2019 Thailand 18 Day Elephant Conservation Expedition

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Final Farewell

Written by Ammy – Program Leader

After our last dinner at the resort, we wrote a letter to ourselves which will be sent back to us  in 3 years. We then had more free time until our last curfew in Thailand. Later, we hung out, all went out for a nice night walk on the beach and saw the resort’s sea turtles reserve. We then played with kitties and came back for some more games before bed time. We’re leaving to Bangkok tomorrow with a red eye flight. Time flies! Too soon to leave Thailand! But we are happy to see our families and excited to tell everyone about our trip!

Thailand : Final day and reflection 

Written by Ethan

The last day of the trip on the beach was one of the best. We woke up early to get some well earned time online. After breakfast, we went out on a snorkeling trip. However, we got rained on and coming out of the water meant being a bit cold. Even so, seeing a reef full of little creatures was worth a minor chill.

I am going to miss Thailand…I need to come back here. The resort we are in, this picturesque island, is a well earned time of relaxation after playing a part in helping the world. I have learned more than I anticipated and am all the better for it. There is much to do back home, much to share. I still have a part to play.

Let’s go to the sea, let’s go see the sunshine!

Written by Ammy -Program Leader

After a long full day yesterday, we got up a little later for breakfast between 7 and 7:30 am. More Thai sweets were prepared for us to try, like sweet sticky rice with banana, sticky rice with beans, a sort of coconut pudding with taro, and shredded coconut cooked with palm sugar stuffing wrapped in banana leaf. We collected our pineapple paper that we made from the day before and headed out on the road again to Bang Saphan pier in Prachuab Kirikhan province. It was a 2 hours drive and another 20 minutes by speed boat. Finally, we reached our destination, Koh Talu resort, where we’ll be lodging for 2 nights! The resort looks so nice, the rooms are spacious, and we can really relax and have more fun here. We checked in, had lunch, and had some free time. We were kayaking, playing pool and ping pong, and swimming and playing in the sea. The water was so nice! We then went out on a short 30 minutes hike to the view point and came back down for some more water time and paddle boarding. Before dinner, we got to go squid fishing for about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any but it was still a fun time and we tried some grill squid with seafood dipping sauce and fresh squid with wasabi. While we were turning back to the shore, we saw a really big sea turtle popping up to get some air! It was the dinner time right when we got back, so we ate so much food again, and it was again delicious! We then did a 30 minutes self-reflection session and ended our night with another horror movie night.

Last Day of Elephant Watching and Service Work

Written by Sammar

The day started off early with the whole group waking up to see the sunrise at six. We took a short drive up a hill where breakfast was waiting, and had tea, toast, eggs, and fried rice. After breakfast, we went downhill to paper making out of pineapple leaves. Along the way, the group stopped to observe trees rubbed by elephants. At the paper making, we had to shred the pineapple leaves, help boil and crush them, and then strain them to make the paper. While the paper sat to strain, we decorated out paper with colorful leaves and flowers.

Our next stop was to see rubber making. We had a slight detour to a local’s house to try some Thai desserts. The rubber making was done by mixing the raw rubber, leaving it to sit, and then stretching it three times before finally drying. The man who owned the house also had five ball pythons so we got to hold them too. We moved onward to wood carving, where we watched a cup be made right in front of us. Later we got to carve the wood a little too. By then it was later in the day so we headed back to have lunch. After lunch, we walked out into the fields owned by OurLand and help mix dirt for tree planting later on. The group cut weeds and marked current trees in the area as well. When we finished we went back to Kuiburi National Park to do some more elephant watching. Even though the elephant sightings were light, we saw many gaur. We had dinner about an hour later and a group discussion with Ellis, the representative from OurLand. The group had a little bit of free time before meeting up again to go elephant watching at night. Unfortunately we didn’t see any elephants, but the skies were clear and the stars were out. We all had a good time watching the stars, and even saw an owl, a few mystery birds, and a snake. We are now excited to experience the seaside in Thailand that is waiting for us tomorrow!

