Elephants are one of the most majestic and intelligent creatures on earth. They have always been associated with strength, wisdom, and gentleness. Sadly, these gentle giants have been treated as slaves to the tourism industry in Thailand. This is because there is a lack of regulation for elephant care, and abuse is rampant.
Fortunately, there has been an increase in elephant sanctuaries in Thailand as society becomes more aware of the abuse these animals face. In this post, I will share with you a list of the 12 Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand you can visit without any worry about animal cruelty.
Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand
1. Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai
This is the elephant sanctuary that almost everyone thinks of when they hear “elephant sanctuary” in Thailand. It’s the largest and most popular, and with good reason: the elephants here are treated like kings and queens. The park was founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, who has been working to save elephants since 1998.
This beautiful sanctuary is home to dozens of elephants who have been rescued from abuse in tourism, logging industries, neglect and exploitation, or have been retired from work. The park takes excellent care of the elephants, provides shelters, fresh fruit and vegetables every day (which include bananas, sugar cane, pumpkins) and plenty of water for bathing.
Volunteers are welcome here and can participate in a huge range of activities, from feeding and caring for the animals, preparing food, leading nature walks, cleaning pens and cages, and much more. You can also take walks with them and learn about their ecology and behavior. In addition, the park is home to other rescued animals, and it relies on volunteers to help keep everything running smoothly.
I spent an entire week at this park and enjoyed every minute of it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about these amazing creatures.
Read More: Best Things To Do In Chiang Mai
2. Elephants World, Kanchanaburi
If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience with elephants, then Elephants World in Kanchanaburi is one of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand you need to visit. It was set up in 2008 by a veterinarian Dr. Samart with the aim of providing a safe haven for elephants who have been abused in the tourism industry, working in logging camps or performing in circuses.
The sanctuary has a herd of around 40 elephants, both male and female, of all different ages. Here, you can help to care for the elephants by feeding them, bathing them and even brushing their hair. It’s an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.
Elephants World is open to tourists who want to visit and learn more about these amazing animals. In addition, the sanctuary also offers volunteer opportunities if you want to get more involved in caring for the elephants. You’ll also get to learn about the history and culture of elephants in Thailand.
So, if you’re looking for an ethical elephant sanctuary to visit in Thailand, Elephants World is a great choice. It’s well-run, provides a safe and happy home for its elephants, and is open to tourists who want to learn more about these amazing animals.
Read More: Best Things To Do In Kanchanaburi
3. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Phuket
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is another of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that I visited. This one takes an interesting approach by not just looking after elephants, but helping them adapt to their natural environment. It was founded by Mr. Montri Todtane and Lek Chailert, who decided to create a sanctuary for retired and overworked elephants.
The sanctuary’s philosophy is that no elephant should be used to give rides. Instead, all of them should be free to live their lives without any pressure to perform. With this in mind, they provide healthy food and fruit as well as water for bathing every day (in addition to medical care).
Visitors can observe the elephants from the treetop observation deck as they graze or play in lagoons. Note that the sanctuary does not offer rides or any type of elephant interaction and instead allows visitors to observe the elephants from a distance, as nature intended.
The visit experience here is more than just seeing some amazing animals. It’s about learning about them too. You can gain insight into their lifestyle and how humans have negative effects on them. You’ll also get an insight into how Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is making a difference to protect them.
The staff who run this sanctuary are passionate about their work, and it really shows in the care they provide for these elephants. And this makes me think that this is one of the Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand that really cares about their elephants.
Read More: Best Things To Do In Phuket
4. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), Sukothai
Located in Sukhothai province, this is also one of the most popular Thailand elephant’s sanctuary. Started by a British national Brit Katherine Cooper, this sanctuary provides a safe haven for elephants who have been rescued from abuse and exploitation, most of which have come from the tourism industry.
At BLES, you will find elephants roaming free in the over 500 acres of open fields, grasslands, banana plantations, and Rivers. The mahouts (elephant caretakers) live on-site and are dedicated to providing the elephants with the best possible care.
