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Unearthing new experiences

Thailand Conservation Global Citizens

Explore the tropical region of southern Thailand and contribute to vital conservation efforts.

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Program information

Join GVI and discover Thailand where students will explore and participate in conservation and environmental awareness projects that contribute to the United Nations Development Goals, UN SDGs, #4, Quality Education, #14, Life Below Water, and #15, Life on Land. You will have the opportunity to hike through tropical jungles to view spectacular waterfalls, kayak through mangrove forests, and visit some of Thailand’s most beautiful temples and beaches.

Afterwards, spend time volunteering at a sea turtle conservation centre, collecting plastic pollution from beaches, and renovating classrooms at local schools.

Overview
Itinerary
What's Included
Parent Info
Support & Safety
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Speak to alumni

Program overview

Experience the energy and buzzing activity of Bangkok as you arrive in Thailand. Here the groups will be able to take in the sites and cuisine of the bustling capital city.

After that, there will be the opportunity to further explore Thailand and learn about its culture. The group will visit Khao Sok National Park, where time might be spent hiking or kayaking. Or there may be the option to travel to Phuket and take a traditional longtail boat to James Bond island, and stop off at Ao Phang Nga National Park. The group could also spend the day on a temple tour taking in the scenic views from Bang Reang Temple or marvelling at the massive gilded reclining Buddha surrounded by macaque monkeys at Wat Suwan Kuha.

For the service component, groups will focus on activities such as cleaning small turtles and working on the maintenance of their tanks and enclosures, as well as promoting environmental education, working to prevent plastic pollution, and increasing the population of coastal mangroves. The experience will offer insight into conservation issues facing the region and the measures the GVI team and their partners are taking in response, as well as contributing towards the UN SDG’s.

During your time on the program in Thailand, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn more about Thai culture, helping you kickstart your journey toward becoming a global citizen.

*This overview is an example of the activities and project work that students might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date and can be discussed further with your Group Enrollment Manager. The overview shown here has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

Choose your bespoke itinerary

Select one of three expedition types where the activities are customised to meet your group’s specific goals.
Impact expeditions
Advanced activities
Communication skills
Emotional intelligence
Conservation initiatives
Community projects
Most Popular
Challenger expeditions
Comprehensive activities
Leadership skills
Teamwork
Self-awareness
Resilience
Explorer expeditions
Exciting activities
Self-confidence
Cultural sensitivity
Positive mental health
Teamwork

Program details

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date.

Day 1

Welcome to Thailand! We’re off to a street market to get a taste of local flavours and learn a few Thai words, including how to place a food order. Also on the schedule: a traditional welcome dinner.

Day 2

First up is orientation and health and safety training. Then we’ll head to the Big Buddha to learn more about Buddhist beliefs and tradition.

Day 3

Spend time at the tsunami museum, a monument to the resilience and recovery of the village. Then head to a traditional Thai cooking class!

Day 4

Hello, turtles! At the local turtle conservation centre, you'll learn how and why they’re endangered and what is being done to protect them.

Day 5

More turtles! Today, you’ll clean tanks and help out with any minor medical treatments. You’ll also collect data for our citizen science database.

Day 6

A community and culture day. You’ll meet and mingle with members of the local community and attend a Muay Thai class, a traditional Thai self-defence technique.

Day 7

Now that you’ve met community members, dedicate some time to local initiatives by working together on sustainability projects around the village.

Day 8

Start the day with a Thai language class before heading out for an afternoon of fun in the sun on one of Thailand’s famous beautiful beaches.

Day 9–12

These three days are dedicated to Thailand’s greenest and most biodiverse conservation area – Khao Sok National Park. You’ll hike, survey wildlife and travel via traditional long-tail wooden boats across Cheow Lan Lake.

Day 13

After spending the night on a floating bungalow in one of the oldest forests in the world, we head back to Phang Nga for a final Thai feast.

Day 14

Goodbyes are never easy. Share your experiences, tell your stories and make sure you know how to stay in touch as we head back to the airport.

What’s included?

What's included
General
Groups
A rest and relaxation activity/excursion
24/7 backup and support
A dedicated trip co-ordinator
Access to local medical facilities
Comprehensive health and safety procedures (Emergency Action Plans and Risk Assessments)
First aid equipment
All meals
Group leader and teacher
Highly experienced and well qualified GVI field staff
In-country transport is arranged
Pre-departure information
Up-to-date safety and country information
What's excluded
Not included
Groups
Pre-departure withdrawal insurance
Travel insurance - unless otherwise stipulated
Medical insurance - unless otherwise stipulated (medical aid details will need to be provided)
Flights - unless otherwise stipulated
Personal kit
Visas
Vaccinations
Additional spending money

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.

Safety

View support and safety protocols

Support

View risk mitigation

Health and safety case studies

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GVI's commitment to safety and security

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How GVI remains prepared for natural disasters

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...

How GVI manages participants expectations

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Environmental work

Tourism is growing at an incredible rate in Southern Thailand, often with little consideration for the effects on the environment. We work with the community to increase awareness of the importance of preserving their natural resources. The environmental issues that Thailand faces are many and varied. These include poor quality water, air and soil, as well as biodiversity loss. In addition, poaching, kidnapping of wild animals, deforestation, and unsustainable tourism threaten Thailand’s land and marine habitats and wildlife. Fortunately, the Thai government is constantly updating and improving environmental legislation and practices. In line with this, we assist local and international non-governmental organisations and community groups  by working towards contributory conservation outcomes.

