Discover a fascinating new land, immerse yourself in diverse cultures, and develop a connection with some of the friendliest pachyderms on the planet. Elephants and Amazing Thailand is our most popular program combination in the world - and it is the perfect way to experience the Kingdom of Thailand for the first time. Earn your junior mahout (elephant trainer) certification, spend a night in the jungle with your elephant, experience a real Hill Tribe home-stay, shop at some of the region's coolest markets, take a long-tail boat ride to a long-neck Karen village, and explore the world-famous highlights of Bangkok. Since most students do these programs as a combination, expect the vast majority of the group to be there with you for both weeks, allowing for some lasting friendships to develop.
The first week of the program will be spent at the magnificent Royal Elephant Reserve, which is one of the finest elephant study and management facilities in the world. Your enthusiastic participation here will help to ensure a strong future for Asian elephants.
You will attend classes and gain hands-on experience with elephants and their mahouts at a renowned training facility that is set in the picturesque hills of a large reserve. Learn basic Thai commands for communicating with your elephant, as you ride through the conservation; bathe your elephant in nearby lakes and help care for injured elephants in the elephant hospital. You will live and experience the day-to-day lifestyle of a Thai mahout: weave a harness, dress in a traditional mahout outfit, sing the "elephant song" and carve dishes out of bamboo. Your contributions to these projects and heightened awareness about the challenges Asian elephants face will help ensure the well being of both the elephants and this great facility. At the conclusion of your program you will receive a formal certificate of participation from the Mahout School, as well as up to 36 community service hours.
After your awesome week in the jungle with the elephants, we'll pack up the vans and get ready for the Amazing Thailand Adventure. Starting in Chiang Mai, we'll head out of town to swim at cascading waterfalls, check out the sweeping views from atop Doi Suthep, and have the chance to get up-close and personal with real tigers at Tiger Kingdom. Practice your bargaining skills at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, learn the basic tenants of Buddhism at a 700 year-old temple, and sample the tasty local cuisine. This is Amazing Thailand!!
Hopping in our VIP vans, the journey continues north as we wind through lush mountains and terraced rice fields. As we arrive at the Pai valley, explore the bustling afternoon market and peruse the funky shops here for unique handicraft souvenirs. Next, we'll head further up the mountain just outside of town to our Base House, where you will spend a night in a real Lisu village. Accommodations here will be simple but fine, and the view from your front porch is breathtaking. In the morning, the adventure continues as you ride a bamboo raft ride through some of the longest caves in Asia and experience the tiny capital of Thailand's most diverse province - Mae Hong Son. Ride a long-tail boat to a remote outpost that is home to the long-neck Karen people. Breathe in the wonderful fresh air while you can, because tomorrow you will be in the heart of modern Thailand - Bangkok.
The trip will wrap up in Bangkok, where you will tour the city's rivers and canals by long-tail boat, explore the King's Palace, eat at a floating restaurant, and relax during a one-hour traditional Thai foot massage. You will also tour Wat Po, feed fish for good luck, see the Royal Barges, and visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha! By the end of this two-week adventure, expect to have a new place in your heart for the diverse wonders of Thailand, and a new crew of friends for life.
Want to continue your summer adventure? This program connects to our other great programs in Southeast Asia, China and India.
Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will have received your pre-departure packet, which will include your Rustic T-shirts, airline tickets, and important contact information.
Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Flight Liaison will help you get checked in to your international flight. Working with our Flight Liaison will be your Flight Leader, who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Our Flight Leaders are most often school teachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Thailand!
Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.
Sawat dee, and welcome to Thailand! Upon your arrival into one of the world’s most modern airports, you will immediately get the feeling that you have arrived in a place that is far different from the United States. Thailand is known as one of the most welcoming countries in the world and is affectionately nicknamed the ‘Land of Smiles.’
As you exit the arrival hall with your friendly Flight Leader, you will meet our team of staff. They have been anxiously awaiting your arrival and will lead you up to the fourth floor of the airport, where you’ll have a relatively quiet place to unwind and meet new friends who have arrived on different flights or are connecting from different programs.
We’ll have ample space for you to relax, as well as a nice assortment of food and refreshments for you to enjoy. This may be your first chance to have truly authentic pad-Thai (you’ll like it, trust us), or one of the other traditional dishes (including vegetarian options) we have to offer. You can also expect to try a few delicious Thai fruits that you’ve probably never seen before but that you may quickly grow to love.
In the mid-afternoon, you’ll hop on a quick one-hour flight up to Chiang Mai, where you’ll stay tonight. Relax, get a foot massage, and enjoy a nice dinner before retiring for the night at our Chiang Mai Base House.