On The Road Again

Written by Dennis

Today, we woke up at 7:30 and ate our breakfast at Elephant Haven. While we were there, we also met up with Elis, one of the members from Our Land, who we met earlier in the trip. Then, we got in the van and began our long journey to the Kuiburi National Park. The trip was supposed to take around 4-5 hours. However, being the lucky group we are, we got our second flat tire of the trip. We spent close to an hour in a local rest area while we waited for our van to get fixed. Once we were finally on the road again, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing until we eventually reached where we were staying. Due to our delays, we arrived and ate a late lunch. After lunch, we went to the national park, where we rode in the back of pickup trucks searching for wild elephants. While at first unsuccessful in our attempts to see wild elephants, we were eventually able to see multiple herds as well as a herd of wild gaur. Gaur is a type of wild bull which can be found in Asia. Then we took a quick hike to eat dinner with some of the locals. On the way, we crossed paths with a pair of rangers attempting to prevent some elephants from crossing out of the park. The dinner was very good and some of us even tried eating fish eyes. Then we finished the day with few card games before bed, as usual.


Written by Isabelle

We woke up bright and early to see the sunrise at 5am. Soon after, we were taken back ashore, where we parted with our houseboat in Sai Yok national park. From there, we drove to Elephant Haven Thailand where we had lunch. After our lunch, we prepared food for the elephants, rolling rice balls and chopping watermelon. We then fed them. After they finished eating, we followed the elephants into the jungle as they went in search of a mud bath. Once we arrived at the mud pit, we bathed them, rubbing mud onto their skin. However, this soon turned into a mud fight between all of us. Covered from head to toe in mud, we followed the elephants to the river where we cleaned ourselves and the elephants. We made a (bumpy) mudslide, and went down it many times. After cooling down in the river, we drove to the resort across Elephant Haven, where we went into the pool for a little while before dinner. Then, we showered and drove back across the river for dinner at Elephant Haven. There, we helped make a yummy dessert of coconut soup with sweet potato chunks, and a sort of fried coconut balls. To wind down after a long day, we all gathered together in a room to watch a horror movie.

Bees and Trees

Written by Sage

The beginning of our day started with breakfast and a fascinating introduction to bees and the importance of their job in increasing the coexistence between humans and elephants. We checked out the beehives and tasted some of the organic honey they produced. After the bee hives, we headed to the check dam site to finish what we started yesterday. Then, we all  drove to the neighboring tree nursery. At the nursery, we planted multiple species of trees in hopes of increasing the biodiversity in the area. We finished this off with a delicious lunch, as usual.

After lunch, we headed back to our homestays where we showed our gratitude by giving them a gift from home. After saying our thank you’s and good byes to them, we headed to Sai Yok National Park. There, we floated down the river to a waterfall and boarded our amazing house boat. We ate dinner and for the next few hours, told more scary stories and played games until the end of the night.

We rock today! 

Written by Isabella 

Today we woke up to a jam packed day of activities. We started it off by eating some spicy breakfast, learning more about human-elephant conflict, and finding ways to create a peaceful coexistence through community-based conservation. We headed off to a nearby elementary school, and exchanged languages with the cutest little nine year olds. Then we took a short drive to the wilderness, and saw check dams that other Walking Tree groups have created. Check dams are dams that provide water for elephants and increase humidity for more plant growth. We also built a check dam, and after some hard work, we stopped to eat lunch. We plan to return the following morning to finish it.

After lunch, we headed back to the homestay village, and relaxed for a bit until starting our next project. We began cleaning out old beehives to allow new colonies to move into them. Although this took us awhile, it paid off because afterwards we went to this beautiful reservoir and took pictures. A little bit later, we came back to the village and cooked our own dinner in a wok outside for our homestay families. Some of us even tried some very spicy peppers. After our delicious meal, we took a night ride through the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary to search for wild elephants. Even though we didn’t find any, it was still a great time. Then we headed back to the houses for a few scary ghost stories, and tried our best to fall asleep!