Interestingly, the sanctuary tries to regulate the number of people visiting this sanctuary for the wellbeing and quality of life of the elephant. Therefore, there are only 3 guesthouses available, and guests here can enjoy a lovely breakfast overlooking the elephants grazing and interact with the village mahouts.
5. Wildlife Friends Foundation, Phetchaburi
If you are looking for a more ethical and intimate elephant sanctuary to visit in Thailand, I highly recommend Wildlife Friends Foundation. This foundation does some incredible work when it comes to rescuing and rehabilitating animals in Thailand.
The purpose of the foundation is to protect and care for elephants, particularly those that have been illegally captured or abused by owners seeking short-term, monetary gains. In addition, it also rescues animals from all walks of life, including tigers, bears and more.
Visitors are welcome to come and visit the sanctuary to learn about the work that goes into rescuing them. In addition, there are a number of different programs available that allow you to get up close and personal with these amazing animals.
There are also a range of volunteer programs available, from one day to one week, which allows visitors to truly get involved in the running of the sanctuary and learn about elephant conservation first-hand.
During your stay, you will have the opportunity to feed and bathe the elephants, as well as help with their care. This is an amazing experience for anyone who wants to learn more about animal conservation and get up close and personal with some of Thailand’s most magical creatures.
6. Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital
Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital (FAE) is a world-renowned hospital that provides veterinary care to elephants throughout Thailand. It is also one of the Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand for elephant lovers.
The center’s mission is to provide wildlife healthcare and conservation education to conserve elephants through hands-on experience.
In this sanctuary, tourists are able to witness first-hand the incredible work that goes on here to help maintain the health and wellbeing of elephants.
Visitors can enjoy walking around the sprawling hospital grounds, meeting the resident elephants and learning more about their stories and how they are cared for.
In addition to their work with elephants, the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital also works to improve the quality of life for domesticated elephants living in Thailand.
The hospital offers a variety of programs and services, including an elephant sanctuary, a veterinary clinic, an elephant orphanage, and a training center for mahouts (elephant trainers). And while visiting the hospital, it is important to follow the rules and guidelines in order to respect the elephants.
7. Elephant Haven, Kanchanaburi
Elephant Haven is a unique sanctuary with a special story. It was initially known as Sai Yoke Elephant Camp, which used to have a negative reputation for poor treatment of their animals.
It was until Lek Chailert encouraged the park to provide a better life for these animals. Soon, they closed the camp to all tourism and began to focus on rehabilitating the elephants. And during their transition to becoming an ethical elephant sanctuary, it was changed into Elephant Haven.
The sanctuary is set in a beautiful location surrounded by forest and mountains. The elephants here are able to roam free and bathe in river Kwai as they please. Visitors can come and see them, but are not allowed to touch or ride them.
So, if you want to learn more about elephants and how to help protect them, then I would highly recommend a visit to Elephant Haven. It’s one of the Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand and is doing great work in helping these beautiful animals.
8. Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
In the south of Thailand, about 2 hours from Chiang Mai, is the beautiful home to a herd of elephants who once worked in the logging industry. This is now their retirement home: Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary.
This sanctuary is a labor of love by the husband and wife, Burm and Emily. The owners have been rescuing them from abuse in the tourism industry and giving them a loving home for the rest of their lives.
The sanctuary applies a ‘no contact, hands-off’ policy, which means that the elephants cannot be pet, hugged or fed by visitors. This is to ensure that the elephants can live peaceful lives and behave naturally as elephants.
This is a wonderful sanctuary where they genuinely care about their elephants, who they are not just rescuing from abuse, but giving a whole new life and family in return. They also work for ethical elephant tourism in Thailand by seeing that mahouts and tour operators treat their elephants well.
9. Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
Another one of my visits in the quest to discover the Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand was Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. This is a unique and tranquil sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from abuse and exploitation. Set in the lush hills of Northern Thailand, this sanctuary provides a safe haven for these gentle giants, where they can roam free and enjoy their natural environment.
The elephants here have plenty of space to roam and play, and they are never chained or made to do anything they don’t want to do. In addition to being able to wander through the jungle, the elephants also enjoy bathing in the river and playing with huge logs. Note that this sanctuary has a strict no-elephant rides policy, so you won’t find any elephant riding here.
The team at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is dedicated to providing the best possible care for these animals and working tirelessly to ensure that they are happy and healthy. The sanctuary also offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about these amazing creatures and to see them living in their natural habitat.
I think that this is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about how to help protect elephants in Thailand. The staff provides informative tours that teach you about the history of elephant abuse in Thailand and how you can help to prevent it in the future.
Finally, Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is also a non-profit organization. This means all of the money from visits goes back into caring for the elephants. Thus, with its focus on conservation and rehabilitation, as well as its dedication to providing the elephants with a happy and healthy home, this is one of the best elephant sanctuaries in the country you should visit.
10. Phang Nga Elephant Park, Phang Nga Province
Phang Nga Elephant Park is a unique, family-owned and operated elephant sanctuary located in the Phang Nga Province of southern Thailand. The park was established in 2015 as a safe haven for elephants and educate travelers about the importance of elephant conservation.
The park has been designed with the elephants’ welfare as the top priority. The animals will have plenty of space to roam and play, and they will be able to interact with each other and their human caretakers in a natural environment.
In addition to providing a safe and healthy home for elephants, the park will also offer educational programs on elephant conservation and responsible tourism. Visitors will be able to learn about the challenges faced by elephants and the steps to protect them.
The park also offers volunteer opportunities, which allow visitors to help care for the elephants. Volunteers can also participate in other activities, such as planting food as part of the park’s conservation efforts.
The Phang Nga Elephant Park is sure to become one of the most popular ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. So, if you’re looking for a truly magical elephant experience, be sure to put this park at the top of your list.
11. Elephant Hills, Khao Sok
Elephant Hills Sanctuary is one of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, which is an amazing place to visit and stay at. This patch of the jungle has been redesigned into a sanctuary for elephants that have had a tough time with previous owners. No more chains, or poles-instead they get to roam around the terrain just like they would in their natural habitat.
The team at Elephant Hills Sanctuary is dedicated to providing the best possible care for their elephants. They work hard to create a natural environment in which the elephants can roam and socialize as they would in the wild.
The Elephant Hills is also home to the two camping grounds. These camps allow guests to stay overnight in luxury tents and fully immerse themselves in the wild natural landscapes. Elephants can be seen from many vantage points around the camps as they wander freely through the property. There are also daily activities such as night safaris, canoeing, bamboo rafting, and even hiking up Khao Sok National Park.
12. Samui Elephant Sanctuary, Koh Samui
If you find yourself on the tropical island of Koh Samui and want to see elephants, the best ethical elephant sanctuary to visit is the Samui Elephant Sanctuary. Established in 2018, this rescue and rehabilitation center provides a better life for elephants who have been abused, neglected or retired from the tourist industry.
The sanctuary itself is very well-organized, and all its workers are extremely friendly. I noticed that they do a lot of health care checking of the elephants’ bodies, which proves that all their hard work goes into each elephant’s wellbeing, instead of money-making.
Visitors to the sanctuary can walk with the elephants through the jungle, watch them bathe and play and learn about their ecology and behavior. In addition to providing a safe home for these elephants, Samui Elephant Sanctuary also educates visitors about the importance of preserving these beautiful creatures.
So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable elephant experience, be sure to check out Samui Elephant Sanctuary.
I hope these 12 best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand have given you some ideas for your next vacation. If they haven’t, feel free to contact me and ask my opinion on any of the others that are close by or not listed here. It would be a pleasure to help guide people who want to spend time with elephants without causing them pain.