Here’s Where To Find The Best Elephant Sanctuaries In Thailand
Don’t ride elephants. We know it looks sweeping and dramatic, but the places that offer elephant riding are usually ones who treat them badly. Instead, visit an elephant sanctuary, where you can interact with the gentle giants on a kind and ethical level. Here are some of your best options near four main areas where travelers might find themselves wishing to meet an elephant.
Elephant Nature Park
Just about 40 miles from Chiang Mai, you’ll find Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary that rescues elephants harmed by the tourism industry. Since the 1990s, they’ve rescued more than 200 of them. Now, there are about 70 elephants who live on the property, and guests can trek alongside the animals or give them baths.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
With one of its outposts similarly located outside Chiang Mai, the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is another great option in the north of Thailand. You can do full-day tours, half-day excursions or even an overnight stay to get as much elephant time in as possible.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary
There are 600 acres of forests for Boon Lott’s elephants to explore. Right now, there are 14 rescued animals on the property that have come from terrible backgrounds — some abused, some starved. But you can help make their lives better with a visit here.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
A home for retired elephants (after a long life likely carrying tourists around on their backs), Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is right near Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. That means the elephants who have been trapped in workhorse-style lives get to go back to their natural habitat, and you get to visit them as they embrace it.
A more luxurious elephant experience can be found at Elephant Hills. It’s African safari-style, with big glamping-type tents for visitors to stay in before and after you go play with, bathe and feed the park’s elephants — who never, ever get chained or even see one. The park is entirely chain-free.
If you want a more immersive experience…
The Happy Elephant Home
At The Happy Elephant Home, you’re required to make the place your home away from home. The shortest amount of time you’re allowed to come visit these elephants is five days, and you’re required to put in some work to care for them during your stay. So this is the kind of elephant experience a true animal lover will appreciate.
The Surin Project
You can volunteer with The Surin Project for a minimum of a week, helping elephants and locals by planting grass, sugarcane and bamboo and building shelters for the elephants as well.
Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
It’s not just elephants at this sanctuary and activist center. You can also find monkeys and birds, as well as a lot of people working toward long-lasting nature conservancy in Thailand.