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Tropical Island Paradise

Koh Samui and Koh Tao

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Elephant Service

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Delve into thai culture

Ayutthaya (Ancient Siam)
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Explore thailand's vibrant capital

Bangkok, Thailand
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Thailand Elephant Service and the Islands

$4,895.00
Price:

$4,895 + Airfare + $750 Intra Trip Flights

Date:

Jun 26 – Jul 12, Jul 28 – Aug 13

Days:

17

Session:

Session 2, Session 5

Finishing Grades:

9, 10, 11, 12

Who can go on this trip?

Students from around the world!

Places we visit:

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Ayutthaya, Koh Samui, Koh Tao

Optional group flight there:

Los Angeles to Bangkok

Optional group flight back:

Bangkok to Los Angeles

On this extended Elephant Explorers program you’ll enjoy the amazing experience of working with elephants and exploring northern Thailand as well as enjoying the equally incredible South, with time in Bangkok, Ko Tao and Ko Samui.

Earn your service credits working with the magnificent Asian elephants of Northern Thailand at our partner Elephant sanctuary. You’ll be directly involved with their care, spending all day with them forming wonderful bonds and lifelong memories while learning about the conservation of these gentle giants.

After our time working with the elephants we will spend two days white water rafting down the mighty Pai river taking in the scenic mountain surroundings and enjoying each others company on the quiet river banks. During our two day jungle journey we will spend a night at an awesome rustic jungle lodge, if you’re lucky you might see wild monkeys swinging through the trees! Head to Chiang Mai, to bask in the down-to earth charm of this Northern gem.

Next, get ready for the islands as we swap the jungle for the beach! We’ll swim, snorkel, scuba dive (optional), trek and relax through this idyllic part of the world on the tropical island paradises of Ko Samui and Ko Tao. Finally, jump into the bustling hub of Southeast Asia, Bangkok. Explore culturally historic icons including the Royal Palace, Emerald Buddha and Ayutthaya, before immersing yourself in the fast-paced street food scene savoring pad thai and hunting for a bargain on Khao San Rd.

On this program you will:

  • Receive 20 hours of community service credits volunteering at an elephant sanctuary caring for these majestic creatures
  • Relish two amazing days of exhilarating white water rafting as you navigate rapids on the Pai River
  • Feel refreshed as you swim in beautiful jungle waterfalls
  • Savor incredible mouth-watering meals during traditional Thai feasts
  • Release paper lanterns into a the starry night sky
  • Seek enlightenment as you explore the temples of Chiang Mai
  • Drink in the relaxing vibe of Mountainous Pai
  • Have the ultimate jungle experience staying in a peaceful and secluded bamboo hut on the river
  • Hunt for bargains as you practice your haggling skills in the captivating night markets of Pai and Chiang Mai
  • Learn how to cook your favorite Thai dishes at a private cooking class
  • Zip-line through the jungle tree tops of Ko Samui
  • Discover new underwater worlds as you scuba dive on Ko Tao’s incredible reefs*
  • Ease into island time as you enjoy the pristine beaches of Ko Tao and Ko Samui
  • Delight in a private island-hopping cruise around Ko Tao stopping at multiple locations around this picturesque island
  • Step into a bygone era exploring Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, with its iconic overgrown Buddha head and countless other archaeological treasures
  • Savor the best pad thai of your life in Bangkok’s street food scene
  • Grab a bargain at Khao San Rd
  • Witness the enthralling sport of Muay Thai at a live performance*
  • *These are optional activities
  • DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHTS DEPARTS FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)

    Your adventure officially begins just after midnight as you take off from the tarmac on your way to Thailand!

    DAYS 2-6: CHIANG MAI AND ELEPHANT CONSERVATION EXPERIENCE

    After arriving in Bangkok, change planes for the short flight up to Chiang Mai, a picturesque city nestled in the high mountains of Northern Thailand. This modern city blends new with the old, showcasing authentic Thai culture and is the perfect location for our community service. If you have always dreamed of having the chance to work with elephants, you will love the next few days. Learn about the plight of the Elephant, work alongside their mahouts (handlers for life) bathing, feeding and becoming friends with our Elephants in their jungle sanctuary. Be engaged as you learn how to prepare snacks, provide basic health care, treatment and natural medicines for the elephants. In addition to this fulfilling experience we will have ample time explore Chiang Mai’s incredible markets and temples.