Sea turtle conservation project

A large part of the environmental project work involves working alongside our partners at the Royal Thai Navy Sea Turtle Conservation Centre, which usually takes place two days a week. This is a  head-start centre. Turtle hatchlings are reared until they are between six and nine months old before being released back into the wild. Green turtles are the most common, with hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherbacks also found in this region. Turtle populations the world over are threatened, and it is estimated that only about 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive to reach adulthood naturally. These statistics are exacerbated by beach erosion, resulting from tourism development. Head-start programs aim to increase the survival rate by protecting the hatchlings until they reach a size where they will face a reduced  risk of predation. The work you will  carry out includes scrubbing the tanks to ensure that the turtles have a clean environment to live in, washing the turtles with an antibacterial solution to reduce levels of infection, and applying antifungal and antibacterial treatments to any wounds the turtles may have. We also conduct research at the centre –collecting data on turtle morphology (weight and measurements) and infection rates, as well as some behavioural research to monitor the effects of enclosure enrichment. We hope to use this data to gain further understanding of the best methods of turtle husbandry. This project runs all year round and if you are lucky enough to be on the project during a release date, you will assist in releasing hundreds of young turtles into the ocean.

Island conservation project

We conduct year-round biodiversity research on nearby islands such as Kho Kho Kao. We conduct surveys and run camera trapping research on the islands to build  a picture of the biodiversity there. Travelling to these islands is an amazing experience. You will learn to set up and position the camera traps, interpret photographs, and enter them into the database. The islands are remote so there is no Wi-Fi, dry toilets are used, and we sleep in hammocks. The aim of this research is to provide motivation for the islands to gain formal government protection. We have already confirmed the presence of some critically endangered species on the islands, which proves they are of great conservation value. Through our continued and expanding research, we hope that we can further educate local authorities about the ecology of the islands and their importance of conserving these ecosystems. 

*Please note that we only travel to the islands once a month, so participants who only visit for two weeks might not get the opportunity to conduct island surveys.

Bird conservation project

Another element to our conservation work involves carrying out bird surveys twice a week – which usually start at around 06:00. The surveys are conducted in and around the local area throughout the year. Commonly identified species include the Pacific swallow,  Asian palm swift and the red-wattled lapwing. Birds are an important part of healthy ecosystems and as such, building species lists and monitoring populations and patterns of migration is a valuable way to build a picture of how well nature is doing in an area. Participants are provided with training on how to identify birds in the field. Currently our data is submitted to a citizen science project called eBird. We are also in the process of developing this project to create our own research plan.

Plastic pollution cleanups

Plastic pollution and litter is a huge issue in Thailand, particularly on the coast. Throughout the year we carry out beach, mangrove, lake, and village cleanups in our local area in Phang Nga. Litter is one of the greatest environmental challenges conservationists are facing today. Through regular cleanups we hope to make a difference by not only removing litter, but also by engaging with and participating alongside the local community members –raising awareness of the effects of waste on the environment and the need for effective waste management. In addition to working with members of the local community, we have joined forces with a partner called Trash Hero to maximise the impact of our cleanups. Trash Hero is a volunteer-led movement that drives change within communities around the world, motivating and supporting them to clean and prevent plastic waste. We often use the waste that we collect to create ecobricks.

Coral research

During the dry season (November to April) we carry out a weekly snorkelling survey on nearby coral reefs, such as the reef off the coast of Kho Kho Kao. We monitor the health of the coral, and also look at the variety and abundance of fish species present. Coral reefs are incredibly important ecosystems which are vital to the health of our oceans, which in turn means that they are vital to humans too. Globally, coral reefs are being affected by overfishing, climate change and irresponsible tourism. We aim to monitor the reefs close to where we are based – looking at how well they are doing and establishing if there are any actions that could be taken to improve or protect them further. Through these surveys, we are also able to assess the recovery of the marine ecosystem in the area following the 2004 tsunami. We work  in partnership with Green Fins Thailand. The data we provide to them is entered into the citizen science databases, iNaturalist and eOceans, which contribute to research and monitoring of the world’s coral reefs. 

*Please note that you will not be doing any scuba-diving while conducting these surveys, only snorkelling.

Mangrove conservation project 

We work with the Department for Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR). We assist with planting and cleanups, and identify and monitor the different species. Mangroves are essential to coastal conservation, and they absorb more CO2 than the Amazon rainforest. We work across six different mangrove sites – planting and then monitoring them to see which species currently grow in which site and which other species start to appear. Research has shown that managing suitability by having the right species in the right areas is crucial for their long-term viability. In addition, we take boats or kayaks out into the mangrove forests to collect trash and clean up the environment – which usually includes sightings of many interesting species of crab.

Beach profiling project

We measure the beach at different points along the coast and create graphs and data sets that can be shared with the DMCR. Using this data they can see what is happening to the beachline over time due to climate change and development. This is critical to understand the shifting animal and plant life along the coast as the beach recedes. We have found that some beaches have lost the forests that used to run alongside them, while others have shown signs of new wildlife springing up.  

Butterfly conservation project

There are a number of different locations (including the mangroves) where we catch and identify the butterfly species that are present. Some of the species we have identified include the grass blue, cerulean and gram blue butterfly. This data is entered into iNaturalist, which is another citizen science app. The newly planted mangroves are famous for attracting many types of beautiful butterflies. Butterflies are an indicator species that can tell us the overall condition of the area and habitat. 

Project objectives

 

GVI Phang Nga Long-term Objectives:

1. Contribute to global species databases that assists with research and monitoring.

2. Increase our in-country capacity building by providing conservation and education training to upskill staff.

3. Assist and develop local conservation efforts by providing practical support to project partners through research, awareness campaigns and habitat restoration.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

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Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

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No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

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No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

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Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

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No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

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Speak to alumni

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

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