Chaing Mai Elephant Sanctuaries

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The Most Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

Dates Visited: January 2019

Chiang Mai is a mountainous, digital nomad city in Northern Thailand. It’s a lot quieter than Bangkok, slower paced and backpacker friendly. It is known for one of it’s primary tourist attractions - elephant riding. I sought out to find some ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that had banned riding and exploitation of the species in exchange for monetary gain.

We went walking around the city to get quotes and booked through Islander Chiang Mai. If you want to book a room or tour feel free to message the owner, Alex, on the Islander's Facebook page. He helped us look at our options and found three that made the final cut. After making decision by playing rock-paper-scissors, Chiang Mai Elephant Home was the winner.

1. Chiang Mai Elephant Home

Half Day Option

Cost: 1700 THB (can haggle for 1500 THB) - $48 USD

Length: 7:00AM-2:00PM or 11:30AM-6:00PM

Full Day Option

Cost: 2400 THB ($76 USD)

Length: 8:00AM-5:30PM

What's Included
  • Free pickup and drop off at your lodging  
  • Change into traditional lanna clothing
  • Make vitamin balls for the elephants
  • Feed elephants bamboo, bananas and vitamin balls
  • Mud bath with the elephants
  • Photos and videos with elephants
  • Learn about the elephant’s behavior and mannerisms and history of logging/tourism in Thailand
  • Traditional Thai buffet style lunch
  • Staff posts photos to Facebook/Google Drive at no additional cost
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

Check out their website or Facebook page for more info!

2. Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Half Day Option

Cost: 1500 THB (can haggle for 1300 THB) - $41 USD

Length: 6:30AM-2:00PM

Full Day Option

Cost: 2000 THB ($64 USD)

Length: 8:00AM-4:00PM

What's Included
  • Pickup from hotel in Chiang Mai
  • Change into uniform
  • Learn basic information about elephants
  • Feed elephants
  • Take a walk with elephants
  • Take photos with elephants
  • Lunch is provided and transport back to hotel
  • Full day addition: Making Karen Hilltribes’ method herbal medicine for elephants

**This sanctuary also offers one, two and three day trekking for 2,000/3,700 and 4,700 Baht/Person** if you’re keen on checking out their website:  https://elephantjunglesanctuary.com**

3. Chiang Mai Mountain Sanctuary

Half Day Option

Cost: 1500 THB (can haggle for 1300 THB) - $41 USD

Length: 8:00AM-2:00PM

Full Day Option

Cost: 1800 THB ($57 USD)

Length: 8:00AM-5:00PM

What's Included
  • Free pickup and drop off at your lodging  
  • Change into traditional lanna clothing
  • Learn about how to care for elephants
  • Meet, feed and play with elephants
  • Mud bathe the elephants
  • Walk to local river and rinse elephants
  • Traditional Thai lunch

**If you’re keen on booking here check out their website: https://chiangmaimountainsanctuary.com/

Our Chiang Mai Elephant Home Experience

I have an obvious biased toward the Chiang Mai Elephant Home Sanctuary since we got to experience it first hand. Nonetheless we would definitely recommend it as one of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. Upon arrival we wore traditional lanna clothing, Thai fisherman pants and a cotton top. The pants are yellow and tops are either red or blue because elephants are colorblind can see those best during the day. At night they only see black and white.

After changing we gathered in a Bungalow to make the elephants vitamin balls. These are made from banana, cane sugar, salt, rice and a date like fruit. We began mashing all the ingredients together in a bowl and wrapping the brown mush in a banana leaf.

Making the Vitamin Balls
GOPR6481 - 600 16x9
GOPR6481 - 600 16x9
GOPR6483 - 600 16x9.
GOPR6483 - 600 16x9.

While making the treats, we learned about elephant treatment, mannerisms and behavior. Elephants have a gestation period of 18 months. Typically, females only carry one baby. If by chance, they have twins, one is usually handicapped or deformed. There are usually two different species of elephants - African or Asian. In Asia, only male elephants have tusks. In Africa, both male and female can grow tusks.

My favorite part about our mini lesson was learning that elephants have a best friend. It’s called their “Quan” in Thai. This companion is their Quan for life. They split food with them, travel together and talk to each other. A Quan isn’t necessarily their mate, but it is truly their bestie for life. I love that. It also makes sense why elephants that are kept in isolation are so sad. We also learned elephants do not have sweat glands in their skin so they sweat through their nails. And as everyone knows… their memory is very sharp and they are highly emotional beings.

Feeding and bathing the Elephants
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Most Ethical Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
Most Ethical Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai

As a group, we began feeding the elephants bamboo, banana and our vitamin treats. After their snack we gave them baths in the mud, which they seemed to enjoy and then walked with them to the local river where we rinsed them off. To finish it all off the elephants gave everyone an individual kiss with their trunks.

Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
GOPR6650-1 (dragged) - 600 4x5
GOPR6650-1 (dragged) - 600 4x5

All-in-All

 

One by one before we showered off in some fresh water. After washing the mud off, we had a group buffet style lunch of traditional Thai food. Vegetarian stir fry and curry is available, which is a plus for non meat eaters. 

After lunch, we got back in a couple red trucks and went to a nearby waterfall. It was cool, nothing to write home about. Then, around 2:00pm, we arrived back at our hostel which is nice if you want to have the rest of the day free to walk around the city.

If you're looking for one of the best ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai we recommend Chiang Mai Elephant Home because they are transparent about where your money goes. They buy healthy, locally sourced food for the benefit of the community and the elephants. Additionally, the elephants live on large property for them to safely roam free.

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By |2019-11-06T09:41:03-05:00January 5th, 2019|Asia, Eco Friendly Travel, Thailand, Travel Guides|0 Comments

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