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Visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai

Thailand is a country known for animal exhibitions. A selfie with a tiger cub or whilst feeding a crocodile is nothing special, nor is a ride on the back of the biggest land animal in the world, an elephant. Unfortunately, many tourists think this is a great way to enjoy their holiday and do not know (or choose to ignore) the fact that most of these animals are severely and repeatedly beaten and abused, mentally and physically. Luckily, not all places are cruel to the animals. There are sanctuaries where animals are rescued from these brutal practices and are given a place to live their days in peace. Chiang Mai is one of the places in Thailand known for elephant sanctuaries.

What is an elephant sanctuary?

An elephant sanctuary, -rescue, -refuge, -orphanage or -care home, is a place where rescued elephants can live in a large natural habitat. They have companionship and are able to fulfil their natural behaviour like swimming and foraging in the forest. The elephants that live here are usually previously heavily abused and have suffered from the ritual of Phajaan. This is a tradition where young elephants are confined in tight wooden structures, bound with ropes, starved and beaten for weeks to crush their spirit and make them submissive. This is absolutely heart breaking to even write and should never take place!

When booking these tours you should always carefully research the sanctuary to see if they’re legit and do not also offer rides and other activities. The more restricted they are with their activities the better! Some sanctuaries provide tours or time-slots where you can see, feed or bathe the elephants. We are not veternarians but this is as much bonding as we would advise.

Mandy’s experience

When I went to Chiang Mai, I visited the Bamboo Elephant Family Care sanctuary. I went there as a part of a day tour. The tour included hiking to see a waterfall, rafting and visiting this particular elephant sanctuary. We were able to join the elephants in their protected, natural habitat. Feeding, bathing and hiking with the elephants was all part of the experience. The staff were very friendly and informative and it was lovely to see the elephants come and go as they pleased. Other highly rated sanctuaries in Chiang Mai are:

Thai people consider elephants, their national symbol for strength, endurance and intelligence. Even in a short period of time I noticed how gentle these magnificent animals are and how they definitely have their own personalities. The elephant I was feeding was quite cheeky. The moment I focused my attention on something else he had already stolen the whole bunch of banana’s from me…

Meeting these magnificent animals face to face was a breath-taking experience and one I will not soon forget!

Take a look at our video put together with clips from this wonderful experience. We must reiterate that this elephant sanctuary was designed to protect these elephants and the animals are not exploited for economic gain. When visiting animals always research the sanctuary thoroughly beforehand.

Travelling Translated


Travelling Translated

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