Looking for a place to see elephants in Thailand but confused about which places are ethical? We’ve compiled a list of the best places to get to know Thailand’s friendly giants. The list only includes places that have sound animal welfare practices and do not let guests ride the elephants.
Elephant Nature Park is one of the most respected and famous elephant conservation projects in the country. Elephant Nature Park is located near the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai and is home to more than 35 free roaming elephants, many of which have been rescued from the logging and tourism industries. A day out at Elephant Nature Park is both informative and fun. Longer volunteer placements are also available.
For a truly unique elephant experience, visit Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Hospital. This hospital is one of the few elephant hospitals in the world and is dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of elephants. Here, you’ll learn how professionals treat sick elephants and see the fantastic equipment they have to help elephants return to good health. Visitors are not permitted to get too close to the elephants, in an effort to protect the vulnerable creatures during their healing process.
Elephant Hills is located in the picturesque Khao Sok National Park. This glamping-come-elephant-sanctuary mimics the atmosphere of an African safari. Luxurious accommodation, matched with an ethical animal home may not appear to be the perfect combination. However, this location offers guests an immerse jungle experience and opportunities to bathe, feed and interact with the elephants. Elephant Hills won the esteemed Thai Green Excellence Award for Animal Welfare in 2015 and adheres to a strict no-riding policy.
The esteemed Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) has nine animal welfare projects across the country. Their elephant refuge centre is located close to Hua Hin and offers visitors the opportunity to learn about Thailand’s elephant conservation issues, while walking with and bathing the elephants. The refuge centre is also home to a host of other rescued animals, including monkeys and bears. Choose to visit for the day or sign up for a one-week immersive experience.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has numerous locations throughout the country. However, its flagship branch is located in Chiang Mai. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary works tirelessly to promote respect for the Asian elephant, ethical treatment of elephants and awareness about issues related to irresponsible tourism practices. The sanctuary is home to over 30 elephants who have been rescued from abuse. The elephants are lovingly cared for at the sanctuary. During your visit, you’ll walk with an elephant and watch them roam freely. For an additional immersive cultural experience, you can overnight in a local Karen village.
If you are looking for a fun day out during your stay in Chiang Mai, then head to The Happy Elephant Home. During this immersive cultural experience, visitors dress in traditional attire so they do not distract the elephants with unfamiliar smells. Visitors can feed bananas to the elephants, give them a mud bath and cool off with them in the stream. Prepare to get soaked, as elephants tend to like to squirt you with water from their trucks.
Phang Nga Elephant Park is a small family-run park, dedicated to elephant conservation and education. Here, guests learn about Asian elephants and watch them roam in their natural environment. Visitors can choose between a half-day and a full-day tour; the full day includes a bonus hands-on Thai cooking class.
Phang Nga Elephant Park, 49/1 Moo 3, Thung Kha Ngok, Phang-nga, Thailand, +66 85 351 5536
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai is a small sanctuary for rescued elephants. Boon Lott’s sanctuary is the ideal place to spend a few days getting to know the small herd of gentle giants. Walk alongside your new friends, take them for a swim in the river and get to know the local mahouts. This destination is very popular, so early reservation is recommended.