Elephants are an important part of Thai culture. Thailand itself has more than 70 elephant camps, most located in the north. You’ll soon find that every guesthouse, travel agent, and tuk-tuk driver seems to be peddling a different elephant experience.
Not all elephant camps are equal! With so many elephant camps all around, it can be hard to choose one, but we hope our brief info below can help you out.
You can enjoy elephant rides at Ayutthaya, Pai, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, or anywhere else you go in Thailand. Almost every tourist destination offers you different sorts of elephant tours.
And don’t worry if during your vacation you are not going to cross the whole country from the south to the north. Whether you are in Phuket or in Pattaya, there is the abundance of choice.
However, if you have a chance to travel throughout the country, the best places where you can interact with elephants will be in the north of Thailand: Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Sukhothai or Surin provinces.
Here, you not only can ride an elephant, but become a mahout for a couple of days or spend a week or more as a volunteer. Several organizations based here focus their efforts on helping save Asian elephants. If you are looking for deeper interaction or want to support these gentle Asian giants, these are places to go.
But if your adventure isn’t going so far into the country, and you—like many others—are concerned about choosing an ethical elephant camp, here are three simple tips for you. These tips apply wherever you spend your holidays, whether Krabi, Phuket or Samui.
Ethical Elephant Trekking Rules:
- The biggest red flag is if a camp does an elephant show. Avoid any circus-like shows or places where the elephants are made to play soccer or dance on two legs, as these activities can be pretty bad for the elephants’ physical and mental health.
- Make sure to check into what happens to the elephants after the elephant camp closes for the day. Are they able to interact with one another and keep up on their social skills freely, or are they chained and penned up all night?
- Try to find a camp where you can ride bareback by yourself, which is better for the elephants. It is not always possible, especially in southern Thailand, but keep it in mind. And at least ride the elephant with bare feet. We also should mention that it is always possible to sit alone on elephant’s back, which again is better for elephant’s health. But unfortunately, to do this in most of the camps, you have to pay for yourself and the cost of a second passenger.
We understand that it is difficult to check before you take an elephant tour. But following these simple rules will make your elephant ride less harmful for animals wherever you do it in Thailand. Just use these tips when it is possible, and enjoy your vacation!
From our side, we are proud to say that all elephant camps we (phuketelephanttrails.com) cooperate with in Phuket don’t perform any elephant shows. And the elephants’ “after work” time is as close to their natural environment as possible.