Our Land

Written by Ammy – Program Leader

We took a 3 hours drive in a van to Kanchanaburi. After arriving, we had lunch with the villagers and an introduction from Our Land, The Nature Reserve Center. We then went on a hike up to this big beautiful cave with many rooms that has 3 different types of bats living there. We also meditated for 5 minutes in the dark with the bats sounds. We then went to the Kwai Yai river to float in and along the river for about an hour to get to Our Land area. We learned more about Our Land’s property, projects, snakes rescue center, and we had dinner and a camp fire there. We are staying with homestays in the community for 2 nights, 2 of us in each house near one other.

Written by Ethan Harrod

This was one of the the best days of this trip! It was cool and rainy, we got some time in the jungle, and I got to see so many snakes! I am so happy I got to dust off the animal facts section of my memory and impress everyone. So many wonders people at these wonderful sanctuaries of nature…I need to come back some day!

Bangkok, here we are!

Written by Ammy – Program Leader

Rise and shine for an early breakfast at 6am at Payap Dorms, and then we left for Chiangmai Airport and took off to the capital city of Thailand: Bangkok! A private van picked us up and sent us off to Bangkok Christian guesthouse, where we’d stay for a night. The place was nice and clean, we also got to do some laundry. Then we went out for lunch at a restaurant nearby ,where we had our northeastern Thai food for the first time. We tried fresh green Papaya salad, Larb, Nam Tok Gai Yang with sticky rice, some stirred fried Chinese kale with Chinese mushrooms, and vegetable soup. After a delicious meal it was time to explore!

We took the public transportation, sky train, which is like a subway above the ground, to the station near the pier. Our guide, Pi’Tuk Tuk, was waiting for us and showed us around. We did a canal tour on a traditional long-tailed boat out to the main river of Thailand, the Chaopraya river. We fed bread to fishes and also saw many monitor lizards! We visited the 2 main temples of Bangkok; Wat Pho – where the biggest reclining Buddha is – and Wat Arun – the temple of dawn. It was hot, so after walking for a while we relaxed and got refreshing drinks at a coffee shop in the temple area by the pier. We then took the boat and the sky train back to the stop near our guesthouse. We were free and had a couple of hours for dinner and to really wander around, so we went to a big 5-story mall and walked along the streets where we got some pizzas at Pizza Hut, but Thailand Pizza Hut is so much more fancy (said by Isabella and agreed by others)! We went back to our guesthouse and had a small session prepping us about homestay in Thailand before heading to bed. We are so excited to move to another province tomorrow! See you soon, Kanchanaburi!

Goodbye to BEES, Ready for Bangkok!

Written by Sammar Parham

The day started off early with the group meeting Burm at breakfast. After a short breakfast of eggs and watermelon, the group got ready for some work. We spent the rest of the morning planting banana trees and cutting grass for elephants to eat. To cool off, Burm took us to a natural spring where we were able to swim around. When we got back from the spring, we got a change of clothes and had our last meal at BEES before heading back to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai we took a little time for self reflection and a group session to talk about our experience so far. Later, we had a farewell dinner with our Payap representative. There was fried fish, sticky rice, some chili paste, curries, stirred fried vegetables and an array of steamed and fried vegetables. Dinner ended around 8 and the group headed back to the dorms to get some sleep and ready for our flight to Bangkok tomorrow!

Walking the Elephants

Written by Dennis Jourdain

Today we woke up nice and early; eating breakfast at 7:30. Then we picked out rain boots we’d wear for the day. With the borrowed boots we cleaned the elephant pens in the BEES Sanctuary. Mainly by shoveling poop and sweeping the floor. We then hiked for around 10 kilometers in order to walk with the elephants in their daily free roam of the surrounding region. We watched the elephants walk around the forests and play in a river. We too enjoyed the refreshing currents of the river. On the hike back to the sanctuary we stopped by a cave known for having bats. Some of us even decided to venture into the cave, seeing countless bats and crawling through bat feces (not really as gross as it sounds). After making our way back to sanctuary we took a truck ride to experience a spectacular view of the rice terrace field of the region. While eventually making it to our destination, we did have to deal with a flat tire half way through the ride. After returning we finished the day by eating dinner and relaxing with some card games.

