2022 Westgate Thailand Elephant Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2022 Westgate Thailand Elephant Conservation Expedition! We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting program so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. This first page, the Pre-Enrollment page, 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 hope you are excited for all the amazing things Thailand has to offer!
Travel Dates: May 10, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $2,690 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Confirmed Airfare: $1,347

What to Expect

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

Itinerary

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. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
May 10USA - ThailandFly from USA to Bangkok, ThailandAirplane
May 11Munich, GermanyWait, I thought we were going to Asia?! You are, but the best flight option included a long layover in this charming European city. Maybe there's enough time to escape the airport and get a Weißwürste for lunch? In transit
May 12BangkokSawatdee ka! Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand! We'll check into our hotel for some rest after all that travel. We'll also hold an orientation meeting and enjoy have some free time in the evening to explore the neighborhood around our guesthouse, soaking up the new sights, smells, and sounds!56 Surawong Hotel
May 13BangkokSpend the day exploring the busy and bustling capital city with a longtail boat ride through the small canals of Chao Phraya River, visit the famous religious temples Wat Pho and Wat Arun.56 Surawong Hotel
May 14SalakpraToday we will head to Kanchanaburi Province. We will partner with the organization Our Land, and learn about wild elephant conservation, the farmer/elephant conflict in the area, what action is being done to help, and how we can contribute!Homestay Cabins
May 15SalakpraAfter having a traditional Thai breakfast in our homestay compound, we will 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.Homestay Cabins
May 16Salakpra - Sai YokTeam up with local community members and students in a tree planting event, to help sustain both local farmers as well as provide a larger habitat for the wild elephants. In the late afternoon, we will head to Sai Yok National Park, where we will spend the night camped on a houseboat, swimming in the river and sleeping underneath the stars.Houseboat
May 17KanchanaburiAfter an early morning boat cruise, we will make our way to an elephant sanctuary close by. Meet the elephant herd, feed them delicious treats, and bathe with them in the river.Legacy River Kwai Resort
May 18KanchanaburiToday we will make a short trip to visit another organization called Somboon Legacy, a sanctuary where we will learn another approach to elephants conservation that avoids direct physical contact with animals. We will spend time walking in the forest, preparing their food, taking care of them, and helping with an ongoing projects.Legacy River Kwai Resort
May 19Kanchanaburi - Kui BuriWe will wake up bright and early and head to Kui Buri National Park. Once we arrive, we will go on a tour of the park and have our first opportunity to see elephants in the wild!Baan Rai Kong Mun
May 20Kui BuriAfter 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.Baan Rai Kong Mun
May 21Kui Buri - BangkokAfter a leisurely morning, we will start the drive back to Bangkok. We’ll have time in this afternoon to get our COVID tests done and if time allows, some last minute shopping and a celebratory final dinner before heading to the airport for our flight home. Airplane
May 22Bangkok - USAArrive homeYour own bed!

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Accommodations

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. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
56 Surawong Hotel

56 Surawong Hotel is centrally located as it’s walking distance from Bangkok’s Skytrain, market places, restaurants and other street food vendors. 56 Surawong Hotel 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.

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 basic, but comfortable. Students will be divided by gender and split between sleeping areas. A sleeping pad, pillow and blankets will be provided for each person. After floating down the river, the boat will dock along shore. Students will sleep in the boat, which is open air and makes for a unique and unforgettable experience! The boat also comes with a private bathroom. Personal flotation devices are also provided for each student.

Baan Chan Chai Resort – Kui Buri

Baan Chan Chai Resort is a comfortable guest house located near Kui Buri National Park. Students will be roomed in small bungalow style cabins and split between gender. Students can expect to be in double, triple or quadruple rooms based on the guest house availability. Wifi is available in the common areas and all rooms have AC. Meals will be prepared by staff members, and students will have the opportunity to participate in a cooking class with them prior to lunch one day.

Group Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure Airport & City Departure Date and Time  Arrival Airport & City Arrival Date and Time 
Outbound
Lufthansa Airlines
LH
481
DEN – Denver International Airport, Denver, United States
May 10, 2022 at 04:10 PM
MUC – Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany
May 11, 2022 at 09:55 AM
Outbound
Lufthansa Airlines
LH
772
MUC – Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany
May 11, 2022 at 10:45 PM
BKK – Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
May 12, 2022 at 02:10 PM
Inbound
Lufthansa Airlines
LH
773
BKK – Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
May 21, 2022 at 11:00 PM
MUC – Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany
May 22, 2022 at 05:20 AM
Inbound
Lufthansa Airlines
LH
480
MUC – Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany
May 22, 2022 at 11:50 AM
DEN – Denver International Airport, Denver, United States
May 22, 2022 at 02:25 PM

Once your flight has been secured 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, but 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 is unpredictable, especially in a pandemic.  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.

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list that is provided as a guideline. Feel free to augment as you feel necessary.  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 hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with.  We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.

Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination. Humidity in Thailand can feel omnipresent and it can take a while for clothes to dry. Keep this in mind when selecting your clothing fabric.

CLOTHES: (quantities depend on your trip length)

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Light rain coat
  • Swim suit
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Work gloves
  • Work pants
  • Hat/s, good sun protection
  • Sarong/scarf (something to cover knees when entering Temples and holy places *this may be purchased in country if desired)
  • Rain boots (for volunteer activities – *we encourage you to purchase these when in country for cheaper)

*Please keep in mind that the areas we will be staying in are generally more conservative. The people usually wear long covered up clothing and do not appreciate seeing a lot of exposed leg, cleavage, or bare shoulders.

TOILETRIES: (in addition to the basic toiletries)

  • Two rapid COVID tests. Program Leaders will carry additional tests and will also administer the one to be verified by a medical professional within 24hrs of return to the US.
  • Face masks
  • Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
  • Mosquito repellent (you will use a lot)
  • Band Aids and Neosporin
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Medication in properly marked original container
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Sense of adventure!
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book/s
  • Camera
  • Power adapter
  • Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $100-$200, depending on shopping habits)
  • Durable water bottle
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Deck of cards or other portable games

Support Team

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.

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.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Yusra Alsaleh
Yusra Alsaleh
Flight Director, Marketing Director, and Technology Director - Remote


Earlham College – B.A. Peace & Global Studies 
Indiana University – M.P.A. International Development and Nonprofit Management

Born and raised in Kuwait, Yusra traveled to the United States to pursue a B.A. in Peace and Global Studies at Earlham College with a focus on Conflict Transformation. Since then, she has been involved in several leadership positions (including working for a start- up peace museum) and actively seeks to help individuals challenge and learn from the world around them. Growing up in a household with a Father who was a Pilot and a Mother who was a Flight Attendant, Yusra began traveling as soon as she could walk and enjoys engaging the world through travel and interaction. She is passionate about social justice issues, grassroots movements and individual empowerment. In her free time, Yusra enjoys exploring new cities by bike, drawing and getting lost in libraries and bookstores

Group Roster

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

  • 1 Aisling Groarke
  • 2 Blake Adauto
  • 3 Brianna Pernicka
  • 4 Derek Longcrier
  • 5 Ian Lopez
  • 6 John Paul Alvarez
  • 7 Megan Buscietta
  • 8 Ntxhais Lee
  • 9 Orion George
  • 10 Seth Roberts
  • 11 Timothy Cuevas
  • 12 Zachary Zorack
12 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.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  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. 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

  1. Failure to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Possessing weapons.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  5. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  6. Being out 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.

Insurance

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.

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