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How to Find an Ethical Elephant Sanctuary near Bangkok

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THE 10 BEST ELEPHANTS SANCTUARIES NEAR BANGKOK

With so many places claiming to be sanctuaries to mislead tourists, it can be hard to find an ethical elephant sanctuary near Bangkok.

We created this list to help you find an ethical elephant sanctuary near Bangkok to visit. We want to help you ethically connect with these beautiful animals.

Disclosure: “Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase.” “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” Click here for the full disclosure statement.

Each elephant sanctuary near Bangkok on our list has been thoroughly researched or visited by us, so we have first put a lot of work into this article.

We have also reached out to the organization and received proof of their work to help these magnificent creatures.

The sanctuaries on our list are helping fight against the animal tourism industry, but they can’t do it alone.

You can help do your part by visiting these sanctuaries and spreading the knowledge that you learn.

As tourists, we unknowingly contribute to the abuse of many animals. You can help make a difference and change how animals in captivity are treated.

I will say that these sanctuaries are not perfect, and animal tourism is a very complex issue in Thailand.

With so many elephants in captivity, they need to be fed, cared for, receive medical attention, and their mahouts need to make a living.

All of these reasons make it a complicated problem that takes time and money to find a solution.

The best way to interact with elephants ethically is to do so at a distance with as little human interaction as possible a few adjustments need to be made.

To support their operations and care for these animals, one of the ways they can generate revenue is by offering tours.

Tourists aren’t the ultimate solution, but it’s a way to generate income. It is their highest source of revenue outside of donations.

With the recent events over the last few years, that source has dried up, so the situation has gotten more complicated for mahouts.

1. Wildlife Foundation Friends Thailand (WFFT)

Address: 109 Moo 6, Tha Mai Ruak, Phetchaburi, 76130 Thailand

Distance from Bangkok 168 km

We visited the Wildlife Friends Foundation in March 2018, the first time we visited Thailand, and fell in love.

I spent several weeks researching an ethical elephant sanctuary near Bangkok.

After a few weeks of research, I found that WFFT is one of the most reputable elephant sanctuaries within driving distance from Bangkok.

What I like about this organization is that they take in any animals left outside of their gates. This is how they ended up with bears, dogs, an alligator, an orangutan, and many other animals.

Since they take in all animals, they offer tours of the facility for income to care for them. Here is the information you need to know if you are thinking about visiting this elephant sanctuary.

Day Tours at WFFT

The prices below do not include transportation. If you need transportation, you can arrange it through WFFT. The price of transportation depends on your pick-up location.

Full-Day Tour **The price in USD will fluctuate depending on the exchange rate**

  • Adults: 1,600 THB ($55)
  • Children (7 – 12): 1,100 THB  ($35)
  • Children under 7 are free

Half-Day Tour

  • Adults: 1,100 THB ($35)
  • Children (7 – 12): 700 THB  ($23)
  • Children under 7 are free

When we visited in 2018, we were able to feed and bathe the elephants, but now they have transitioned to a hands-off approach.

You can observe the elephants from a safe distance. In the future, they plan to allow visitors to feed the elephants from a stationed platform for your safety.

The elephants will be able to come and go at their leisure. This is a welcomed approach to give the elephants more freedom and autonomy.

2. Elephant National Park

Address: 109 Moo 6, Tha Mai Ruak, Phetchaburi, 76130 Thailand

Distance from Bangkok 168 km

3. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

Address:: Ban Na Ton Chan in Sukhothai Province

The Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is a combination of a tour and volunteering.

Distance from Bangkok 500 km

  • Car – 6 to 7 hours
  • Train – 5 to 6 hours
  • Bus – 7 to 8 hours
  • Plane – 1 hour (2 nonstop flights per day)

Boon Lott is an elephant sanctuary founded by Katherine Connor as a tribute to a young elephant with an inspirational story. If you are interested in learning about the origin of Boon Lott (the baby elephant), check out their website.

You can tell that they not only care for their animals but about the surrounding community.

In addition to supporting their cause of providing a natural environment for previously abused or neglected elephants, they provide funds to locals that lack the resources to care for their animals.

Their commitment to providing jobs and housing to their mahouts is admirable.

You can help their cause by visiting the elephant sanctuary near Bangkok. The number of guests is low to provide a better environment for the elephants and a better experience for visitors.

Guests become immersed in the elephants’ world at BLES. You are not just a visitor. The experience is a blend of being a volunteer and a guest. You will help gather food, walk the elephants, and observe them in their natural habitats. 

The rate includes transportation, meals, drinks (non-alcoholic), and plenty of time with the elephants, but can you put a price on unbelievable memories.

BLES recommends spending the week (Monday-Friday) for the complete immersive best experience. 

Spend the night at BLES

6000 THB per night (all ages welcome)

4. Elephant Nature Park

Address: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Distance from Bangkok: 168 km

Elephant Nature Park is the oldest and most famous sanctuary near Bangkok. The founder Lek Chailert was named Asian Hero of the Year by Time magazine in 2005 and has received numerous awards over the last 20 years. She is an inspiration.

