2019 Thailand 18 Day Elephant Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2019 Thailand 18 Day Elephant Conservation Expedition! We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting program so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The first page, Pre-Enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights and pertinent info that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page, is meant to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead.

Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and we can't wait to start our enriching adventure!

Travel Dates: July 10, 2019 - July 27, 2019
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $4,990 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Estimated Airfare: $1,200

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.


We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers and given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

January 1, 1970LocationDescriptionLodging
July 10, 2019USA - ThailandFly from USA to Bangkok, Thailand.Airplane
July 11, 2019Chiang MaiSawaddee ka! Welcome to Thailand! We'll arrive in Bangkok for a connecting flight to Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, we'll rest after our long day of travel and hold an orientation meeting and cultural introduction.Payap Dormitories
July 12, 2019Chiang MaiWe will wake up bright and early to enjoy breakfast at a traditional market. Afterwards we'll head outside of the city to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center and the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, where we'll learn about medical care and conservation efforts for elephants.Payap Dormitories
July 13, 2019Chiang MaiToday the students will break from their normal "elephant activities". We will do some sight seeing in Chiang Mai by visiting a famous temple. Also, we’ll learn the art of Thai cuisine. After a delicious Thai cooking class, you will get to experience a traditional northern Thai meal and performance.Payap Dormitories
July 14, 2019Mae ChamThe group will be picked up early from the dorms and will head to an elephant sanctuary in Mae Cham. We will stop off at a few beautiful waterfalls along the way. Upon arrival we will meet rescued elephants, cats and dogs!BEES Dormitory
July 15, 2019Mae ChamToday the students will get to experience being a mahout for the day. We will walk with the elephants through the forest, prepare their treats, and help bathe them in the evening.BEES Dormitories
July 16, 2019Mae Cham - Chiang MaiWe'll spend the morning saying goodbye to our new friends before heading back into Chiang Mai.Payap Dormitories
July 17, 2019BangkokWe'll take an early flight to Bangkok and spend the day exploring the capital with a longtail boat ride through the small canals of Chao Phraya River. We'll visit the famous religious temples of Wat Pho and Wat Arun.Bangkok Guesthouse
July 18, 2019KanchanaburiToday we'll travel to Kanchanaburi. We'll have lunch meet your homestay family at Chong Sadao and learn about elephant conservation and what the community is doing to help. In the afternoon, we will float along the river and take a short hike to visit OurLand, a privately own nature reserve near Salakphra Wildlife Sanctuary.Homestay
July 19, 2019Kanchanaburi With Bring the Elephant Home Foundation, we will work in the tree nursery, visit a local school, and help the villagers build a check dam.Homestay
July 20, 2019Kanchanaburi - Sai Yok National ParkToday we'll team up with local community members and students in a tree planting event to help sustain local farmers and provide a larger habitat for the wild elephants. In the afternoon, we will say goodbye to our hostfamilies and head to Sai Yok National Park. We'll swim in the river, bathe in a waterfall and sleep in a houseboat underneath the stars.House boat
July 21, 2019KanchanaburiAfter an early morning boat cruise, we will make our way to an elephant sanctuary close by. We will meet the elephant herd, feed them delicious treats, and bathe with them in the river.Yoko River Kwai Resort
July 22, 2019Kui Buri National ParkWe will wake up bright and early and head to Kui Buri National Park. Once we arrive, we'll go on a tour of the park and have our first opportunity to see elephants in the wild!Kui Buri Guest House
July 23, 2019Kui Buri National ParkAfter an early morning safari tour, we'll begin our service project, working alongside park rangers to help construct check dams and watering holes. In the late afternoon, we'll take a tour of the surrounding farm plantations and relax at our guesthouse.Kui Buri Guest House
July 24, 2019Koh TaluToday the students will break from our "elephant activities", we will head south to Koh Talu and spend our last few nights learning about marine biology conservation efforts.Talu Island Resort
July 25, 2019Koh TaluSnorkel and kayak, take part in coral and sea turtle conservation, and go squid fishing!Talu Island Resort
July 26, 2019BangkokOn our last full day in Thailand, spend the afternoon relaxing on the island before we make our way back to Bangkok. If we have time, we'll visit one of Bangkok's famous malls, see a Thai movie, buy any last minute souvenirs, and have our last meal together!Bangkok Guesthouse
July 27, 2019Bangkok - USASay your goodbyes to Thailand, we're off to the U.S!Your bed!

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In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.  We vet and inspect the accommodations to ensure they uphold the ethos of our programs, are great values for our travelers and nice places to rest after enriching days of travel.  

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
The Bangkok Guesthouse

Bangkok Guesthouse is centrally located as it’s walking distance from Bangkok’s Skytrain, market places, restaurants and other street food vendors. Bangkok Guesthouse can accommodate 2-3 students  per room. Some of the amenities include private bathrooms, air conditioning and hot water. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.