    DAYS 6-8: PAI AND WHITE WATER RAFTING

    After saying goodbye to our elephant friends we will head to Pai, a beautiful, serene town in the foothills of the Himalayas – after all, you can’t spell Paradise without Pai. We will use this traveler’s perennial favorite as our base for our awesome rafting adventure. On this journey of a lifetime we’ll navigate a meandering path through the quiet jungle; tackling challenging rapids, spotting wildlife, swimming in gorges, enjoying showers under waterfalls and relaxing in hot springs. On our rafting adventure we will have the ultimate jungle experience staying in a peaceful and secluded bamboo hut on the river.

    DAY 9: CHIANG MAI

    Head back to Chiang Mai to enjoy a famed Thai massage, see beautiful Doi Suthep, do some more shopping and to simply soak up the atmosphere. We will have a delicious final dinner to celebrate the time spent with those not joining us in the islands, and we will prepare to head South.

    DAYS 10-12: KO SAMUI

    Hard work has its rewards and after all of this service and adventure, what better place to relax than on a beautiful island paradise? Spend your days ziplining through the jungle and relaxing on pristine beaches, taking a dip in the warm tropical waters and capturing incredible sunsets.

    DAYS 12-14: KO TAO

    Island hop to our second island paradise, only a short ferry ride away, for some more time in heaven. This turtle shaped island boasts incredible reefs, beaches and scuba diving. We’ll combine all these into one unforgettable private day cruise exploring a number of sites around the island as you snorkel or scuba dive* through sparkling blue waters filled with incredible marine life and enjoy the white sand beaches. There’ll be a wonderful Thai BBQ dinner on the beach to help savor an amazing time in the islands.

    DAYS 14-16: BANGKOK > AYUTTHAYA

    Take it up a notch as you swap the laid back charm of the islands for the organized chaos of the capital Bangkok! Check out the opulent Royal Palace, serene reclining Buddha and the most iconic temple in Bangkok, Wat Arun. Be transported to a bygone era as you explore the vibrant Bang-Pa-In, the old Summer Palace of the kings before roaming through Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, with its iconic overgrown Buddha head and countless other archaeological treasures. Embrace the sights, sounds and smells of Bangkok as you hunt for bargains along Khao San Rd, enjoy some of the best street food of your life and witness an exhilarating Muay Thai performance (optional). Cap off an incredible Thai adventure as you enjoy a delicious fancy final dinner, celebrating an amazing couple of weeks with your new-found best friends!

    DAY 17: GROUP FLIGHT BACK TO THE USA

    WHAT KIND OF TEEN TYPICALLY PARTICIPATES IN THIS PROGRAM?

    We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.

    WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO JOIN?

    This program is only for students who are currently in 9th through 12th grade and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!

    Where do we stay?

    Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.

    Near Chiang Mai we stay at a locally run non-profit with apartment style housing and excellent communal facilities. In Pai we stay at a well-appointed resort right on the Pai River, decorated in traditional Lanna Thai decor. On our rafting adventure we stay for one night in a basic peaceful and secluded bamboo hut on the river. On Ko Samui we stay at an elegantly appointed resort right on the beach. On Ko Tao we stay at a boutique style resort right on the beach. In Bangkok we stay in a modern three star hotel in close proximity to the main attractions and best parts of the city.

    For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a program.

    Do most travelers go by themselves?

    Yes, in fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new BFFs on another TFT program the next summer!

    Can I bring a friend?

    Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.

    WHAT DO STUDENTS LIKE MOST ABOUT THIS PROGRAM?

    Students love the variety of locations we visit and experiences we offer on this program. From volunteering at an Elephant sanctuary in the jungles of Northern Thailand, to the incredibly diverse marine environments of Ko Tao and Ko Samui, this program highlights the best parts of this amazing country.

