2022 West Ottawa Thailand Conservation Expedition
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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, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group.
|USA - Thailand
|Fly from USA to Bangkok, Thailand.
|Sawatdee ka! Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand! Upon arrival, we'll rest before we hold an orientation meeting and cultural introduction. We will have some free time in the evening to explore the neighborhood around our guesthouse, soaking up the new sights, smells, and sounds!
|Spend the day exploring the busy and bustling capital city with a longtail boat ride through the small canals of Chao Phraya River. We'll visit the impressive Grand Palace and the famous religious temples Wat Pho and Wat Arun.
|Today we will head to Kanchanaburi Province. We will partner with the organization Bring the Elephant Home, and learn about wild elephant conservation, the farmer/elephant conflict in the area, what action is being taken to help, and how we can contribute!
|After having a traditional Thai breakfast in our homestay community, we'll have a busy day working in the tree nursery, helping the park rangers build a check dam in the wildlife sanctuary, and visiting a local school.
|Salakpra - Sai Yok
|Team up with local community members and students in a tree planting event, to help sustain both local farmers and provide a larger habitat for the wild elephants. In the late afternoon, we'll head to Sai Yok National Park, where we'll spend the night camped on a houseboat, swimming in the river and sleeping underneath the stars.
|After an early morning boat cruise, we will make our way to an elephant sanctuary close by. We'll meet the elephant herd, feed them delicious treats, and bathe with them in the river.
|Spend time walking with your new friends in the forest, preparing their food, taking care of them, and helping with an ongoing reforestation project.
|Today we'll explore the town of Kanchanaburi. We will learn the art of Thai cuisine by visiting a local market and preparing a few dishes. Following lunch, we'll check out a karst cave and visit the Thai-Burmese Death-Railway, constructed during WWII. We will head back in the evening to take care of the elephants before bed.
|Kanchanaburi - Kui Buri
|We 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 Resort
|After an early morning safari tour, we will begin our service project working alongside park rangers to help construct check dams and watering holes. In the late afternoon, we will take a tour of the surrounding farm plantations and relax at our guesthouse.
|Kui Buri Resort
|We'll get an early start in the morning so we can have a full day on the island! Relax on the beach, and reflect on the past couple of weeks.
|Kui Buri Resort
|Snorkel and kayak, take part in coral and sea turtle conservation, and go squid fishing!
|Talu Island Resort
|On our last full day in Thailand we'll spend the afternoon relaxing on the island and then make your 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 - USA
|Say your goodbyes to Thailand, we're off to the U.S!
|Your own 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 locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.
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.
Elephant Haven Thailand
Students will stay in a comfortable, air conditioned hotel that is located right next to the Elephant Sanctuary. Staying at the Elephant Haven offers students a once in a lifetime experience to interact with these magnificent creatures. Each room is equipped with a TV, private bathroom and hot shower. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the common areas keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Once your flight has been confirmed, the itinerary will appear here.
Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.
Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.
We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, and travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION, DELAY OR CANCELLATION
Air travel can be unpredictable. Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc. Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route. Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night. Our primary role will be to keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a quick and effective resolution.
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.
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)
- 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
- 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
- Journal and pen
- Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
- Power adapter
- Spending money. We recommend about $100-$200, in USD
- Durable water bottle
- Quick-dry towel
- Deck of cards or other portable games
- Host family gift/small token of gratitude
- Pictures of family, friends, home
- Thai/English phrase book
At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
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.
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO
Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government
While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
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.
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.
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.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of, or are consuming, or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety.
- 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.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo.
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
- Threatening physical or emotional harm, or brandishing a weapon.
- Possessing, consuming, or distributing tobacco or nicotine, including vape pens.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew.
- 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.