Talu Island Resort

Talu Island Resort is a 3-star establishment that prioritizes ecotourism and the cleanliness of the island. This resort hosts a variety of activities and experiences such as coral and sea turtle conversation activities. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.



Sai Yok House Boat

The entire group will spend one night on their own private house boat in the Sai Yok National Park, a truly unique and Thai experience! Accommodations will be rustic and simple, but comfortable and unforgettable! A sleeping pad, pillow and light blankets will be provided. After floating down the river, the boat docks during the night. The boat also comes with a private bathroom. Life jackets are provided.

Yoko River Kwai Resort

Located in Kanchanaburi, Yoko River Kwai Resort is a fun tropical themed hotel located just minutes from Elephant Haven. The three star hotel is very comfortable and all rooms are equipped with air conditioning and Wi-Fi. Students will be grouped by gender and divided between double, triple or quadruple rooms depending on availability. Breakfast will be provided by Elephant Haven each morning.

Group Flight

In an effort to make the flight booking process as smooth as possible, we have partnered with STA Travel. This partnership provides our participants with discounted fares through STA’s contracts with the top airlines to help our travelers get the best possible rates.

You have two options for making your flight arrangements, which are outlined below. With either option, we strongly recommend you book with STA, which you can do by calling their dedicated line at 800-781-4040.

1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.

Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option.

The following information is for the chaperoned group flights for this program:

Airline: Eva Air
Flight: 11
Date: July 10, 2019
Departs: Los Angeles, CA (LAX) at 12:50AM
Arrives: Taipei, Taiwan (TPE) at 5:10AM on July 11, 2019

Airline: Eva Air
Flight: 75
Date: July 11, 2019
Departs: Taipei, Taiwan (TPE) at 8:30AM
Arrives: Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) at 11:15AM

Eva Air
July 27, 2019
Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) at 1:45AM
Taipei, Taiwan (TPE) at 6:35AM

Airline: Eva Air
Flight: 6
Date: July 27, 2019
Departs: Taipei, Taiwan (TPE) at 10:10AM
Arrives: Los Angeles, CA (LAX) at 7:40AM

Here’s how to proceed:

  • Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 800-781-4040 to learn about your booking options.
  • Tell the agent you are a Smithsonian Student Adventures participant, the full name of the program you are traveling on and your program travel dates. They will walk you through the details of your flight options.
  • Once you know your flight options, you can book directly with STA or on your own to travel to the host country.

Important note: Should you elect not to travel on the suggested, chaperoned, group flight please email your complete flight reservation to [email protected].

Program participants should meet the airpot liaison at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the international flight. If you are traveling on a connecting flight from your home destination, you will meet your flight chaperone at the boarding gate for your international flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please contact Smithsonian Student Adventures at our 24/7 emergency hotline: 303-997-0310.

2. Book your own flight to the host country.

For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or no more than 3 hours earlier than the suggested group flight’s planned arrival. We ask participants not to arrive later than the suggested group flight’s time of arrival. If travelers arrive on their own prior to the rest of the group we will arrange to have the second Program Leader or the Country Director meet them as they land in the host country.

Note: A $100 fee may be charged if you arrive later than the group suggested flight or 3 or more hours before.

With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.

STA operates a full 24/7 emergency line and can support you with issues from date changes, cancellations, or general crisis management support wherever you are in the world. To contact them, please call 800-836-4115.

Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event SSA is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries.  Notwithstanding, our travelers’ well-being and safety is always our number one priority in all facets of our operations and programming, so please know that in case flight delays or cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will keep family members updated on developments as we are able.

Important note: Please make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.

SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage 
or for lost or stolen luggage. We strongly encourage all travelers to pack a carry-on bag if possible, or to at least put all valuables and a change of clothes or two in a carry-on along with all important medications and basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, glasses, contacts etc.

Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm whether this is required on your flight.

Host Community and Project Details

Located just 2.5 hours South-West of Chiang Mai, amongst beautiful mountain scenery and lush countryside, BEES is a community-based elephant sanctuary that serves as a home for old, injured and retired elephants needing rest and permanent care. Each day will be different day, and activities could include preparing their food, feeding, bathing and walking with the elephants into the jungle, as well as the general care and husbandry of other rescued animals, such as cats, dogs, owls and more! You’ll also have the opportunity to get more involved in the community by teaching English to staff and students, cleaning up the village, or planting trees and grass. You will walk away from this experience with a stronger appreciation for elephants and a deeper understandings of the problems they face in Thailand and what is being done to help them.


Ban Chong Sadao is a small village located in the Kanchanaburi province, in Thailand. Kanchanaburi, which is where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers converge into the Mae Klong River, spans the northern banks of the river and is a popular spot for travelers. Its location at the edge of a mountain range keeps it much cooler than the other provinces of central Thailand. The city has two major commercial districts: the downtown area consists of a grid of several streets with office buildings, shop fronts, and a shopping mall; and the riverfront area businesses are mostly further west along River Kwai Road.

