Ethical elephant experiences in Thailand
If you’re visiting Thailand, seeing elephants is likely at the top of your to-do list when you’re there. Asian elephants are beautiful and breathtaking, but you should definitely do your research before seeing elephants in Thailand, since there is still rampant animal abuse all over the country. So, if you’re looking for some great ethical elephant experiences, look no further! Five travel bloggers have come together to share some of the best ethical elephant experiences you can have in Thailand, so you can make sure that your tourist dollar is supporting a good cause!
In this guide to ethical elephant experiences in Thailand, you’ll find a list of the best places to see, as told by the travel bloggers who have visited them.
Ready to get inspired by some incredible elephant experiences? Let’s dive in!
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket
From Talia from Takeoffwithtal.com
Elephant Valley Thailand
From Chantell from Adoration for Adventure
Elephant Valley Thailand (EVT) is the new sister of Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia, are leading the way in ethical elephant experiences in Chiang Rai. EVT is dedicated to letting the elephants be elephants. This means seeing these wonderous creatures in as close of a natural state as possible.
There are six elephants on 40 acres of land, which EVT hopes to extend soon. After working in the logging or tourism industry, these gentle animals now have the freedom to wander freely without chains or the demands of tourists. That means no riding and no performances.
EVT provides a feeding experience twice daily, where the elephants have the option to choose whether they want to accept the offerings and can walk away at any time. We fed the elephants bananas and banana leaves, from behind a wooden fence to give them a safe space.
Visitors to EVT can choose from the half day, full day, or overnight experience. All include pick up and drop off, as well as a traditional Thai lunch. My boyfriend and I went for the full day and had an amazing time watching the elephants in the most natural state we have ever seen. We saw them grazing peacefully, playing together, bathing in the lake, trumpeting and running – something that you would never see in a zoo.
Elephant Valley Thailand: +66 (0) 954521974
What to know before you visit Thailand
Khao Yai National Park
From Kate from whatkateandchrisdid.com
Most of the ethical elephant encounters you read about in Thailand involve one of the many elephant sanctuaries where you can interact with the elephants. We’ve done that, but the most ethical elephant encounter we have had was seeing them in the wild in Khao Yai national park. Khao Yai is only a couple of hours east of Bangkok and there are wild elephants living there.
There are many tours of the national park you can take, or you can explore it yourself if you have your own transport. We did an organised where we spent the night camping in one of the national park campsites. A bull elephant camp to ‘visit’ in the evening, wandering around the campsite and stamping on some (empty, luckily) tents, and then the following day we saw a group of elephants wandering around one beside of the roads, including a young one and a baby! It was fantastic to watch them fully wild, even if the bull elephant in the campsite was a little on the scary side!
You can read more about our experience seeing wild elephants in Khao Yai national park in our blog post.
Khao Yai National Park: Hin Tung, Mueang Nakhon Nayok District, Nakhon Nayok 26000, Thailand
Hug Elephant Sanctuary
From Kate from Our Escape Clause
When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we had only two goals: 1) play with elephants, and 2) do it ethically–that meant no riding and no hooks.
It was easier said than done, especially since our lack of planning ahead meant that popular options like the Elephant Nature Park were sold out. Several companies claimed to be “no riding”, but what they really meant was that they offered both packages that included riding and that didn’t include riding–not exactly what we were looking for when trying to avoid abusive companies.
Eventually, we were lucky enough to find Hug Elephant Sanctuary: set about an hour outside of Chiang Mai, this small sanctuary offered us an excellent full-day experience with four elephants (which, considering there were only two of us there, was a fabulous ratio!).
The day also included a delicious lunch for us, and it was incredibly peaceful snacking while the elephants played in the distance.
The day included all the wonderful features of enjoying elephants in sanctuaries–feeding them, bathing them, watching them play in the river–without one hook or rider in sight.
Hug Elephant Sanctuary: 3/3 Sirorot Rd. Suthep Muang Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is probably one of the best known ethical elephant experiences in all of Thailand. Located an hour’s drive outside of Chiang Mai, it is home to dozens of elephants who have been rescued from abusive circumstances or who have been injured – usually both.
Lek, the founder of Elephant Nature Park has become world renowned for her compassion for elephants and her contribution to their wellbeing in Thailand. During a day at Elephant Nature Park you’ll get a chance to feed the elephants their morning snack, and walk around to get to know the herd. You might see some difficult things on your visit – some have had terrible injuries that they are still recovering from, and the stories can be pretty gruesome. All the elephants here though are leading much better and happier lives after being rescued and it is really touching to see them playing with each other, splashing in the mud, or spending time in their herd.
Elephant Nature Park shows tourists the right way to see elephants, and helps to raise this awareness on their daily tours. If you want to contribute more, you can even volunteer at Elephant Nature Park for a few nights or even a week at a time.
Elephant Nature Park: 209/2 Sridom Chai Road, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Other great places to visit in Thailand:
- Beautiful beaches and limestone cliffs in Ao Nang
- Visiting the beautiful island of Koh Samui
- What to know before visiting Thailand
Did this post help you plan your visit to Thailand or to see elephants ethically? Leave a comment below and tell about your experience!
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.