1) Can I ride or bathe with the elephants at your foundation?
• We strive to provide a completely ethical experience where the elephants at our project are free roaming in their jungle habitat. This means the elephants are able to behave as nature intended without human intervention. We welcome our visitors to experience getting to know them in their natural habitat without riding, bathing or forcing them to carry out unnatural activities.
2) Are the elephants chained or do you use any tools to control them?
• We do not use any tools to control the elephants. The elephants are free roaming in the jungle and travel and socialize as they wish. They make their own choices as to where they want to go and we hike to different areas in the jungle to observe them in their natural habitat. Our mahouts, or elephant supervisors, have deep bonds with the elephants and are employed to ensure the safety of the elephants and visitors. Our mahouts also take cues from the elephants who lead us in the jungle.
3) I don’t understand why the Karen Hill Tribe people own the elephants. Why don’t you purchase the elephants at your foundation?
• We are proud to promote a unique model that is different from the majority of other sanctuaries in Thailand. We believe the captive tourist industry is funded, in part, by the sale of elephants. Therefore, we work closely with the people who own the elephants and build a relationship based on respect and compassion. We make great effort to understand the issues they face in elephant ownership and have open dialogue with the Karen people to help address their challenges as a community. Our visitors are also part of this solution where you will learn about the local culture during your time spent in the jungle. The Karen people have owned elephants for generations and we do not have desire to disrupt local culture. Instead, we are happy to have an opportunity to work together to change the model of the industry.
1) I’m not sure what to expect when visiting Visitor Village. Can you give me some more information on what to expect?
• Our village is nestled in a picturesque remote area in Northern Thailand. The village gives us opportunity to connect together as a community to help make changes together with the local Karen Hill Tribe people. Comfortable accommodations are provided and delicious, satisfying meals are provided 3 times per day. The experience allows visitors to be ‘one with nature.’ Cell phone reception is usually unreliable which gives us a chance to be off the grid to connect with each other, the villagers and elephants. (If you would like to purchase a SIM card in Chiang Mai before arriving to our project, the only SIM we have found that works is through mobile operator AIS.). Evenings will be spent by the fire, trading stories with each other, playing games, listening to local musicians and participating in other cultural-rich activities. It is truly an immersive, educational experience where you can expect to leave feeling refreshed and inspired to help spread the message of the captive elephant issue in Thailand.
2) What’s the weather like?
• Being in a mountain climate, the weather is usually much cooler than in the city. The nights can get chilly, especially in the winter (November - February), so we recommend that you bring warm clothes. We provide warm bedding but it is best to pack for cooler climate compared to the city.
3) You said on your website that it takes approximately 5 hours to drive from Chiang Mai to Visitor Village. Do you make stops along the way?
• There are a number of towns in between Chiang Mai and our Visitor Village. After we pick you up in Chiang Mai on Monday, expect to drive for a couple of hours to a beautiful organic farm where a delicious lunch will be served before making the rest of the journey. We will also stop for lunch when we drive you back to Chiang Mai on Sunday. An additional stop will be planned so you are able to stretch your legs and use the bathroom.
4) Is there hot water for showering?
• We have capability for one of our showers to provide hot water. Please note the hot water for showers depends on electricity from hydroelectric and solar power, so we may not always be guaranteed to have a piping hot shower.
5) Is there electricity?
• We expect you will have electricity the majority of the time when you are with us so you can charge your cameras, phones, etc. Please note we are in a remote area of Thailand where there are times electricity is spotty as we run off hydroelectric and solar power.
1) Do I need to have personal travel insurance during my stay?
• We have general insurance, however for your safety, personal travel insurance is required for the duration of your stay with us. We will request proof of insurance to be sent before we pick you up in Chiang Mai.
2) Do I need to be in good physical shape?
• Since our elephants are in their hilly, jungle home, we must hike to them to spend time with them so being in shape where you are able to hike as a group will be necessary. Duration of hikes will vary greatly since the elephants are free-roaming. Hikes can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to visit the elephants. We can be gone from the village for 4 to 5 hours at a time on our longer hiking days as we want to spend as much time with the elephants as possible. Food will be provided in the jungle on the days where we are gone for extended periods of time. We recommend you bring sturdy shoes with you that will be comfortable for longer hikes – rubber boots are a great option for traversing through the jungle.
3) What happens if I am injured or sick during my stay?
• There is a local health center in the village that can help with minor injuries or sicknesses. For more significant health issues the main hospital is approximately a 45 minute drive from our village.
4) Do I need any vaccinations before coming to stay with you?
• Please consult with your doctor to discuss any vaccinations you may need.
1) Can I book a week with you and bring cash for my booking when I arrive?
• In order to streamline the administrative process and not take time away from your experience on arrival day, the required donation will be made to the foundation before we pick you up in Chiang Mai, along with proof of insurance for the duration of your stay.
2) Is my booking refundable if I need to cancel?
• A $200 USD nonrefundable deposit is made at the time of booking. The balance of $675 USD will be due four weeks prior to the date of your arrival. Refunds within four weeks of your booking are not possible, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Please contact us in situations of extenuating circumstances that will not allow you to attend our program. Your personal trip insurance should cover you in cases of extenuating circumstances as well.
3) Can I change dates after I make my booking?
• We encourage you to book the week you’d like to visit us at the time of booking and understand situations arise if you need to make a change. Please contact us if you need to make a change to your booking dates.
4) Can I stay for less than a week?
• We currently offer week-long programs only. Due to the remote location of our village and distance from Chiang Mai, late arrival or early departure is not possible. We find that a week-long stay allows you to get the full, immersive experience of being with the elephants, the other visitors and local people.
5) I’m a travel business owner and would like to host a group through my business. Is it possible to come up with a custom schedule for my group?
• Of course! We are happy to host groups and make a custom weekly program with you. Please email us at email@example.com for more information.
1) I want to support your cause but I can’t travel to Thailand. What options are there for me to participate with you to be part of the solution?
• We are deeply appreciative to have supporters from around the world. We have options for recurring monthly donations if you would like to sponsor an elephant or we are happy to accept donations for specific campaigns that we run on a regular basis. All gifts are tax exempt in the US. Please see the link below for more information. Thank you for your support.
2) I don’t follow a plant based diet. Will I like the food?
• The majority of the produce at Visitor Village comes from our on-site garden, whenever possible. This gives us great satisfaction in tending to our crops and choosing food for meals that is in season and local to the area. Meals have local influence and are delicious and filling. Snacks are also available at all other times outside of set meal times. The kitchen is open to you 24 hours per day and you’re welcome to cook with us if you wish. Please inform us of any dietary restrictions (e.g., gluten free, nut allergy, etc) ahead of time and we will make appropriate accommodations.
3) Can I bring my drone?
• Unfamiliar sounds can startle the elephants and for the privacy of the families in the village, drones are prohibited at our project.
4) I haven’t worked with children before. Do I need experience to volunteer at the school?
• Experience with children is not needed. All that is needed is a positive attitude to foster an environment of inspiring the children to continue with their education.
5) I’d love to visit with my family. Do you allow children?
• We love children and believe they are important to carry the torch and help make changes in the future. Children are welcome as long as they are able to participate with us as a group on hikes that can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours to visit the elephants.
6) Do I need to get a visa to travel to Thailand?
• Please check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand prior to your trip. The website is: http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en.
If you have additional questions that are not addressed here, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!