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Ethical Elephant Parks Around Thailand

kids elephant park

In recent years, Thailand’s elephant parks have come under scrutiny from animal activists and responsibly-minded travellers alike. Increasingly, tourists are seeking out elephant ‘sanctuaries’, where the welfare of the animals is paramount. While some would argue no animal should be kept in captivity, the following parks are actively involved in rescuing elephants and subsequently providing a high level of care and treatment.

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort

couple walk front of Elephant

For a full-on (and luxurious) elephant camp experience, splurge on a weekend at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in the Golden Triangle area of northern Thailand. Established in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, the onsite elephant camp works alongside the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to perform street rescues, and provide employment and a comfortable lifestyle for over 25 elephants and their mahout families. There are a number of programs for guests such as learning to “drive” an elephant at sunrise with mahout training bathing an elephant in the river, going elephant trekking through native forests and more.


Baanchang Elephant Park

Adopting and rescuing elephants from unsuitable living conditions and illegal logging camps, Baanchang Elephant Park provides a home and a purpose for domesticated elephants. Reached via a 50-minute drive north of Chiang Mai, the park offers visitors a number of programs, with the Elephant Mahout Training program being an especially popular choice. You can spend one to three days as a mahout (there are on-site accommodations), learning all about the Thai Elephant, and their lifestyle and behaviour. This includes feeding, bathing and brushing your elephant, learning their basic commands and riding bareback around the hilly premises.


Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

In 2015, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (located an hour north of Sukhothai) featured in Lonely Planet’s top 10 unforgettable family travel experiences. Along with this notable endorsement, the sanctuary’s British founder has been recognised for her conservation work by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. So all told, this sanctuary comes with plenty of credibility. Visitors can get involved in a variety of aspects related to elephant care, while the chance to hike with them into the forest to set up camp is an experience that’ll live long in the memory.


Elephants World, Kanchanaburi

Elephant world Kanchanaburi

Located 32 km outside of Kanchanaburi, ElephantsWorld was established by a Thai vet to provide a sanctuary for disabled, injured, old, ill and former working elephants. Visitors are here strictly to work for the elephants, with duties including sourcing and preparing food, giving the elephants a good scrub in the River Kwai, and satisfying their sizeable appetites with lots of sticky rice and fruit. As part of the ‘Overnight’ program, visitors get to stay in a traditional Thai-style cottage beside the river with the chance to walk the elephants to and from the forest during the wet season.


Elephant Nature Park

Elephants

A rescue and rehabilitation center in northern Thailand, Elephant Nature Park has been one of the leading voices in ending the ill-treatment of captive elephants; the emphasis is very much on caring for the animals rather than exploiting them. Visitors can wash, feed and interact with the elephants, but there are strictly no rides. Elephants are also left to freely roam around the park and form their own social groups as they would do in the natural environment. As well as single day trips, it’s possible to volunteer for a seven-day experience to get more hands-on in the animal’s day-to-day care.


Elephant Retirement Park

Former working elephants are given a new home at Elephant Retirement Park, a small elephant sanctuary around an hour’s drive outside of Chiang Mai. Just like Elephant Nature Park, there’s no riding the elephants and ‘taming’ instruments like rods and bull hooks are never used. As such, visitors are here to care for the park’s rescued residents. Duties include feeding, brushing, bathing and even making up herbal medicine. The current range of programs is limited, but there are a number of multi-day volunteer programs being planned. In the meantime, we recommend the private ‘Special Program’, which comes with the opportunity to care for the oh-so-cute new born calf.


Hidden Forest Elephant Reserve

elephant in jungle

Welcome to Hidden Forest Elephant Reserve. We are a genuine ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket co-founded by elephant specialists Kong and Louise Rogerson, opened in Nov 2023. Visit our stunning forest hidden away in the South of Phuket and meet our four gorgeous rescued elephants who previously worked in the logging and riding industries.
​Our sanctuary is peaceful and we keep our visitor groups small. You will have an incredible experience feeding, walking with, learning about and observing our elephants in their natural habitat and as they play in the ponds and graze in our forest. We look forward to welcoming you into the magical world we have created for these beautiful endangered animals that we are dedicated to protecting.


Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Pioneering ethical elephant tourism in Phuket, the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary provides a home for sick, injured, tired, or old elephants who have previously worked for tourism entertainment or in the logging industry. Here, amidst the forest bordering the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, visitors can spend a morning feeding, walking with, and observing the gentle giants as they roam freely, socialise with other elephants, and bathe in the freshwater lagoons. Week-long volunteer opportunities are also available.


Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Located in both Chiang Mai and Phuket, Elephant Jungle Sanctuaries offer a hands-on all round visit in the most serene jungle settings. Having opened in 2014 and 2016, respectively, each venue creates a glorious experience for all ages. Suitable for children, the activities on offer convey how to understand the needs and requirements of the elephants; close adult and parental supervision is required at all times.

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