    What is unique about this program?

    The ability to get an intense, hands-on experience working with the endangered Asian elephants at the sanctuary near Chiang Mai is a truly unique experience. Students leave with a profound understanding of the world they live in and the role they have to play in conserving it for generations to come.

    What is included?

    Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, chaperones and guides, program-related activities and admissions, taxes and tips.

    Not Included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than filtered water at meals, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.

    How do the optional group flights work?

    Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this program’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the program starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on programs that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.

    WHO LEADS THE PROGRAM?

    The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.

    It is the job of the counselors to keep the program fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.

    What are the safety qualifications for our staff?

    All of our staff members attend a week-long training session prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.

    What is the average group size?

    Group size is important! A smaller group size provides unique opportunities that a large group cannot accommodate. Think of your favorite local restaurant; could it easily accommodate a group of 50 teens? Probably not! Our group sizes average between 14 to 21 students, which means that we are able to comfortably use local transport, enjoy local restaurants, and have a more authentic experience overall! A smaller group size also eliminates the likelihood of cliques, meaning that our groups all tend to bond as a cohesive unit. We guarantee that you’ll have enough people to meet some new best friends, but not so many that you feel like “just a number” or lost in a crowd.

    How does this program connect to other programs?

    This program can be connected to programs in Asia, Africa, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. At the end of the Thailand program, your counselor will escort you to the airport and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.

    What is the food like on this trip?

    In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!

    Thai cuisine is bursting full of flavor, aromatic smells and vivid color, with lots of attention paid to balance, detail and variety. You’ll savor the best Pad Thai of your life and that’s just to start. Take your pick from hundreds of incredible dishes featuring mouth-watering combinations of rice, noodles, seafood, meats and fresh vegetables. What will your new favorite be?

    We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.

    As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.

    How much free time do we get?

    Our counselors are with the group almost always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. At our accommodations, students will have a good amount of free time to enjoy the facilities but will not be able to leave the grounds without one of our staff members. Our time in Chiang Mai and Pai will be fairly regimented to maximize the activities we can enjoy during our time, however there will be some free time to go shopping in certain areas. Additionally, a lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time that they are involved in water activities.

    DO I NEED TO BRING ANYTHING SPECIAL FOR THE COMMUNITY SERVICE PORTION OF THE PROGRAM?

    Our service work in Thailand will be outdoors, so please be sure to bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, waterproof shoes, and a hat.

    Do I need any vaccinations for this program?

    We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/. After you register, we will provide you with a list of vaccinations you should consider discussing with your child’s family doctor.

    What kind of Visa do you need for this program?

    Any US citizen that enters Thailand does not require a visa. Instead you will automatically receive a 30-day stay in the country. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.

    Do I need to speak the language?

    No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!

    Reviews

    1. Marla

      :

      After one incredible summer with Travel for Teens in 2014, I knew I wanted to travel again this past summer with them. I had my doubts that any trip could live up to the first one, but TFT proved otherwise instantly. Our first night in Chiang Mai, we made wishes on floating lanterns and released them into the sky, setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip. But every single day was better than the one before. We volunteered at elephant sanctuaries, caring for the elderly and playing with the babies, then went on a two-day white water rafting trip down the Pai River, which brought a lot of us out of our comfort zone in the best way. I won’t outline the whole itinerary, but I think that everything that we did taught me a little more about myself and about the world around me. And the best part was the bonds that I formed with the other students on the trip- we came in as perfect strangers, but walked away best friends. The entire group was able to connect with each other with not one person left out, which I think is really special. There is no sugar-coating and no exaggeration when I say that it was the best 17 days of my life.

    2. Sara Carmichael

      :

      This trip was absolutely incredible! The itinerary is constantly fun and fast paced without being overwhelming. I enjoyed every second of this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. The elephant sanctuaries were so interesting to see, and learning about the elephants’ use in the logging industry was very moving. The two day rafting trip is certainly a unique experience. Sleeping in the bamboo huts on the side of the river definitely gave me a wonderful story to tell when I got back! Spending time in the islands was a perfect way to relax, and finishing the trip in Bangkok provided us with some wonderful cultural immersion opportunities. The people I met on this trip are still some of my best friends, and I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life!

