Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai – Ethical Tourism Done Right
After witnessing elephants being forced to perform for rides and shows, Emily became determined to do something about it. This led her to create BEES: an Elephant Equality Sanctuary where elephants can live their natural lives free from human interference.
Low visitor numbers are kept to minimize stress on the animals. Guests typically stay for two or three nights with breakfast, lunch and dinner included as part of their package.
Into the Wild Elephant Sanctuary
Into the Wild is an effective orphan rescue and rehabilitation program with an innovative conservation arm, working to protect species while investing in anti-poaching initiatives. Visitors can visit and spend an hour each day feeding, petting and bathing elephants at this park – and this also supports villager who care for these elephants by teaching better keeping practices which reduce human-elephant conflict in the area.
BLES is an innovative sanctuary that takes elephant welfare very seriously, prioritising resident elephant welfare over visitor experience. There are only a few guest rooms at BLES; most visitors stay for several days to really get to know its resident herd of rescued elephants that call BLES home and give them time to behave naturally while giving you an intimate experience compared to other sanctuaries that simply let visitors walk alongside the elephants without interaction or interaction between interactions.
Visit this sanctuary with either a half day or full day package from Chiang Mai, including transportation and lunch in Thailand as well as activities such as feeding and bathing elephants. In addition, full day visitors will also have access to bamboo cooking classes as well as learning how to create herbal vitamin balls for elephants. Into the Wild also provides longer volunteer trips for those wanting to support this important work.
Maesa elephant camp offers an ideal alternative for elephant lovers. Owned and run by Save Elephant Foundation, its herd consists of only retired tourist elephants – meaning no riding or “entertaining” tricks take place here; indeed they’re even not permitted to receive bananas that other sanctuaries use as a means of controlling them for tourist entertainment purposes! Furthermore, staff here is committed to caring for these majestic beasts, making sure each elephant receives individual attention.
Thailand is famous for its elephant tourism, yet many tours that feature these majestic animals do so without taking care or responsibility. Riding an elephant can be extremely dangerous, leading to injuries for both rider and animal, and performing tricks can cause distress for both. Thankfully there are ethical sanctuaries around which work hard to give these elephants their life they deserve.
BLES (Baan Eieag Life Experience Sanctuary) provides visitors with an ethical and sustainable means of engaging with elephants. Their strict no-riding policy believes it to be cruel and unnatural for elephants; in addition, there is space provided for elephants to roam freely, socialize with one another, roam free from rides by visitors as well as learn about their habitat such as what herbs they like eating, special treats preparation and much more.
Beyond educating their visitors, BLES is also dedicated to giving back to the community and protecting its environment. Their volunteer program allows visitors to give back by teaching English to local children, leading clean-up days, planting trees and contributing other ways that benefit local people.
The Sanctuary works closely with Karen hill tribes to facilitate cultural exchange and support their livelihoods, as well as various local communities, including disabled and elderly populations. Furthermore, they assist the Thai Red Cross during natural disasters.
As well as their elephant rescue and rehabilitation work, the sanctuary also cares for other animals such as cats, dogs, and buffaloes. Their day tour allows guests to bathe and feed these rescued creatures while also watching them play in their natural environments – not to mention enjoying jungle hiking, rafting, and delicious local cuisine!
Save Elephant Foundation
Save Elephant Foundation is a non-profit organisation which offers care and assistance for Thailand’s captive elephant population through a multifaceted approach, including community outreach activities, rescue and rehabilitation programs and educational ecotourism operations. They set an excellent example of ethical operations by having visitors interact with elephants respectfully thereby mitigating any negative effects caused by tourism and logging industries on these creatures’ lives.
Lek, the founder of Save Elephant Foundation is a Thai woman with a deep-seated passion for all animals, particularly elephants. To promote elephant welfare through these parks and sanctuaries, she developed the “Saddle Off” model which allows elephants to socialise freely among one another without chain or riding restrictions.
Happy Elephant Home in Mae Taeng District is home to four rescued elephants that have been taken in from riding camps and the logging industry, offering them a peaceful retirement. Visitors are invited to spend time with these majestic beasts by walking alongside them and learning their natural behaviors; feeding them, taking mud baths together with them or even giving them massages; elephants love these experiences as it helps nourish their skin while protecting from insects and sunlight!
Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary stands as another stellar example of an ethical sanctuary, prioritizing elephant welfare over tourism. When Thailand closed its borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chang Chill adapted their business model by initiating a program to sponsor individual elephants; this pays their families so they don’t return them back into tourism or logging while also covering care costs.
If you would like to help by making a donation, please do so here. Your support would be truly appreciated as Chang Chill and other sanctuaries have struggled over the last two years due to few visitors coming into their centers – they aim to raise $12,000 over six months to cover costs.
At this sanctuary, visitors can participate in an assortment of elephant experiences from half day adventures (for 1700 THB) to spending three days with elephants (6500 THB). Although these tours may seem expensive by Thai standards, all earnings go toward providing food for these majestic creatures at local markets. Not only will you meet elephants here – rescue dogs, cats and buffalo are also living here!
Formerly known as Happy Elephant Valley, this sanctuary was one of the first ethical sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. No longer offering tourist rides on elephants, their care now focuses on providing optimal conditions for each elephant under their care. A truly wonderful environment with staff who are truly committed to animal welfare!
At this sanctuary, while you won’t be able to bathe the elephants as they would in their natural environment, you will still have an incredible experience walking with and playing with these majestic animals. Additionally, learn more about their history and past lives while spending time with these remarkable beings!
At this family-run sanctuary, elephants take precedence. While you will certainly have the chance to interact with these majestic animals, their primary goal is not for tourists but instead providing safe retirement homes while supporting small businesses in their local community.
As part of your stay, you’ll gain insight into the history and care needs of elephants living here, as well as participate in an elephant cooking class to prepare food that goes directly into their belly!
BLES is located approximately four hours outside of Chiang Mai and requires advanced planning to reach. But the trip will surely pay off; their primary mission is rescuing, rehabilitating and providing loving homes for elephants who have been mistreated in tourism or logging industries; they put great importance on meeting each animal’s individual needs while striving to enhance their lives.