephant is paired with a caretaker, or Mahout in Thai, for a special human-animal bond and one-on-one 24/7 care. The aspect I especially enjoyed about Elephants World is that the volunteers were there to work for the elephants, not the elephants working for you.
Every day was a busy day volunteering at the elephant sanctuary! The mornings always began with preparing and feeding the elephant’s breakfast. Their diets consisted mostly of fruits and plants, with watermelon always being their favourite. Feeding elephants was always an lively and interesting experience as they are basically giant kids. Watch out for their hands (a.k.a. trunks!) for they will try to consume only their favourite foods.
After the morning feeding, volunteers help bathe the elephants in a local river. Elephants throw dirt on themselves throughout the day for a variety of reasons (for example to help keep themselves cool and to keep bugs off), so volunteers help scrub off old excess grime via brushes.
Bathing the elephants in the river was a great one-on-one experience with the the magnificent animals. You should expect to be blasted with some water from their trunks but that only makes the experience that much more fun! After feeding the elephants lunch, the afternoons were often used to pick and prepare future meals. The sanctuary grows all of their food on-site which allows the volunteers to help pick fruits and plants (e.g. watermelon and sugarcane) for the elephants.
At the end of a hard day work, we (the volunteers) would often conclude the day by floating down the calm and soothing river. This was a great way to cool down from the hot summer heat and enjoy the friendships we had made while volunteering!
What are your final thoughts?
All-in-all, volunteering in Thailand was one of the greatest opportunities and adventures I have had experienced to-date. It was thoroughly rewarding being able to give back to the local community while traveling abroad. In addition to the volunteering adventures, I also experienced Thailand’s culture, learnt the Thai language, explore the picturesque landscape, taste all of the tasty (and spicy!) cuisine, visited breathtaking temples, and indulged in traditional Siam customs.
This story was originally shared on: Courtney Adventures