The Journey to BEES

Written by Isabelle Mae Kelsey

We had breakfast at the Payap dorms, then packed up for a few days and headed off on a journey to BEES (Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary). On our way, we stopped at a “Thai Costco” called “Macro” and grabbed some snacks to nourish us for the days to come. Further on our journey (still on the way to BEES sanctuary), we stopped and hiked to a beautiful waterfall (with a nice breeze to cool us down) and had lunch, basil stirred fried with chicken with rice topped with an egg (Pad Kra Pow) and wide rice noodle with soy gravy sauce with vegetables (Rad na) there. After a little while, we were back on our way. Our second to last stop on the way to BEES was a tribe market where we gazed upon all the trinkets and food they had to offer. Our last stop was a local vegetable stand to grab some food for the elephants. When we got to the sanctuary, we shucked corn and prepared food for the elephants. After that, we spent free time in a cat room and played uno and other card games. Around 6, we had dinner together. Then back to the cat room we went to hear Burm, the founder of the sanctuary, talk about elephants and hear the story of how he started this sanctuary with his wife. Finally, after a long day, we crashed onto our beds (guarded by mosquito nets), letting the chirps of crickets lull us to sleep.

First Elephant Day!

Written by Sage Elizabeth and Glenn Keller

Our second day consisted of many things. We started the morning off bright and early by driving to the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center outside of Chiangmai. This was our first elephant sighting of the trip! While this center rescues and rehabilitates elephants, they still train them to do shows for tourists. Additionally, we visited their elephant hospital they have on site. After this, we drove back into Chiangmai to visit a local market called Kad Luang. This market was huge and full of Thai cuisine, clothes, jewelry, and much more. We walked around for a few hours and we tried some Thai fruit such as Rhambutan, Mangosteens, and Langsat. Later in the evening we headed to the Walking Street Market where we had dinner and went shopping! We are exhausted after an exciting day, but ready for more elephants tomorrow!

And this is how we started our activities...

Written by Isabella Grace Millar

This morning we went to a Thai cooking class. We learned how to make a rose and leaves-shaped garnish, veggie spring rolls in a crispy bag called ‘Thuung thong’, and Pad Thai. It was so good and we ate way too much. Then we hiked to a temple called Pha Lad and took lots of photos. We even saw white and blue peacocks! Afterwards, we went to a different temple that was covered in gold, one of the most well known and main temples In Chiangmai. We had an amazing view of the city. Later on, we feasted at a delicious restaurant and again ate way too much. While we were eating, the dancers performed traditional Thai dances, Thai boxing-fight show, and a drum show. Tired from our big day, we headed back to the dorms and crashed. Can’t wait to see the elephants tomorrow!

Our very first day of the program

Written by Ammy – Program Leader
We all started to getting to know each other and were talking, laughing, having fun and playing games on every layovers we had. Each airport is different. LAX is HUGE, Taipei Airport has themes at each gate such as “the movie theater”, “the bamboo field”, or “the beach.” Bangkok Suvarnabhumi is big too, and is decorated with real and colorful orchids at many corners and parts of the airport, which made it smells so nice. At the last airport, Chiang Mai airport, many bright red double bench shuttle busses passed in front of the arrival hall picking people up, and we were also on one of those! We got to see Chiangmai at night a little during this ride from the airport to our rooms at Payap University.
After a long journey we finally arrived, tired but excited, safe and sound in beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand. Yay! We are all exhausted and getting some sleep, and very excited to begin our adventure tomorrow morning. More updates to come soon!