Spotlight Project: Elephant Rehabilitation
Over the past century, Thailand’s elephant population has dropped significantly – from as many as 100,000 to a mere 5,000 today. This drop in numbers is largely a result of illegal logging, encroaching urbanization and poaching. Of the elephants still left in the wild, many are killed for their tusks, taken into captivity for labor, or left to fend against an urbanized and destroyed habitat. Our work in Thailand takes place at a sanctuary where we care for and rehabilitate old, disabled, abused and orphaned elephants. Working alongside their caretakers, we lend a hand in sustaining one of the world’s most cherished animals.
In Thailand work alongside the mahout, the traditional elephant caretaker, as you embark on a journey to protect and care for elephants in their native land. Create a bond with your elephant as you feed, bathe and ride deep into the jungle. Volunteer in a hill-tribe village and learn how to cook tasty Thai delights. Spend the night among monks at a delightful Buddhist monastery and give back to a country so rich in culture. Explore the temple wonderland of Chiang Mai, SCUBA dive spectacular multi-colored coral reefs, and whitewater raft the Pai gorges. Teach English and make friendships with children in a local primary school. Ensure a safe future for the elephants and learn the value of contributing to exotic Thailand, rightly named The Land of Smiles.
“I've never had a summer like this. Riding elephants, going to night bazaars and SCUBA diving is not an ordinary summer. ARCC has made another simple summer, extraordinary! ”
— Taylor P., Tampa, FL
Bangkok Exploration & Buddhist Monastery Stay
We begin our summer program in San Francisco and board a plane to Bangkok, where we receive a Thai language and cultural orientation from our Thai hosts. During our time in Bangkok, we stroll through lively markets, visit the revered Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha, and cruise the canals on a traditional Thai long boat. We spend a night at the Suwantawanaram Buddhist forest monastery where we learn from monks about Buddhist customs. An overnight train ride takes us to the ancient walled city of Chiang Mai.
Hill Tribe Village Service & Cooking Class
Glimpsing Thailand’s true cultural origins, we travel north to hill tribe country where tribes have managed to retain their own language, customs, mode of dress, and spiritual beliefs for centuries. In the village, we help with much-needed infrastructure such as building bridges or community houses, or renovating and improving the local school. We spend three days living in a village guest house, helping the community while learning about Thai culture first hand. In Chiang Mai we take a full-day Thai cooking class during which we prepare tasty Thai dishes like spring rolls, Pad Thai, and papaya salad.
Whitewater Rafting, Elephants & Hot Springs
Next, we spend two days in a wilderness of dramatic waterfalls, deep green forests and the soft sound of cicadas as we raft the Pai River’s whitewater. Under the care of professional guides, we set up camp on the riverbank and navigate the narrow Pai Gorges, where we plunge through Class II-III rapids. Afterwards we head to the Royal Elephant Conservation Center where we are paired with an elephant and begin a two-day amateur Mahout training experience.
Teaching English to Thai School Children & Orphanage Service
We travel by plane to central Thailand, to a small school where students eagerly await the arrival of their new “teachers.” For three days we facilitate an "English Camp," combining games, activities, and friendly competitions, each focusing on improving the students’ English language skills. We are invited into an orphanage where we work and play with the children for two full days. Learning how even a brief interaction can change a child’s life, we leave the orphanage with new friends and memories.
SCUBA Diving on Koh Tao
Reefs teeming with exotic fish, sea turtles and soft corals lure us to Koh Tao, our island home for the next five days. In these crystal clear waters, we become PADI Certified Open Water Divers, or upgrade to PADI Advanced Open Water Divers. (All students wishing to SCUBA dive must pass a thorough diving physical and cannot have used an inhaler or suffered from asthma in the past three years. For those not wishing to dive, alternative water activities are available.) We then travel by train back to Bangkok for a final celebration and bid a warm goodbye to The Land of Smiles.