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list but you know yourself better than we do so please adjust accordingly. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on daily outings, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing philosophy we encourage. The list below should cover everything you would require, but you should adjust accordingly based on your needs.  We suggest bringing only as much as you can carry.

Finally, it’s wise to consult a weather forecast for your destination a few days before departure. 

CLOTHES: (quantities depend on your trip length)

  • Underwear
  • Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Lightweight, long sleeve shirts (sun shirt)
  • Light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Swim suit
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light (no short shorts please)
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants. Quick drying fabrics encouraged
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Work gloves
  • Hat/s with good sun protection
  • Sarong/scarf (something to cover knees when entering Temples and holy places *this may be purchased in country if desired)
  • Rubber boots/galoshes for time in jungle, can also be purchased in country

*Please keep in mind that the communities we will visit are generally more socially conservative. As this applies to dress, people do not appreciate seeing a lot of exposed leg, cleavage, or bare shoulders. Please be sensitive to this when packing, and remember to have a sarong.


  • Your basics
  • Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
  • Mosquito repellent (you will use a lot)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Prescription meds in properly marked original container
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine


  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
  • Power adapter
  • Spending money. We recommend about $100-$200, in USD
  • Durable water bottle
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Deck of cards or other portable games
  • Host family gift/small token of gratitude
  • Pictures of family, friends, home
  • Thai/English phrase book

Support Team

WTT/SSA will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to the Program Leader(s), we also have support staff in our host countries and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado who are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program. Meet your support team!

Prae Supcharoen
Prae Supcharoen
Thailand Country Director

Bowdoin College – B.A. Interdisciplinary major in Geology and Physics. Minor in Biology

Born and raised in Thailand, Prae is a native Thai who has passion for science and the environment. After she finished high school, she was awarded a scholarship to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States. In college, she joined International Student Association to exchange Thai cultures with others. One of her most memorable experiences in college was the spring break volunteer trip in Thailand, where she helped organize and lead the trip to work with non-profit organizations as a volunteer teacher for a northern hill tribe village in Chiang Rai. That meaningful experience inspired her to apply and work at Walking Tree Travel. Currently, Prae is pursuing a PhD in marine science in Bangkok. She loves Thai food and traveling around Thailand.

Lacey Merkel
Lacey Merkel
Admissions Director - Denver, CO

University of Arizona – B.S. in Spanish and Portuguese, Minor in Business

Lacey is originally from Flagstaff, Arizona but has been spending her summers in Denver since she was a kid. Originally a business major, she decided to spend her sophomore year studying in Viña Del Mar, Chile. This is where she truly found her passion for travel and learning about other cultures. When she returned to Arizona, she changed her focus to learning Spanish and Portuguese and decided to pursue her TEFL certificate. After graduation, Lacey moved to Fortaleza, Brazil and taught English to high school students, pilots and doctors. She then moved to Denver and continued teaching English. In her free time she enjoys live music, snowboarding, traveling and of course eating amazing “hole-in-the-wall” food.

Bo Somboon
Bo Somboon
Program Leader

B.A. in Tourism Industry from Phitsanulok University

My name is Phanupong Somboon (my friends call me Bo) and I was born and raised in Thailand. I have been a rock climbing and outdoor educator for the past 6 years and enjoy every day of it. For the last four years, I have had the opportunity to work with International students around the world. I enjoy working with students because I have the chance to take them to explore my own country and to show them my culture and language. I also get to show them my beautiful countryside, people and way of life. I have enjoy traveling around Southeast Asia and China for several adventures of my own. I am looking forward to leading with Walking Tree Travel!

Ammy Asawasathapon
Ammy Asawasathapon
Program Leader

Saint Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance, Saint Petersburg, Russia – B.A. Organizational Management

Ammy grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. As a teenager she spent one year living in Belgium, where she learned French and gained a love for travel. After completing one year at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Ammy jumped at an opportunity to complete her degree in Russia and learn the Russian language. She traveled extensively through Europe before moving back to Thailand to start work with the United States Peace Corps as a Language and Culture Instructor. She worked for several international organizations based in Thailand while traveling throughout Southeast Asia, and helped her family to open a guesthouse in the heart of Bangkok. Six years after returning to Thailand, she and her husband relocated to Denver where they live currently. Ammy loves to learn and experience new things, whether that is a new language, food, or culture.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

  • 1 Dennis Jourdain
  • 2 Ethan Harrod
  • 3 Isabella Millar
  • 4 Isabelle Kelsey
  • 5 Sage Keller
  • 6 Sammar Parham
  • 7 Tyler Kelsey
7 Travelers

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.


GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.


  1.  Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of, or are consuming, or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety.
  4. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.


  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Threatening physical or emotional harm, or brandishing a weapon.
  4. Possessing, consuming, or distributing tobacco or nicotine, including vape pens.
  5. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  6. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew.
  7. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Thailand website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Beyond these recommendations, our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.


While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.