The mountainous district of Umphang is well known not only for its elephants, but also for its incredible landscapes and natural sceneries. Set amid numerous national parks, mountains and lakes, you will find yourself surrounded by natural beauty at its finest. Umphang offers a peaceful environment and a perfect setting to see the elephants enjoying their natural habitat. Bring your hiking shoes as there are lots of great short trekking options here !
This program allows you to spend time bonding and fully engaging with these incredible elephants as they roam in their natural habitat. You will feed, walk with and swim with the elephants a number of times during your stay.
You will help with the preparation of food for the elephants which comes in the form of banana grass, sugarcane and banana trees. You will be spending time alongside experienced mahouts, who have spent their entire lives gaining an understanding of the elephants and how best to care for them.
We are here to take care of these graceful creatures and as with all Totally Travel programs, there is no riding of elephants at this project.
Day 1 (Saturday) Arrive at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport (airport code BKK) and say Sawasdee to Thailand. After clearing customs and immigration, you’ll be met by our local team – the transfer coordinator will arrange your transfer to Singburi, a small town about 140kms north of Bangkok and your base for your first night in Thailand. Arrivals after 4pm will be taken to an airport hotel for the night (included) and then travel to Singburi next morning. If you can’t arrive Saturday, then a Sunday morning arrival is also OK.
Day 2 (Sunday) After a good night’s sleep (and/or a late night with the group), Sunday is a free day to explore the many delights of Singburi city. Singburi, meaning Lion City in Sanskrit, is known as the spiritual heartland of Thailand and the Land of Heroes. A good way to spend a few hours is by visiting one or more of the many “wats”, Buddhist temples some of which have giant Buddha statues. Pak Bang Market is also well worth a visit. At 8pm we board the night bus to Mae Sot, a cultural melting pot on the Myanmar border.
Day 3 (Monday) On arrival in Mae Sot we transfer to a local transport for the final 3-4 hours to Umphang. The adventure has begun already with the journey itself ! When we get there, we’ll check in to our accommodation and enjoy a hearty breakfast. The team will run through an orientation briefing, including important safety rules and later we’ll go on a jungle trek and explore the green jungles of Umphang.
Day 4-6 (Tuesday-Thursday) After breakfast we’ll meet the mahouts and you’ll have chance to feed the elephants for the first time. Besides being notable throughout Thailand for its sensational scenery, Umphang is well known for its elephant population. Traditionally, these Asian Elephants have carried out farm work and logging but thankfully the elephants are treated with a higher level of respect these days. During your time here, you will get the chance to experience and bond with these gentle giants by swimming with them, bathing them and preparing their food. It’s quite physical as you’ll be cutting and carrying banana trees, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Afternoon activities provide even more adventures exploring the local area – one day we’ll hike to the beautiful Palatha waterfall which overlooks the countryside of Umphang, another day we’ll pay a visit to a nearby Karen Tribe village, and Thursday we’ll head to the mountain to see the sunset – and possibly camp overnight if the weather is good!
Day 7 (Friday) This morning we take a short trek to reach a gorgeous waterfall where we can swim and relax
Your last day (Saturday) Your program finishes on Saturday and our team will drop you at Mae Sot bus station around 6.30pm to take the overnight bus to Bangkok, a journey of 8-9 hours (approx. $20) which gets you to Bangkok around 4am (or Singburi 2 hours earlier). A less tiring alternative is to book yourself a hotel in Mae Sot and then take a 1 hour flight from Mae Sot to Bangkok on the Sunday. Nok Air generally has 5 flights from Mae Sot to Bangkok Don Mueang airport during the day, costing around $70.
Accommodation is provided in a wooden cabin guesthouse in the middle of a small yet lively village. The rooms are simple, yet comfortable and appropriate for this setting. Volunteers share a bunk-style room and bathroom with up to three others. Rooms are lockable and there is wifi access, hot showers and western toilets. There is even a bar to enjoy in the evenings!
Meals We will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends. Meals are typically Thai and vegetarian-friendly.
The training of domestic elephants by mahouts is an ancient tradition in Thailand. Traditionally elephants were largely trained for logging to support the local community. With the ban of the logging industry many mahouts were forced to bring elephants into urban areas to beg for money.
This experience provides a responsible and sustainable alternative. It provides an experience that financially supports the whole community whilst fostering an opportunity for travellers to learn about rural Thai culture. Along with your group, you will spend lots of time up close to these magnificent animals.