Lek’s story is unbelievable, and although there has been a lot of progress since starting the elephant nature park in the early 90s, progress still needs to be made.

The elephant nature park is considered a retirement home for captive elephants. She cares for them like her family, so they live in the best conditions possible.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elephant Nature Park

There is so much to do at this elephant sanctuary. You can go on a day visit, volunteer, or spend the night. Most experiences are hands-off unless you choose a special project or volunteer.

While visiting the park, you will see elephants enjoy the park. They can swim in the river, roll around in a mud bath, and interact with one another.

Elephants aren’t the only animals in the sanctuary. There are buffalos, cats, dogs, horses, birds, and goats. This is an actual place of peace for many animals who have survived severe abuse and neglect.

You can help them by visiting and spreading the word about their mission.

Day Tours – Elephant Nature Park

There are several types of visits available at Elephant Nature Park.

Here are the most popular day tours.

Elephant SkyWalk – Single Day Visit

  • Adults: 3,500 THB ($95)
  • Children: 1,750 THB  ($47)

Single Day Visit

  • Adults: 2,500 THB ($68)
  • Children: 1,750 THB  ($34)

Overnight (2 Days + 1 Night)

  • Adults: 5,800 THB ($158)
  • Children: 2,900 THB  ($79)

5. ChangChill (Observation Only)

Address: 45/2 Moo19, Baan Pratumuang, Maewin, Maewang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Distance from Bangkok 700 km

ChangChill is an elephant sanctuary that went from offering tourists rides on elephants to becoming a more elephant-friendly environment.

After eliminating elephant rides, tourists could feed and bathe the animals for several years.

The owner is one of several generations of mahouts that have taken care of elephants.

He took the step to engage with World Animals Protection with other companies to create a better environment for the elephants in his care. This engagement resulted in a restructuring of practices and infrastructure at the sanctuary.

Today, the residential elephants can enjoy better living conditions where they can graze, roam the valley, bathing in the river, roll in the must, and dust in peace.

Tourists can no longer be allowed to interact with the elephants, but they can see them in their natural habitat.

You can observe elephants as they navigate through the environment and learn about the local culture. You do not want to miss the unbelievable views from the observation deck. 

Day Tours – ChangChill

Full-Day Tour (Transportation included) **The price in USD will fluctuate depending on the exchange rate**

  • Adults: 2,500 THB ($68)
  • Children (under 10): 1,200 THB  ($32)

Half-Day Tour

  • Adults: 1,900 THB ($52)
  • Children (under 10): 1,500 THB  ($40)

The half-day trips have different activities, so check the schedules to pick the best activities for you or your family.

6. Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary

7. Elephant Valley

8. Following Giants (Observation Only)

Address: 265 mu 5, Koh Lanta Yai Koh Lanta, Krabi, 81150 Thailand

Distance from Bangkok 800 km

Following Giants doesn’t shy away from its past. They were previously a riding camp that offered rides to tourists during high season and logging work in the low season (which became illegal in 1989). At the time, tourist demand for elephant rides was profitable and, for many, the only option. 

In 2017, the owner (Ray) met with the World Animal Protection to transition to an elephant-friendly business model and sanctuary for captive elephants. 

Today, Following Giants has embraced a more sustainable and ethical approach. Their elephants no longer provide rides or work in the logging fields.

They spend their days being elephants and leading the way, with people servicing them instead of the other way.

To help Ray’s vision become a reality, spend some time with these wonderful creatures. There are programs to visit the sanctuary, observe elephants, learn about the mahout culture, walk through the jungle, and even see a beautiful waterfall. 

This elephant sanctuary is a shining example of how people can make a change. Sometimes it’s not about where you started; it’s about where you end. 

Keep in mind, all the programs are hands-off. You can observe the elephants and walk with them through the jungle as they lead the way, but you cannot touch them.

Day Tours – Following Giants

2 – Hour Package (Transportation included) **The price in USD will fluctuate depending on the exchange rate**

  • Adults: 1,200 THB ($32)
  • Children (under 12): 750 THB  ($20)

Half-Day Tour

  • Adults: 2,500 THB ($68)
  • Children (under 12): 1,250 THB  ($34)

Full-Day Tour

  • Adults: 3,500 THB ($95)
  • Children (under 10): 1,750 THB  ($47)

The activities during each program differ, so be sure to check the webite for the best one for you or your family.

Note: The recommended minimum age is 2 years old.

9. Mahouts Elephant Foundation

If you are looking for a real adventure, Mahouts Elephant Foundation is the perfect elephant sanctuary for you to explore. This organization offers a safari-style experience to see elephants in their natural habitat.

The Blaine family started this foundation to help elephants in the tourism industry in Thailand. They work with local communities and mahouts to provide the tools required to support their families, village, and elephants.

Their approach differs from the other sanctuaries since they do not buy the elephants or employ mahouts directly but allow their elephants more freedom.

There are different experiences available, with the most adventurous being a 4-day mountain adventure with elephants. You will spend your time in the jungles near the Thailand-Myanmar border with a Karen hill tribe.

As part of the experience, you will live in the community, learn their culture, traditions, and language, and create unbelievable memories.