After a great night's rest and a simple breakfast, you will depart for the elephant camp by 8:30 a.m. From Chiang Mai, it’s just over an hour's drive through the mountains outside Lampang to your new home for the next week.
Once you arrive at the camp, you will meet the entire staff – including the elephants – and then the senior camp officials will offer an opening prayer ceremony, which is performed for good luck and to show the commitment of the group to the task at hand. With the ceremony finished, the program will be officially underway, and you will waste no time in getting down to business.
Your first order of business will be to look the part – so everyone will receive a custom mahout (or elephant trainer) suit. Once you are comfortable in your fashionable new attire, you will be assigned to an elephant. Depending on the size of the group, there will be between one to three students assigned to each elephant. The first things you will need to learn will be the basic mahout commands and how to interpret and communicate with these amazing animals. Before you know it, you'll be riding your elephant into the jungle, learning its personality, and communicating with it – it’s all part of your new job as a mahout.
In the evening, you will settle in to jungle life, with plenty of time to relax and share stories with your new friends around the campfire.
The morning is truly a special time in the rainforest of Northern Thailand. The birds bring the forest to life and the sun cuts bright rays through the fresh morning air. Rising early, you'll walk down to greet and bathe your elephant at 7 a.m. Once your elephant is fed and cared for, you will head back to the camp for breakfast.
After you are well fed, you will hop on your elephant and ride down to the elephant show. The show is a fundraising event for the camp and a great way to show the public these amazing creatures’ intelligence and potential. As a member of the mahout training camp, you will get a unique insider’s perspective on the show.
After a stop at the nursery to meet the baby elephants, you will head to the elephant-dung paper factory, where you'll see how this useful product is made – just be sure to watch your step! Then ride your elephant back to the camp base. At this point you will set your elephant free to roam in the jungle for the rest of the day. In the evening, after a delicious dinner, you will take part in a scavenger hunt that will get you acquainted with the new students and staff on the trip.
Rising early, you will once again take your elephant down to the river for its morning shower. Then, after breakfast, you will begin the day’s lesson – the life and practices of a mahout. Many people don't realize that being a mahout is a life-long career. Although they don't make much money and it is not a glamorous profession, mahouts are essential for the survival of elephants in the world today, and they are very respected in Thai culture.
You'll learn about the special relationship that develops between the mahout and the elephant, the tools and skills involved, and how they communicate with one another. Then practice the training commands with your elephant, learn how to weave rope for a saddle, and find out how to strap cargo on comfortably. You will have gone a long way in developing your own relationship with your elephant by the time you release it back into the jungle in the afternoon.
Then head back to your room for a quick shower and get ready for a night on the town in Lampang. After having a chance to check your e-mail at an Internet cafe, you will visit a market where you can pick up a few souvenirs. Then enjoy dinner in a restaurant popular for its live music and dancing!
After the morning elephant bath and breakfast, you will use the skills you learned yesterday to load up your elephant with everything you will need for a night in the jungle. Then climb aboard and head toward the jungle camp, which is about an hour’s ride away.
Once you reach the camp, you will give your elephants a chance to rest while you head into the forest with the mahouts in search of bamboo. You will craft what you find into several different kinds of products, including cups and straws, with the help of the mahouts. Then enjoy lunch cooked over an open fire before heading to a nearby waterfall, where you can cool off and relax after a long day in the heat.
As evening falls, you will throw on warmer clothes, eat a jungle feast, and play some crazy games before gathering around the campfire and singing and dancing the night away. For many students, this night is the highlight of the whole trip!
The sun will wake you up early this morning, and you will help your mahout bring your elephant in from the jungle where it spent the night. Then, after taking the elephants on a short walk to an area where they can munch on fresh greens for breakfast, you will pack your bags once again. You will spend the morning hiking to a nearby waterfall, where you can relax and enjoy your time in this pristine forest. Once everyone has cooled off, you will head back to the camp for lunch. Then climb back aboard your elephant for the journey back to the main camp. After a well-deserved shower and hearty dinner, everyone will settle in for a relaxing movie night.
After the morning elephant bath and breakfast, you will head to the elephant hospital for a tour. Learn about the elephants’ lifespan and how injured elephants are treated and cared for here. You will also learn about the many elephants the camp has rescued from abusive situations and how they are rehabilitated. This will be your last chance to ask any lingering questions you have about these gentle giants before you head home, so don’t be afraid to speak up!
