Choosing the right elephant sanctuary in Thailand

Well hello to you my reader chums! Thailand is a beautiful country, and whilst travelling, one of the most touristy things to do is meeting the elephants. Elephants are my favourite animals ever and meeting them in Chiang Mai was one of the best days of my life. Before I went to Thailand, I did a lot of research into the most ethical place to meet the elephants and came across the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

Choosing the right elephant sanctuary in Thailand

There, I found out that 70-80% of companies promoting elephant tourism are cruel to the elephants in some way, whether that's by riding them, chaining them up or beating them. It's honestly incredibly sad and broke my heart hearing about it, and seeing it happen as I was travelling through the country.

Historically, Asian elephants were used for logging, carrying heavy loads with their tusks and mouths. After the ban of elephant logging in 1989, the elephant minders were without an income - and that's where elephant tourism really came into play. As most tourists in Thailand are from the UK or colder climate countries, they wouldn't have seen an elephant in the wild, and minders played on that with elephant experiences.

If like me you'd like to meet the elephants in Thailand, there are a few things to consider when you book your experience.

How do I know which sanctuary is ethical?

This is the hardest thing to know for any traveller as Thailand is packed with elephant sanctuaries, some legitimate and also some that just claim they're a 'sanctuary'. You need to dig a little deeper before you book. See what they offer and how they explain it. For example, any company that offers elephant riding is not ethical in the slightest even if they claim the elephants love being ridden. Riding an elephant can really damage their spines as their backs aren't designed for heavy loads. Elephants do not enjoy it and more often than not, the elephants can be abused or chained when they're not being ridden.

When you're researching and choosing where to book, you should look out for phrases like 'no riding', 'elephants are free to roam', 'no chains' and 'no sticks.'. Basically, you want to check how they look after the elephants and if the tour promotes ethical elephant care. Reviews are another thing to consider, as people will share their experience of how the elephants are treated and what the sanctuaries are like.

Should I book prior to my trip?

Yes and no. I booked my experience prior to our trip and I'm glad I did as it allowed us to do that research prior and find an ethical place to meet the elephants. However, tourist offices are everywhere in Thailand so you can book it when you're away but it means you'll have to rely on leaflets and researching there for the most ethical places.

Recommendations on where to go

I went to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai and had the most beautiful experience. We were allowed to get up close and personal with the animals, feed them, stroke them and hug them. The sanctuary taught us all about the care of the elephants, how to make their food, bathe them and have a mud bath with the elephants. It was surreal and you could tell the elephants were loved there. We booked the full day tour for around £60 and it was honestly worth every penny, especially knowing our money was going towards their care.

Other ethical sanctuaries in Thailand:
Elephant Nature Park
The Surin Project
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary
Elephant Haven

Elephants are beautiful creatures and really deserve to be taken care of. If you'd love to meet them, I really would suggest doing a lot of research before your trip and not endorsing any of the companies who are cruel to the elephants because believe me, you'll come across hundreds as you're travelling through Thailand. Be mindful, read reviews, and ultimately, enjoy your elephant sanctuary experience.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Are you planning a trip to Thailand soon?

Thank you for reading <3

1 comment

  1. Hi, I’m not sure if you bathed with them, but that is also a sign of an unethical sanctuary if they let you get into the water with them. Elephants love being in the water by themselves or with their favoured elephants and it can stress them out deeply when people are in the water with them. I really don’t want to make you or anyone else feel bad as if you don’t know then you don’t know … I was in the same boat once and I wish someone had told me rather than finding out for myself years later. Otherwise good post :)


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