Along with being welcomed into the community, you will spend time with elephants by tracking them through the forest and understanding their natural habits from mahouts.

If you want to take your experience a step further, you can volunteer with these beautiful creatures.

Spend six days volunteering in a local Thai community. You will hike, observe elephants living feely, assist with community projects, and try traditional fabric and basket weaving.

Part of the money from these trips includes a donation to the village, which provides income to help maintain this sustainable project. 

Experiences – Mahouts Elephant Foundation

This elephant foundation differs from other sanctuaries on our list. Day trips are not available. You will spend at least four days to enjoy this amazing experience.

The prices varies per person and experience, so check the website to find the best fit for you.

Note: This isn’t the best experience for little ones; a lot of hiking required to get the experience of observing elephants in their natural habitat.

10. Global Vision International (Volunteer Opportunities)

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER RIDE ELEPHANTS

Supporting a cruel practice

Animal tourism has a hidden component that is scarce in mainstream media.

Although there are several documentaries on YouTube, it is hard to show the cruel practices used to “break” elephant calves.

The bond between a baby elephant and its mother must be broken for the calf to depend on the mahout as its surrogate mother, which is a cruel process.

Hurting the elephants

When tourists are not riding elephants, they are often chained to a tree or inside a “barn” for hours.

This practice results in psychosis for these animals because elephants, by nature, are social and nomadic creatures.

They walk several miles a day with their families in the wild, so being chained to an object for hours essentially drives them crazy.

Along with being chained to a stationary object, many elephants are blinded in one eye as part of the training process.

WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY INSTEAD

Elephant-Sanctuary-Bangkok

Protect wild elephants

Sadly, there are more elephants in captivity than in the wild. It is irresponsible to release elephants raised in captivity into the wild.

They are conditioned to rely on humans, so they do not have the education passed down through generations needed to survive in the wild.

Keeping captive elephants away from wild elephants reduces the chance of passing on diseases or other things that can harm the wild population.

Provide care and humane treatment

Most elephants in captivity live in unhealthy living conditions due to the severe poverty in most rural communities. They do not get exercise, medical care, or a proper diet.

Elephant sanctuaries help supplement the income of the local community, provide more jobs, training, and medical care.

Can change the animal tourism industry

As more elephant sanctuaries find success and profitability, local mahouts are more likely to turn over their elephants and work with those sanctuaries.

These sanctuaries stimulate the local community with jobs, money, and a better quality of life. The elephants receive the care they deserve and are no longer forced to entertain humans.

As perceptions change, animal tourism in Thailand can become sustainable and ethical. These elepahants can enjoy what the rest of their lives being free.

Support mahouts

Mahouts are elephant trainers. The practice is handed down from generation to generation, similar to a family business.

You have to have sympathy as this is the only thing they know and rely on elephants and tourism to feed their families.

Owning an elephant in Thailand is similar to having a dog in other countries. Elephants are considered property.

As legitimate sanctuaries become more popular, they can employ these mahouts.

They can continue working with their elephants in a more humane way, with better living environments, medical care, more food, and a better salary.

Elephant sanctuaries allow mahouts to turn over the elephant but continue to make a living.

How you can help elephants in captivity

You can help bring about change in the animal tourism industry about elephants.

By doing your part, we can all help these gentle giants have a better life in captivity.

With the explosion of TikTok, you can spread the message of cruelty in animal captivity and what we can do to stop it.

Stop riding elephants

The first thing everyone can do is easy stop riding elephants. We know it feels like a great experience, but elephants are not horses; they should not be saddled for rides.

By stopping this one activity, we help change the thinking of mahouts in Thailand. If there isn’t money in offering elephant rides, they will need to use them in another way to generate income.

This approach worked in the past when using elephants for logging became illegal in Thailand.

Although some mahouts logged illegally, the vast majority moved to animal tourism to make up for the lost money.

Donate to an elephant sanctuary

The pandemic killed one of the highest revenue streams for many elephant sanctuaries, tourism.

With the closing of Thailand’s borders and the ever-changing entry requirements, many tourists have shied away from visiting Thailand.

This has resulted in over two years of fledgling tourism and scarce resources. 

Donating a few dollars (whatever currency you use) to reputable elephant sanctuaries in Thailand can help them continue to care for these precious animals until tourism returns.

Here are a few reputable sanctuaries to consider. 

Visit an elephant sanctuary

Now that travel has returned full force, plan a trip to Thailand. This beautiful country has so much to offer. There are beautiful temples, delicious food, night markets, and elephants.

If you want to help support ethical elephant interaction, I highly recommend visiting an elephant sanctuary or staying at an elephant hotel.

An elephant hotel is a newer concept that has gained popularity over the last few years. There are rooms built inside elephant sanctuaries where elephants roam.

They can choose to interact with you, or you can watch them from your balcony, at a safe distance. Either way, elephants have the freedom to do as they please.

Spread the word

Social media has given us a platform to spread information quickly.

You can help captive elephants by encouraging tourists visiting Thailand to visit an elephant sanctuary near Bangkok and support their cause.

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