Why you should choose an Ethical Elephant Sanctuary with No Riding

by | Feb 15, 2017 | Travel

If you are thinking about riding Elephants in Thailand, then we are sorry to burst your bubble. After this article you are never going to want to ride an Elephant again.  Actually, we are not sorry for this. A lot of people do not know the truth about how some Elephants are grossly mistreated and how riding them actually causes harm to their spine.  It is apparent when driving down the road in Thailand.  You see how many of them are chained up, looking weak, and carrying tourists. This completely ruined it for us but luckily when in Chiang Mai we had the opportunity to go to a “Sanctuary”.  This was by far one of the highlights of our trip and a moment that we will always remember.  Just watch this video below and see how truly happy and friendly these beautiful creatures were at sanctuary.

An Elephant never forgets & we will never forget these Happy Elephants.  Ethical Tourism will help Change the World.

Why Should you not ride Elephants:

  • Each elephant that is in the tourism industry has gone through a “dispiriting” process, this is called Phajaan. This process takes place when they are baby elephants, and the aim is to break the baby elephants spirit. Believe it or not, Elephants are wild animals, and by nature do they not naturally paint pictures, carry tourist on mountain treks, and perform circus tricks.
  • Young wild Elephants are often poached and sold into the tourism industry, further putting this endangered animal population at risk. Elephants are rapidly loosing their habitat which is having a great impact on their population, not too mention poaching.
  • Elephants spines are not like the back so horses, they were not developed to carry large amounts of weight on their spine. An Elephant spine is of sharp, bony contusions which are vulnerable from weight and pressure above. Weight and impact on their spine causes long term damage.

No Elephant Riding At Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Thailand

We heard about the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai and their involvement in the ethical treatment and rescuing of Elephants. This was the reason choose to support their business.  Founded in July 2014, they have rescued 50 Elephants now (this was as of Nov 2016) with the last Elephant that had broken its back from being Elephant riding.  So gratifying to see these rescued Elephants who are now free to enjoy their lives.  The 2 largest factors contributing to extinction of elephants is from poachers and loss of habitat. It is great to see these companies doing whatever they can to help build land and rescue elephants.

Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai Thailand

The Mission of Elephant Jungle Sanctuary:

“is to provide as many elephants as possible with the good health, freedom, and happiness they truly deserve. We use our progressive and ethically responsible approach to elephant eco-tourism as a platform to raise awareness and educate people from Thailand and around the world about elephant care and and the plight of the Asian elephant. the plight of the Asian elephant.”  Quoted from their website.

How to get to the Chang Mai Elephant Camp

It was quite the journey to get to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in the back of one of the fun pickup tricks. We got to sit upfront with 2 of the team members who told us all about the park. They were so passionate about their jobs and the Elephants they cared for as a community.  Not only this but they made a special stop for us to get coffee and as it was about a 2 hour trip with approx. 20 minutes of it a real off road.

What to bring to an Elephant Sanctuary:

  1. Waterproof GoPro or Camera
  2. Spare change of clothes.  You will get dirty.
  3. Hand Sanitizer. Trust us on this one.
  4. Bug Spray
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Bathing suit (under clothes)
  7. Shoes or sandles that you will get dirty

What was the Elephant Camp like?

Set on top of a small grazing hill that overlooks the elephants below is pretty much a mountain paradise. There are now approximately 5 spacious Chiang Mai Camps. These include Tranquil Valley, Paddy Field, Hilltop Paradise, & Waterfall Grove Sanctuaries) and one in Phuket.

We had purchased the half day tour which was more than enough time.  I mean, I could have spent all day with the elephants, but after bathing in the river and mud, so was excited to get back to my shower.  After all, they are Elephants and need to use the washroom in the “mud pit” and river.  Our day was fun filled, starting with learning about the Elephant industry and changing into traditional Karen outfits.  We then fed the Elephants sugar cane, which you can also eat if you like, but the Elephants went pretty crazy over this stuff. We then went for a “mud spa” in a mud pit.  The Elephants loved it and rolled around in happiness. Then time to clean off the mud in the natural river.  Here you might even get a shower from an Elephant trunk.

Live to Years Old

Become Adults at

KG of day of Food & Water

Meeting The Elephants

Our day started off by teaching about Elephants in our small group. Just at this location, there were about 7 different elephants, 1 baby, 1 daddy, 2 teens, and 3 moms. When we had first arrived and were walking about to see them, a little nervous as Fraser & I were ahead of the rest before the young happy elephant came running down at us. You hear it in the video rubbing up against us, mauling us, before running back to his mom.  We were the lucky chosen ones and could not believe how friendly the baby Elephants were. But the little one still has my heart.

An Elephant lifespan are to humans. They are full grown at an average age of around 70 years and are considered full grown at 17 years old. In the wild and with proper exercise and nutrition they have been known to live longer, versus Elephants held in captivity and subjected to abuse and overworking.

And these healthy elephants could eat!! They need to consume a lot of food and water, actually about 150 kg of food and litres of water a day. The larger elephants can eat up to 300 kg.  As a vegetarian, I am excited to hear that they truly embrace their Plant Based Diets!

Our Final Thoughts

This was an amazing experience! Not only did we like the fact that we could support the ethical treatment of elephants from a company that is growing and opening up more sanctuary with more land to prevent habitat loss. But we also hope by writing this blog we will help educate people on why to choose an Elephants Sanctuary over Elephant rides.  There are several other really good companies (that we have read) such as elephantnaturepark.org and blesele.org so just make sure to read the reviews and pick ones with no riding.

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