Volunteering in Thailand – Elephant Kraal

In May of this year (2014) we organised for a few of the K9 Crew to go and visit the animals of Thailand. After quite a bit of research in to the different places we could volunteer a, I picked the Royal Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya. There were may reasons as to why I choose the Elephant Kraal, however after speaking to the elephant keepers at Melbourne Zoo and hearing their recommendation, I felt as though this was the place to visit and we weren’t disappointed.


We were so excited as we pulled into the traditional looking Kraal, we almost forgot to pay our taxi driver at first, only to return to the sounds of his laughter at our sincere apologies. It was at this point that the younger members of our “crew” commented at just how lovely and polite the Thai people are.

We were warmly welcomed by one of the Kraals long term Volunteers John (Canadian) and shown to our traditional yet comfortable (and A/C) accommodation. We settled in before meeting at the common area for a casual yet informative debrief with Ewa who is one of the Australian that help run the Kraal on a full time basis.

During the debrief we filled in some basic forms and discussed any dietary needs. Ewa also discusses the background of the Kraal, why and how the elephants are here. I found this really interesting as I hadn’t thought of what happens to the elephant that are retired from work, or when their primary career (owner) can’t afford to care for them any more. I found Ewa to be very knowledgeable, friendly and happy to answer all questions especially any of my animal behaviour and training questions.

Then the fun part of being introduced to our individual elephants. We were given our uniform which was interesting to learn that the elephants identify with opposed to being “a tourist” to the Kraal. As we made our way over we could see the elephants (we nic-named them the ladies), we could see their arousal level rise with the anticipation of meeting their new volunteers, after all we feed them fruit lol.


Once we were introduced to our elephants, we went for a short stroll down to the river to where we will bath and scrub the elephants down and do a basic health check which is similar to what you would your dogs at home. Here we got to watch a Mahout care for his elephant.

The feeling was amazingly peaceful and humbling, watching an elephant play, explore and swim in the river. We experienced first hand just how quiet an elephant is when they walk around and through the Kraal with their Mahout, this was amazing. We even experienced watching an elephant running without a sound.

After a fantastic, yet tiring day we all sat down for a divine home cooked meal, had the opportunity to get to know the other volunteers. We met Paul and Matt (both originally from the UK) who have ripper senses of humor and again were very forth coming with information in regards to the individual elephants distinct personalities, history and their future. We also met Michelle (a former keeper from Melbourne Zoo). Immediately I could sense Michelle enthusiasm and passion for the elephant, a trait that is desirable in anyone that works with animals, regardless of species. We then had the opportunity to watch a short documentary by the name of “The last Mahout”. This highlighted the importance of the elephant within the Thai culture, their history and amazing relationship with the Mahout/s. It also enlightened us with why it is so important to support the working elephant in this day and age, which was something I hadn’t considered before.

After an early night (approx 8pm) we were woken up by the beautiful sound of the elephants trumpet calls as they greeted us on their way down for their morning bath. We ate our breakfast prior to making our way over to the ladies to clean up their day area followed by their bedrooms. We raked and swept up their pooh and any left over pineapple plants, and I must add how satisfying it was to do so.

We feed our ladies their breakfast and got to get up close and personal with them. We observed each of the ladies distinguishing physical features, their unique and sometime funny eating rituals and give them a loving pat and kiss.

From here we climbed up a set of stairs which enable you to sit on the elephant, no saddle, no seat, 100% pure beautiful elephant. Every elephant has their Mahout with them to assist anyone that may be nervous or not so good with heights like myself lol.

Matt was their to assist and guide us to how and where to sit as you climbed onto your elephant, and their Mahout already sitting in the elephant helping you also. The colour must have drained from my face as John and Paul both asked after me as they stood what appeared to be 15 foot below me on the ground. Once I mentioned that it was my vertigo, not the elephant, we all became much more comfortable and had a giggle especially when my friends stated “Hell will freeze over before she allows her vertigo to prevent her from such an experience”! They know me well 🙂

We then took the ladies down for the morning bath and scrub down in the river, as they spend most of their twilight hours covering themselves in mud, straw, dust along with anything else available.

Now when I say take the ladies down to the river, you literally take them all the way into the river. So bear footed and dressed appropriately, it’s an extremely welcoming activity in the tropical heat of Thailand.
Now before you ask, Yes the water of fine for us to enter and no one of us suffered ill effects from being in the water multiple times.

One of the beautiful experiences whilst at the Kraal was the fact that the Mahout barely spoke English, however they did all they could to enhance our experience. As we rode along with our elephants, you’d hear them singing in Thai to us until we found a common song, and that song was Happy birthday lol.

On a trip were observing varies animal behaviour was a huge part of our agenda, it was an experience that we wont forget, laughing with our Mahouts based on communicating with body language and gestures.

We played, bathed and scrubbed the beautiful 6 yerar old Elephant “Soi”

Here Soi lays down and enjoys a good scrub down and wash with the crew. As you can see via our photos when you volunteer at Elephant Kraal, you can get as upclose and interact with your elephant so long as it’s safe for you to do so.

Watching an infant elephant play is so similar to watching a puppy play; they are goofy, trip over themselves and down right gorgeous!

Here you can see her play with her “home alone” toy, designed by our own Aussie Dog Products (Zooka has 2 and loves them). These are great for environmental & for play.


To summarize our wonderful time, we had a truly amazing experience whilst at the Elephant Kraal and highly recommend it to all. The staff, volunteers (long and short term) were lovely, the food was great and the overall feeling was harmonious. We would like to thank everyone that contributed to making our visit all that it could be. Special mention to the wonderful Mahouts for their patience, sense of humor and for their wonderful talent.

Please take the time to visit www.elephantstay.com and follow Elephantstay on Facebook and show your support for this wonderful place.

We hope to visit again May 2015, so if you’re interested in joining us, please let us know by leaving a comment below.
I hope you enjoy seeing just some of the photos we have shared with you.

To learn more about the people behind the scenes at the Kraal, please visit their website by clicking this link Elephant Stay.

Remember if you are interested in joining us when we visit next year, please leave a comment below.

Thank you for your continued support.

One thought on “Volunteering in Thailand – Elephant Kraal”

  1. Belynda Z says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone. Elephantstay rocks!!!

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