When traveling to Thailand, an elephant sanctuary visit should be at the top of your itinerary. These havens play a crucial role in promoting ethical wildlife tourism and conservation, offering a lifeline for elephants rescued from the logging and tourism industries. A trip to these sanctuaries can be a heartwarming and educational experience, promoting sustainable tourism while contributing to a worthy cause.
A Brief History of Elephant Sanctuaries
Thailand has a long, intricate history intertwined with the Asian elephant or ‘chang,’ a revered national symbol. Sadly, with the decline of the logging industry and an increase in tourism, elephants have been exploited for profit. Recognizing the urgent need for protection and conservation, numerous sanctuaries sprang up, providing refuge and care for these majestic creatures.
Elephant sanctuaries aim to provide a natural environment for rescued elephants where they can socialize, forage, and bathe without fear. These establishments also educate tourists about the realities of elephant exploitation, promoting a model of tourism that respects and protects the animals.
Why Visit an Elephant Sanctuary?
Visiting an elephant sanctuary allows tourists to observe these gentle giants in their natural environment. You can engage in ethical activities like feeding and bathing the elephants. The visit also aids the conservation efforts of the sanctuaries, as the majority of their revenue comes from tourism.
Below are the best elephant sanctuary tours available in Chiang Mai, most of them are inclusive of other activities just to enrich the experience. Click on any of the below to make a booking.
Let’s now delve into six of the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai.
1. Elephant Nature Park
Address: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Getting there: The sanctuary offers a pickup service from your hotel or guesthouse in Chiang Mai.
Elephant Nature Park is one of the most renowned elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, offering both day visits and overnight stays. Besides elephants, it also provides shelter to dogs, cats, buffalos, and many other animals.
Unique Features: The park has a strict no-riding policy, ensuring that the elephants are not exploited for tourist activities.
- Can I volunteer at Elephant Nature Park? Yes, the park offers various volunteer programs ranging from a single day to a week.
- Is pre-booking required? Yes, it is advisable to book your visit in advance due to the park’s popularity.
2. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES)
Address: Baan Na Ton Jan, Tambon Baan Tuek, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai, Thailand
Getting there: You can take a flight from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai followed by a 1.5-hour taxi ride to the sanctuary.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is named after a baby elephant that inspired the sanctuary’s creation. BLES allows a limited number of visitors, providing a more intimate experience.
Unique Features: BLES focuses on creating naturalistic elephant herds and has substantial land for the elephants to roam freely.
- Can I stay overnight at BLES? Yes, there are guesthouses available for visitors.
- What’s included in the visit fee? The fee includes all meals, accommodation, and full access to observe the elephants.
3. Patara Elephant Farm
Address: T. Maeram A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Getting there: The farm offers a pickup service from your hotel in Chiang Mai.
Patara Elephant Farm emphasizes health recovery and breeding management for elephants. Their ‘Elephant Owner for a Day’ is a special program allowing you to learn and participate in taking care of these majestic creatures.
Unique Features: Patara prioritizes sustainable and responsible tourism. They engage visitors in activities that promote elephant conservation.
- Can children participate in the programs? Yes, the programs are suitable for all ages.
- Are there specific clothing requirements? Yes, comfortable clothes and bathing suits are recommended for the activities.
4. Karen Elephant Serenity
Address: 50/1 Rajdamnern Rd., Soi 6, T. Prasing, Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Getting there: The sanctuary provides transport services from your accommodation in Chiang Mai.
Karen Elephant Serenity is a small elephant sanctuary that offers half-day and full-day tours. Visitors can feed and bathe the elephants while learning about their behavior and lifestyle.
Unique Features: The elephants are cared for by the Karen tribe, allowing visitors a glimpse into their traditional way of life.
- Do they allow elephant riding? No, Karen Elephant Serenity follows a strict no riding policy.
- What languages are the tours available in? The tours are conducted in both English and Thai.
5. Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp
Address: Kyaikhami Pagoda Rd, Mawlamyine, Myanmar
Getting there: You can fly from Chiang Mai to Yangon and then take a local transport to Green Hill Valley.
Green Hill Valley focuses on elephant conservation along with reforestation of the surrounding environment.
Unique Features: Visitors can participate in tree planting activities, thereby contributing to the local ecosystem’s preservation.
- What is the maximum group size for visits? Green Hill Valley limits group sizes to six visitors for a more personal experience.
- What should I bring to the camp? Sunscreen, hats, insect repellent, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
6. Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Sanctuary
Address: 149/1 Ban Kad, Mae Wang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Getting there: The sanctuary provides transportation services from your hotel in Chiang Mai.
Chai Lai Orchid provides safe haven for elephants while also working against human trafficking by empowering at-risk women. Visitors can participate in various activities like feeding and river bathing with elephants.
Unique Features: The sanctuary offers unique trekking experiences with the elephants through the beautiful mountain landscapes.
- Is it possible to stay overnight? Yes, Chai Lai Orchid offers beautiful eco-lodges for visitors to stay.
- Are meals included in the visit? Yes, all packages include a traditional Thai lunch.
A visit to an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai allows you to come face-to-face with the enigmatic Asian elephants, contributing directly to their welfare. It’s a must-visit for every Thailand tourist, and a memorable way to ensure that your travel supports ethical and sustainable tourism practices.
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