When traveling in and around Bangkok, Thailand, it is recommended that you check out the elephant sanctuaries. Not all sanctuaries are created equal though, so this article will go over some of the differences and where it is best to go.
What elephant sanctuaries are near Bangkok? In order to find a sanctuary near Bangkok that is reputable, look for sanctuaries where the elephants roam free and have room to live. Check out reviews on the sanctuaries where they offer rides on the elephants, some locations will mistreat elephants. Only support reputable sanctuaries.
While you do want to do some research before you head out to a sanctuary, there are still places that are good to the elephants and allow you to see these amazing animals up front.
What is a true elephant sanctuary?
Over the more recent years, Asian elephants have become an endangered species because of elephant poaching and abuse (due to the value of the ivory tusks), as well as due to changes in the living habitat or countryside such as increased farming, deforestation, and tourism. Elephant sanctuaries have been established primarily to assist the elephants with their survival and provide a place for them to live and thrive unharmed.
Often times the sanctuaries are involved with actually rescuing an elephant from less than desirable living conditions. However, some will simultaneously offer a tourist attraction to animal lovers all over the world. Not all sanctuaries are kind to their animals and treat them humanely, so it’s important to check out each location before visiting them.
If you have your heart set on riding an elephant, be sure to look for those that offer the ride bareback and for only a short amount of time. Elephants that are forced to give rides with an additional saddle, along with the weight of a human body, will have extra strain put on the elephant and can cause long term harm to their body. Elephants are designed to carry the weight below their back, not on top of their spine.
Some elephant locations will also make elephants give multiple rides throughout the day, which is what causes the long term harm to the elephant’s bodies. In addition, those type of locations that offer rides on the elephants have to train the elephants to interact with humans, so that can lead to abuse and mistreating the elephants in some occasions in order to get them to behave a certain way. This is why it is strongly recommended to investigate the places you are considering visiting to ensure they are treating the elephants well.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has nine locations throughout Thailand trying to set an example as an ethical and sustainable company that is all about the elephant’s and their health and safety. They have rescued over thirty elephants that were previously being mistreated in other tourist type attractions. They are on a mission to teach the people of Thailand and the rest of the world about treating elephants with kindness and respect.
The closest location to Bangkok is in Pattaya, just short of two hours from Bangkok. At the Pattaya sanctuary, visitors can enjoy a morning package or afternoon package where they can spend time with the elephants. During the visit, you can learn about elephant behaviors and the history of each of their elephants on location. You will also get to feed the elephants by hand and assist with bathing them. Packages include pick up and drop off from nearby Pattaya hotels and a Thai buffet meal.
An interesting service at this sanctuary is to provide visitors with Karen clothes to wear during the tour because visitors can get dirty around the elephants. You are allowed to take pictures with the elephants during your tour or access photos that are taken by their onsite photographer through their Facebook page.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary also has shorter programs for visitors who can’t spend half the day with the elephants. During both of these options, you get to learn about how they make paper from elephant poop and either walk with the elephants or just observe them in their natural habitat from a viewing point.
One elephant sanctuary that is often recommended is Elephants World. This sanctuary is located near Kanchanaburi, which is approximately a two-hour drive from Bangkok. It is one of the closest sanctuaries to Bangkok that has a reputation for treating their elephants in a humane way. Elephants World is a self-sustaining Environmental Conservation Organization that shows they really care for domestic elephants. One nice service to the tourist that Elephants World offers is that they will provide transportation to and from your hotel if you are staying in Kanchanaburi.
Elephants World offers a day-long activity called the Day Program to learn about and spend time with the elephants. You get to start out the day by feeding the elephants, which is a unique experience in and of itself. You’ll then get the opportunity to assist and learn about preparing some of the foods that the elephants get to eat each day. In the afternoon you’ll help with gathering more food and feed the elephants a second time, including rice balls to the older elephants. Finally, you will get to help bath them in the river and feed them some fruits and vegetables at the end of the day, for a total of three feeding opportunities.
If one day with the elephants isn’t enough, Elephants World offers an overnight program. This program includes the Day Program, plus you will get to walk the elephants out to a certain area where they will sleep for the night. You get to stay in your own cottage and then walk the elephants back to their day time area the next morning. For many visitors, this is truly an amazing and memorable experience.
Elephant Haven, also known as Elephant Park, has transformed itself into a reputable elephant sanctuary. Elephant Haven is located just outside of Kanchanaburi, just two hours from Bangkok. They have revamped their whole program. They no longer offer elephant rides and have a day program as well in order for visitors to spend some time with these elephants who roam free. Visitors will get the opportunity to feed the elephants, walk on their daily walk next to them, and assist with bathing. Elephant Haven offers one day, overnight, and weeklong adventures.
Elephant Haven has 7 elephants that have been given freedom, thanks to their efforts to provide humane living conditions for them. The transformation of Elephant Haven was documented in a film called “Love and Bananas; an Elephant Story.” The film shows insight into the changes that have been made and would be good info to review before visiting the sanctuary yourself.
Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
About two and a half hours from Bangkok is the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, near the towns of Hua Hin and Cha-Am. They help with many different animals in Thailand, but especially elephants. They offer a few different programs, from a day trip to a much longer week-long opportunity. Visitors to this sanctuary will get to learn a lot about wild animals that are rescued from human captivity and why having animal sanctuary programs are important.
Their programs include walking with the elephants, feeding them, and assisting with their bathing or showering as well. You get to learn about each elephant’s unique rescue story which brought them to be saved by the foundation. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand also offers transportation to and from Bangkok to visit their sanctuary. Their full day program also includes lunch.
Sanctuaries further from Bangkok
There are other elephant sanctuaries throughout Thailand that are worth visiting if you are willing to travel further from Bangkok. There are several that operate close to Chiang Mai that is just as rewarding and ethical in their practice with elephants. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is also about 5 to 6 hours from Bangkok but recommended for their homestay program where you actually get to live among the elephants and help take care of them. Whichever sanctuary you find yourself visiting, just be sure and check into their animal treatment practices and support the programs that treat elephants in a humane way.
How much does it cost to ride an elephant in Thailand?
Riding an elephant is a common tourist attraction in Thailand. Costs start at a minimum of 600 baht for a thirty-minute ride, which is equivalent to approximately $19 U.S. Prices go up significantly where some places also offer add-ons for food you can feed them or taking photos while riding, and many offer larger packages that cost more.
Where in Thailand can you ride elephants?
There are many places that offer elephant rides in Thailand. You can find places in Ayutthaya, Pai, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, and other Thailand cities. The more human riding places will let you ride bareback without a saddle and as a single rider.