    3. Nataleena Daily

      :

      This was my second TFT trip and I was definitely nervous that it wouldn’t match up to my amazing experience the year before, but it did and more.
      We immersed ourselves in the culture constantly trying new foods, trying to communicate in Thai, and even sleeping in the jungle for the night.
      We talked with monks and learned about the culture and their religion. Explored temples, shopped at Thai markets, and more.
      Through this trip I also met one of my best friends and the experiences we went through together brought us so so close together that not even living in completely different time zones could tear us apart.
      Not only will the experiences last me a lifetime, the friends will too.

    4. Olivia Haan

      :

      From Chiang Mai to the islands of Thailand, I was never bored for a moment. I was able to bathe and play with elephants one day, then take a two-day rafting trip and sleep in bamboo huts by the Pai river the next day. I could not believe that we were able to work with retired elephants and help care for them. One of my favorite parts was going to all the temples and learning more about the Thai culture. I was also able to test my bartering skills (which I’ve found are not very good) in the markets while shopping for souvenirs. Next, we went to Ko Tao and Ko Samui and got a taste of the islands life. It was relaxing to do yoga, lip sync competitions, and swim in the Gulf of Thailand. Not to mention, scuba/snorkeling in the crystal-clear water, learning to cook traditional Thai food, and so much more. Our last stop in Thailand was the capital, Bangkok. I loved the city and all the sites. We went to the Grand Palace, the largest Buddha in Thailand, and got to see the famous Muy Thai fighting. I didn’t think that my second trip could live up the first trip I took with TFT but I was quickly proved wrong.

    5. Jenny Smith

      :

      I was really nervous about going on a trip with no one I knew. However, after calling the TFT office hundreds of times and speaking with all the staff, their reassurances finally convinced me to go on this trip. And let me tell you it was a life changing experience. Keith was an incredible counselor, always joking with us and teaching us Thai language he learned from living there for a few year. Mel was the other counselor and she is a professional photographer, taking breath-taking photos of us while we wash and rode elephants, scuba dived, and visited gorgeous temples. The itinerary is so much fun, but not jam-packed, so we could take our leisure time to take in everything. The food is so delicious and our counselors picked out some really great restaurants, one being a table right off the beach at sunset. The people on the trip were so friendly and became some of my close friends that I still talk to today, 2 years after I went on the trip.

    6. Nataleena Daily

      :

      The year before I had an amazing time so before going on this trip I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the experiences from my last trip. However, this trip exceeded my expectations. Not only did we get to volunteer and help the elephants, we also had a cultural experience as we attempted the language by bargaining with vendors and constantly trying new foods as well as experiencing something new nearly everyday.
      During the trip I also experienced my first 4th of July away from my family, however we still celebrated it. To begin the day it was our final day of rafting so we were rafting and traveling back to the hotel for the first half of the day, but for dinner we went to a restaurant having a 4th of July celebration where we feasted on ribs. We then ended up watching old firework shows before singing the backstreet boys with the hole restaurant even when the power went out.
      Not only did I get all these cool new experiences, the people were awesome as well, I met some of my best friends on this trip. We bonded through rafting, being blessed by monks together, and more, which created a friendship that continues even now despite different timezones.
      The experiences, service, and people all made this trip unforgettable and as I much as I miss this one, I am super excited for my next TFT trip!

    7. Lindsay Cullen

      :

      This was my first trip with TFT and it certainly lived up to it’s expectations. I discovered how amazing elephants really are and being able to bathe, ride, and play with them was honestly the best time of my life. The culture, the food, and the people really make Thailand the vibrant country it is. We got to see amazing temples, shop around night markets, and go on an insane overnight whitewater rafting adventure through the jungle. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to go on this trip, I know it will be an amazing memory for the rest of my life. -Lindsay, VA

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