When choosing a project in Thailand, the GVI elephant project stood out to me due to its strong animal welfare objectives. Unlike other elephant projects in Thailand, the GVI elephants are allowed to roam the mountains, and not be kept in enclosure with tourists riding them. The money that the families that owned the elephants got from GVI was enough to keep the elephants out of tourist and logging camps, letting them forage and interact as they please. So you know your money is helping keep the elephants in the wild, as well as keep the local families out of poverty. This meant that our main activity was trekking through the mountains with the mahouts to find where the elephants had got too overnight. This was very physical but great fun, especially as we were collecting other biodiversity data as we were hiking, seeing animals such as snakes, toads, and some fantastic looking invertebrates along the way (apart from the leeches!). When we were out on these treks the mahouts showed us some great bush crafts such as make cups and long bowls from bamboo, and cooking in the middle of the jungle, and even had the opportunity to do night hikes if you are brave enough. When we had free time we could do bird watching from the base camp that looked over the valleys, cooking workshops that were organised by the Thai government or learning about the local religion and witnessing some of the ceremonies if you are lucky enough to be there when they happened. This project has several great community aspects to it, especially as the locals don’t speak any English so you had some very interesting conversations trying to make sense of each other, but is a great feeling when you succeed. These projects include staying with a local family and help them cook dinner with them once a fortnight, the villagers coming to base and selling their home made good such as jewellery and clothing once a fortnight, basket making, and learning the local language and helping look after nursery children if you were too tired to hike. What I loved about this project was the GVI base, where we all came together when not at our family’s house to relax and enjoy the view. My favourite time at base was when all the families would bring down dinner to base hut once a fortnight, and the volunteers would sit in a massive circle and have a buffet style dinner. This is a fantastic project as you have to immerse yourself in the culture due to living in the home of a local, as well as spending the whole day with the mahouts from the village. Even though it was a very physical program the staff made it a fantastic project with lots of other activities to take part in on your time off, or if you weren’t up for a long hike. They also held frequent talks on elephant ecology and welfare and local biodiversity. On the weekends we had free time where they would also help provide transport for trips such as seeing local areas of bordering areas such as Loas. This project had something for everyone and something I will never forget!