It will now be time to say good-bye to your elephant, your gracious hosts, and the camp. At the closing ceremony, you'll receive a certificate of completion for the program. At 4 p.m. you will depart for Chiang Mai, where you will grab dinner and do some final souvenir shopping at the world-famous Night Bazaar. Then you will head to one of our Chiang Mai Base Houses for the night.
Today, you’ll have the chance to explore a couple of Chiang Mai’s many sites of interest while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive in the late afternoon. Options may include catching one of the latest movies in a state-of-the-art movie theater, visiting some awesome waterfalls nearby, exploring seldom-seen ancient temples, or going for a hike to a serene meditation site on Doi Suthep. Whichever activity the group chooses, our staff will gladly show you a great time!
By late afternoon, you’ll check in to your hotel (located at the base of Doi Suthep, the stunning mountain overlooking the city) and meet your new friends who will be joining you on the second week of the trip. Then, you’ll head out for your first look around town at a local market. Our staff will introduce you to some local treats and teach you how to bargain for good prices, before sitting down for your first authentic Thai meal. After dinner, you’ll likely be ready for a good night’s sleep, so we’ll be sure to bring you back to the hotel to catch up on some rest. See you in the morning!
After breakfast, you will head up the big mountain on the edge of town to the most famous temple in the region – Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Listen closely to the amazing story of how an elephant marked the spot for the temple to be built – then head up a winding set of stairs to check it out for yourself. After being blessed by a monk, ringing bells, and burning incense for good luck, you’ll take in the incredible view over the Chiang Mai Valley.
Once you’ve come down from the mountain, you will spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring your neighborhood. In the evening you will head to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar for some of the best shopping in Thailand.
You will rise early today and set out into the stunning mountains of Northern Thailand. This is the most diverse region of the country, and the area you’ll pass through is home to over a dozen Hill Tribe minorities, each with their own distinct language, history, and culture. The driver will pull the van over often for refreshments and stunning views, and at each stop you’ll be reminded of the beauty of this incredible region of the world. Through lush rainforests and mountaintop markets, the drive will bring you to some of the most scenic and isolated parts of the country before finally reaching the Pai Valley. Here, you’ll stroll through an afternoon market where Hill Tribe minorities sell their goods and the whole community stops by to purchase the ingredients they will need for dinner. We’ll buy everything we need for supper as well, before heading up into the hills for our exciting home-stay night in a Lisu village home to some of our long-serving staff members. You’ll be sleeping the night in a bamboo long house complete with mosquito nets and everything you’ll need to stay comfortably in this beautiful place. Warm up around the campfire at night, share stories with your new friends, and take a good look around – you’re in the mountains of Thailand!
Today you’ll wake up to fresh mountain air and step outside to one of the nicest views in Northern Thailand. Take the morning to enjoy a simple breakfast and a walk around the village, where you can snap some great photographs and buy locally made souvenirs. After breakfast and a cup of local tea, we’ll hit the road again through the winding, mountain roads to Sop-pong where we’ll explore some of the longest caves in all of Asia. Hop onto a bamboo raft and get ready to literally ride your raft into the mountain, where you will begin your voyage deep into the caverns of Cave Lod.
Next stop on the journey will be Mae Hong Son, the capital of Thailand’s most diverse province. Stroll the city as the afternoon wanes exploring the many mountaintop temples and get a feel for this chilled out town before settling in for a hearty Thai feast. Tomorrow is a busy day, so we’ll be sure to get plenty of rest to prepare for the morning.
Rising early, today we’ll voyage into the hills to see one of the most rare and unique Hill Tribe peoples in all of Asia – the long-neck Karen. The journey will begin as we take a long-tail boat ride up the river toward the Burmese border, deep into the jungle. Once we arrive, we’ll spend some time chatting with our friends in this village who will offer you a special glimpse into what life is like here for these people. Rustic has been visiting this village for nearly a decade, and they are always excited to share stories with our students. After an enlightening visit and plenty of photos, we’ll hit the trail atop an elephant for a jungle trek back to civilization. In the late afternoon, we’ll catch a flight back to Chiang Mai and connect directly down to Bangkok, the last stop on the trip. The flight Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai is only 25 minutes over the mountains, so it will be two quick hops and you’ll be down in Bangkok and on the way to the hotel there before you know it. When you arrive, you’ll have a quick dinner and get some rest for a big day exploring Bangkok tomorrow.
After a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel and a quick swim in the beautiful hotel pool, you’ll head into Bangkok and work your way towards the Chao Phraya River, or the ‘River of Kings.’ Here you’ll hop on a long-tail boat and go for a cruise upstream. Viewing Bangkok from the river – away from the busy streets and with a cool breeze on your face – is truly the best way to see it. After taking you past some of the city’s most famous sights, the boat will pull up at a floating restaurant, where you’ll grab some lunch.
