Elephants (known as chang in Thai) are an important part of Thailand’s history. They are noted as the country’s national animal, and the Land of Smiles has a blossoming number of wildlife sanctuaries where you can observe the gentle giants in action while learning about their history and welfare.
If you are interested in a personal experience with these amazing giant creatures, consider visiting the following:
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is the only elephant camp in Thailand that actively works to help Thailand’s wild elephants. They do this through their onsite Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation: the Foundation is not only active in three Thai and one Tanzanian national parks, but they protect their own elephant corridor in Cambodia which spans over 7,200 acres. In addition to helping these gentle giants, GTAEF supports cutting edge research into elephants’ needs through various universities and partners such as Think Elephants International. Furthermore, for the last five years, they have been teaching “Positive Reinforcement” training techniques through free workshops to mahouts all across South East Asia. The Foundation also works in the traditional mahout villages in Surin province, providing full time veterinary care to the 300 elephants that reside there through their onsite Vet and Research team, as well as full time English teacher coverage in the local schools and conservation education to the mahouts’ children. All of this work and expertise enhances the Resort’s activities, which include Walking With Giants and the Elephant Learning Experience, both of which are designed to ensure your time spent with elephants is in the company of genuine veterinary or scientific experts. What’s more, the hotel itself adds more magic: if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the elephants from the hotel pool or from your balcony in the early morning.
Located in Chiang Mai, Patara Elephant Farm offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience: to become an elephant owner for a day! In this program, you are taught how to properly care for an elephant of your own, from learning how to approach them to bathing and brushing them in the river. Patara also offers an Elephant Day Care that focuses on attending to pregnant and younger elephants.
Baan Chang Elephant Park is a family-run camp located in the middle of a forest, providing a sense of home for the elephants. They offer three programs, one of which allows you to meet baby elephants in their nursery zone. Another schedule offers up a cooking class, as you help to make and feed a healthy lunch for the elephants in your tour.
The internationally-awarded Elephant Hills are Thailand’s first luxury tented camps. Make your way out to Khao Sok for a multi-day adventure that includes canoeing through mangrove swamps, unforgettable chain-free elephant interaction, and plush en-suite tents.
Also located in the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, the Four Seasons Tented Camp has created an immersive experience that begins at dawn, with a hike to watch the warm sunrise against the mountains of nearby Laos. After waking up with the elephants, a whole day of learning follows, including a well-deserved snack time feeding your towering new friends.
Elephant Nature Park is located in Northern Thailand and dually serves as a camp and a rehabilitation center. You can visit (or even volunteer if you’re a certified veterinarian) with the program to watch and learn about the elephants under their care. As a foster service, they also host cats, dogs, buffaloes, and many other rescues from around the country.
Created by a veterinarian named Dr. Samart and his wife Khun Fon, Elephant World in Kanchantaburi is completely self-supporting. They offer a mahout volunteer program where visitors can spend up to four weeks at the conservation, learning and intimately working with one elephant throughout the entirety of their stay.
Thai Elephant Care Center in Mae Rim focuses on elderly elephants, who are given to the center after their owners or mahouts could no longer care for them. Programs go up to three days, with days full of getting to know the elephants, while planting vegetables and herbs for them to eat and receiving cooking classes centered around traditional Thai dishes.