Thailand: Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

We visited the amazing Elephant Jungle Sanctuary while in Thailand, nestled in the rolling hills outside Chiang Mai. We did lots of research before picking somewhere to visit the lovely Asian elephants. This spot won us over for its positive reviews and work to not only provide sanctuary for elephants in need, but also to educate locals on proper care. The EJS Care Project funds the sanctuary and their website has some really great resources on how their program works.

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We decided to splurge and participate in the two day, overnight stay with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. I can’t emphasize enough what a great experience this was and I would highly recommend it if you don’t mind roughing it.

Day One

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The sanctuary picked us up from the hotel and drove a few hours into the mountains. We sat up front with the driver and had some great conversations about life in Thailand versus Canada – he was so interesting!

We arrived to one of several “camps” and were divided into groups. Both overnight and day trips seem to have the same experience on day one.

They spent some time explaining the camp and what we would be doing with the elephants before we meeting some babies. There is strictly no riding and you get to feed and pat the elephants. It’s worth noting that these elephants are rescues, so are very used to humans. Visitors can interact with them, but the overall goal is to create an environment for them that is most like living in the wild. Unfortunately, they are dependent on humans, so are reliant on their caregivers. Other EJS camps have elephants that are much more “wild” and that don’t meet tourists.

The morning was with the elephants and watching their caregivers bring them to a river to play. After they prepared a fantastic lunch and we learned about elephant health care, what they eat and tried our hand at making elephant supplements. The afternoon involved cooling the elephants down with a mud bath and playing with them!

Overnight

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Once the day visitors departed, we hopped into a truck with about 15 others that were staying overnight and headed to a local Karen village. We stayed in a small hostel/hotel in a small village – I think we were the only non-locals in the whole town!

We had time to wander the town and had a lovely communal dinner. The view could not be beat and we enjoyed games with the locals. Our accommodations were basic with a sleeping mat and bug net inside small rooms, but it was complete with bathrooms and showers. Waking up to the sun peaking over mountain tops across the valley is an experience I will not forget.

Day two

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Day two gave us a much more personal experience. We hiked to four different elephant camps where we briefly met elderly elephants (and the oldest resident!) and a very young baby.

We also passed through small villages nestled into the mountain-side and stopped for lunch beside rapids. Here we swam in the water and had the opportunity to see local crafts.

Overall, we had a phenomenal two days with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Any visit with them will be great, but if you have the time and money, the overnight stay is well worth it.

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Tips:

  • If you are staying in a hotel in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend checking your luggage and bringing the bare minimum on your overnight stay. You visit a few locations and it’s much easier with only a backpack.
  • We found the villages in the mountains very safe
  • These trips book up fast, so it’s a good idea to book in advance
  • We used booking.com for all our hotels in Chiang Mai

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