After lunch, you’ll continue up river to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Gaew, the King’s most official residence and the home of the famed Emerald Buddha. You will have some time to wander the beautiful grounds here before heading upstream again – this time to Wat Pho, another of Bangkok’s most famous temples and home of the ‘Reclining Buddha,’ the largest such Buddha in the world. With your new souvenirs, photos, and budding friendships in tow, you’ll return to the hotel feeling like you’ve become a part of this bustling city. Catch an evening swim talking about all that you’ve seen on this memorable trip, and enjoy your final evening with your new friends.
Today, you’ll check out early and head up to see the ruins of the ancient royal city of Ayutthaya. Here you will walk where ancient kings once did and explore some of the oldest and most magnificent ruins Thailand has to offer. A deep sense of history presides over these ruins, and their quiet beauty and sheer scale are sure to impress you. You will revel in the stark contrast that these serene surroundings offer to the modern bustle that enveloped you in Bangkok just yesterday. From here, you will connect directly to the Bangkok airport and transfer to your next adventure or meet up with the group flight home. Whatever is next for you, we hope that you always cherish the warm memories of Thailand you have made this week. Safe travels and chock dee!
Students on our Escorted Group flights will arrive home on Friday. Have a great rest of the summer, and we’ll see you next year!
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
*A Quick Note: Many students over-pack and sometimes have to pay for overweight bags on domestic flights. The weight limit is 15 kilograms (33 pounds). You’ll have frequent access to laundry on this program, so you won’t need that many clothes. We won’t tell on you if you wear the same t-shirt twice!
A small backpack works best.
A duffel bag, suitcase, or large backpack. Wheeled suitcases are fun, but may not roll so well in rice paddies. All items listed with “Plastic Bag” should be packed inside a plastic bag in case bottles explode.
$150-$300 The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar has an amazing variety of crafts, clothing, and unbelievable miscellaneous trinkets and shopping there is a real treat, so budget more if you’re a big time shopper and less if you’re a go light, less is more, bring home only the memories kind of traveler.
There is no difference between these programs. The Amazing Thailand program and the Elephant Conservation Camp are two programs which are popular to combine, so we've gone ahead and combined them for you at a lower cost than signing up individually for the two programs.
We’ll stay at hotels, guesthouses, Rustic Pathways Base houses, and even a bamboo hut.
We’ll be in nice clean rooms with hot water showers and western style beds. During the elephant conservation camp you'll stay at the Rustic Pathways Base houses, and and at the elephant conservation center. At the Elephant Conservation Camp, we'll be in nice clean rooms with hot water showers and western style beds.
We’ll be able to wash our clothes every few days.
There are mosquitoes. They’re usually not too bad, but you will want to have a long sleeve shirt and long pants in the evenings. Also bring a small bottle of insect repellent containing DEET.
Check with your doctor that all of your routine immunizations are up to date. Your doctor will also be able to give you the best advice about what precautions to take when traveling to the forests of northern Thailand.
You’ll want money to buy hand made crafts in the villages and at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. There will be all kinds of souvenirs and fun stuff to buy, so budget some money for that.
It’s hot, and humid in the day and a little cooler in the mountains at night. Daily downpours are short and give way to sunny skies. Be prepared for heat and dampness. Synthetic fiber clothes are great because they dry fast and don’t get as mildewy as cotton can.
Phones will be available nearly every day and Internet access will be frequent.
We never have fewer than one staff member for every five students.
Contact Us: For more information about Elephants and Amazing Thailand you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elephants and Amazing Thailand combines well with the following programs.
Ages: 14 to 18 years old
Length: 18 days from the USA
Hours: Up to 28 hours awarded
Cost: $3,295 + $380 Internal Airfare
International airfare is not included in the above cost. Please check our Travel Desk for airfare pricing and specifics.
|Departs Tue||Returns Fri||Availability|
|4 Jun||21 Jun||Limited|
|11 Jun||28 Jun||Very Limited|
|18 Jun||5 Jul||Very Limited|
|25 Jun||12 Jul||Sold Out|
|2 Jul||19 Jul||Sold Out|
|9 Jul||26 Jul||Sold Out|
|16 Jul||2 Aug||Very Limited|
|23 Jul||9 Aug||Sold Out|
|30 Jul||16 Aug||Very Limited|
Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States. Most Rustic Pathways trips interconnect, allowing you to design your own perfect summer program.Apply Now
Due to popularity of this program, many sessions are sold out. Please provide us with your email address, phone number, and desired departure date and we will contact you with more information about program availability.Submit