Elephants are a huge part of Thailand’s tourism and many tourists flock to the country to witness these amazing creatures. Thailand is filled to the brim with elephant parks and sanctuaries that allow travelers to get up-close and personal with the gentle giants The only problem is that it can be difficult to spot which ones are ethical in practice. Not all elephant parks in Thailand operate for the benefit of the animals and thus, it is essential to know which places have their best interest at heart.
To help tourists promote responsible travel, here are places in Thailand that implement sound animal welfare practices and discourage any tourists from riding the elephants. It is recommended that you ask a travel tour guide such as Trunk Travel about these locations as they will be able to arrange for such things as travel and accommodations.
Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is an established conservation project in Thailand and is well-known for providing holistic care and treatment for the elephants. The place is located in the Mae Taeng District of Chiang Mai where it is home to more than 35 free-roaming elephants. Most of these animals came from rescued operations where they were abused in tourism and logging industries. Volunteers can participate in a wide range of elephant projects and spend the day learning about the plight of the animals.
Elephant Hills is a glamping-themed elephant sanctuary located in the breathtaking Khao Sok National Park where it replicates the atmosphere of an African safari. A luxurious accommodation is combined with an ethical elephant home that provides tourists with a unique opportunity of interacting with the animal. The location provides guests with a thrilling jungle experience where they can bathe and feed the elephants with the supervision of trained elephant keepers.
Elephant Hills strictly adheres to a no-riding policy and has won the prestigious Thai Green Excellence Award back in 2015, ensuring their practice is safe and ethical for both the guest and the elephants.
Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital
As the name implies, the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital is an institution that is dedicated to nursing and rehabilitating rescued elephants back to good health. The place provides tourists with in-depth insight on how veterinary physicians treat sick and injured elephants and learn about the special tools required to help the animals return to good health. Visitors however, are not allowed to go near the elephants in an effort to protect the vulnerable creatures while they undergo healing treatment.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has multiple locations scattered throughout the country. Their main branch is located in Chiang Mai and their sub-branches can be found in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, and many more. The people at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary concentrate their efforts on promoting ethical treatment for the Asian elephants and teach tourists about irresponsible tourism practices involving the animals. The sanctuaries serve as a healing ground for elephants who’ve been rescued from abuse.
Visitors can walk alongside the elephants and watch them roam free around a semi-wildlife environment. You can also book an overnight stay in a local Karen village for a truly immersive and cultural experience.
Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) is an esteemed organisation that operates nine animal welfare projects across the country. Their main goal is to promote meaningful interaction with the elephants and raise awareness about elephant conservation. Their elephant refuge centre is located near Hua Hin where tourists can walk with and bathe the animals. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand is also home to other rescued animals like bears and monkeys. You can choose to visit for a day or sign-up for a one-week tour for a more in-depth experience.
The Happy Elephant Home
The Happy Elephant Home is a place where you can have fun out in Chiang Mai while immersing yourself in a cultural experience. You can dress in a traditional attire and feed the elephants with bananas, cool of with them in the steam, and give them a mud bath. There are tons of activities to participate in that provides tourists with a one-of-a-kind opportunity of interacting with the rescued animals.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) is a small sanctuary located in Sukhothai where you can spend meaningful hours interacting with a small herd of gentle giants. Visitors can swim in the nearby river, know the local mahouts, and walk with new friends alongside the elephants. BLES is passionately devoted to creating a safe haven for rescued elephants. The destination is widely popular amongst tourists so if you want to visit the sanctuary, it’s best to reserve early.
As a responsible traveler, it’s important to do your own research and find out which places implement ethical elephant practices. If you’re looking to witness and interact with these amazing creatures, these places will offer you a unique experience while supporting ethical elephant tourism in Thailand.