2020 THAILAND Service Trip




Koh Tao


Koh Tao, a small island off the coast of southern Thailand, has been an epicenter for divers and ocean enthusiasts for many years. As its popularity continues to grow, thanks to the foresight of both international and local leaders on the island, a number of protocols to protect the environment and implement sustainable tourism and fishing practices are helping to preserve this bit of paradise. 


Water Work 


Students participate with those at the forefront of the efforts to keep Koh Tao beautiful and study ways to help protect coral and marine life around the world. Trip members will be involved in daily educational and conservation activities both in the ocean and on land. In the ocean we examine and collect data on biodiversity of both coral and fish species. Techniques to diagnose the health of individual and coral communities will be studied and practiced along with health surveys of various species ranging from larger fish schools, to seahorses, and black tip reef sharks.


Land Projects


The need for a larger workforce has corresponded with the increase in international visitors to Koh Tao. Much of this need is being filled by poor Burmese migrants. A number of years ago an international non-profit grade school was established to serve local Thai children and these Burmese migrant families. Trip members will have the opportunity to spend time with the children of this school tutoring English and playing games as part of the students in-school curriculum.


Also while not in the water, students will spend a day learning about the challenges of dealing with garbage and human waste resulting from increases in tourism. In visiting a number of sites around the island an analysis of ineffective methods and more sustainable practices related to tourism will be explored. We hope that students will take what they learn into consideration when choosing any trip or vacation in the future.




While on Koh Tao students stay in Chalok Baan Kao Bay a mellow hub for international dive enthusiasts. Two meals a day are provided and students are encouraged to explore the many small scale local and international restaurants in the area. Plenty of time will be available in the evenings to explore the rest of the island and to take in local Thai culture.


Conservation Diver Certification

Included on this trip are two certifications offered by the international organization Conservation Diver. The first of these is the Sea Turtle Ecology and Head-Starting Program. This course consists of learning about various sea turtle species, threats to their existence, and preservation methodology, along with measuring, cleaning, and feeding rescued hatchlings. This course concludes with with snorkeling/scuba diving to identify and contribute data for ongoing research of local turtle populations.


The second Conservation Diver certification is the Shark Ecology and Population Study where students will learn about shark species, their necessity in the oceans, and threats to their survival. This course concludes with snorkeling with a local black-tip reef sharp population to help collect data for ongoing research.


Other activities on Koh Tao include a one-day "freediving" course where students learn breathing, deep relaxation, and equalization techniques to improve their ability to dive deeper and longer on a single breath. For those interested, classes in Muay Thai and traditional Thai cooking are available along with island transports to explore other dive spots and features of fabulous Koh Tao.


Leadership Training Program


Before heading to Koh Tao, the adventure begins on the island of Koh Samui where students can de-jetlag and enjoy a two-day leadership training workshop led by a master educator from Cornell University. Clint Sidle, the Director of the Park Leadership Fellows Program at Cornell, and author of the much acclaimed book The Leadership Wheel, has agreed to lead a two day leadership workshop for all members of Padma's Thailand service trips. His program focuses on identifying individual strengths and techniques to nurture one's own qualities to foster the ability to catalyze results and solutions that benefit not only oneself but those around you as well. Clint has taught all around the world from teenagers to ivy league MBA students and CEO's. We're very lucky to have him join us.


Koh Pangan


From Samui we head to Koh Tao for the bulk of the trip then onward to Koh Pangan. Best known for its wild "full moon parties" we will stay far away from the masses on the peaceful northwest corner of the island. While on Pangan students will learn about and participate in mangrove restoration, then study the national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai, with a two time world champion Thai boxer. Our stay on Pangan ends with spending a day in a Buddhist monastery learning to meditate and exploring the island. After a short ferry ride back to Koh Samui Padma staff will drop you at the airport, where you'll head home happy, a bit tired, a bit sun-burned, and hopefully a bit wiser.

Trip itinerary


Day 1: Arrive on Koh Samui and meet Padma staff at the airport to head to your beachfront bungalow.


Day 1-2: Relax by the beach and explore the island while adjusting to the time change. Clint Sidle will lead a multiple session workshop covering a number of principles, training techniques, and thinking patters that support productive and healthy leadership and teamwork. Ideas that will prove invaluable throughout your journey with us.


Day 2: Catch the last ferry to Koh Tao for a sunset cruise across the Gulf of Thailand. Spend our first night on Chalok Baan Kao beach.


Day 2-10: Days will begin with optional yoga classes and then after breakfast and orientation talk or lecture about the days focus. Our conservation activities will focus on sea turtles, sharks, coral, and sustainable tourism practices. Each activity has an educational component to maximize understanding of the purpose and efficacy of everything we do. In addition to conservation work, one day will be devoted to learning to freedive and one day-off to explore the island.


Day 10: Catch a ferry one island over to Koh Pangan.


Day 10-13: Stay above Sunset Beach where the evenings are sure to impress. CoreSea will host a program on the importance of mangroves to island biodiversity followed by leading a re-planting session at a nearby devastated mangrove shoreline. For those willing, you can spend a day learning the basic techniques of Muay Thai from a former world champion, spend a day at a Thai Buddhist temple learning to meditate, and studying traditional Thai cuisine.


Day 14: Head back to Koh Samui via a short ferry ride, where Padma staff will see you off at the airport.

Trip Tuition: $3000

We take great care to provide the opportunity for a safe, meaningful, and life-changing experience while keeping costs as low as possible. Trip costs cover necessary expenses while in Thailand, including meals, accommodations, transportation, and all project-related expenses. All selected accommodations and home-stays are highly reputable yet modest, to ensure cleanliness and safety, while also considering cost. Padma maintains a minimum international staff, choosing instead to employ local professionals wherever possible. This not only reduces the overall budget for trips but also supports local economies directly while promoting cultural interaction.

International Airfare

In 2019 flights to Koh Samui Thailand from Salt Lake City currently range from $1000-$1400. Students are responsible to purchase their airfare and arrange with volunteer trip chaperones to find flights with other students if they are not comfortable flying alone. Padma staff will meet all students upon arrival.


Padma Sponsor Discount

As a charitable organization we rely heavily on individual donations to achieve our goals. Every service trip participant who becomes a Padma sponsor receives a 10% discount on the cost of their trip.