6 Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand for the Conscious Traveler

Put simply, elephants are cool as shit. It’s no surprise that a major part of visiting Thailand is getting to see them up close and personal! In fact, we’d say any trip lacking elephants was one poorly planned. The animals are a key component of Thai culture (and give us all a reason to wear elephant pants).

However, you need to be aware that not all elephant sanctuaries are created equal. Many elephant sanctuaries in Thailand are severely misnamed. Rather than supporting the animals, they train them in cruel, abusive ways. And while conditions are improving nationwide, many elephants are still suffering.

That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure you’re visiting an ethical sanctuary. Giving your money to someone mistreating elephants is the last thing you want to do. Luckily, we can recommend quite a few!

#1 Elephant Nature Park

Location: Kuet Chang, Thailand

The Elephant Nature Park rescues elephants and helps to rehabilitate them after abuse and injury. You’re given the opportunity to learn about each elephant’s individual history, bathe with them, and feed them. Even better, the park is located 60km outside of Chiang Mai, meaning you can venture outside of the city at the same time!

A day tour will cost 2,500 THB while an overnight visit will cost 5,800 THB. These prices include everything you do with the elephants, pickup and drop off, accommodation (if overnight), and meals.

#2 Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

Location: Sukhothai, Thailand

One of the coolest things about Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is that it isn’t a day trip–it’s an overnight experience! At this homestay, you’ll get to spend time with rescued animals that are going through rehabilitation. You can help take care of them and maintain the facilities. It’s an amazing opportunity to see the behind-the-scenes aspect of sanctuary life.

An overnight stay will run you 6,000 THB. That includes all of our meals and non-alcoholic drinks, accommodation, laundry, and elephant-related activities. The sanctuary is located six hours north of Bangkok by bus, so you’ll need make your own way there. The town has both an airport and bus terminal.

#3 Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Location: Phuket, Thailand

We love the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary because it focuses on “at-risk” elephants. It functions a lot like a retirement, and all of their elephants previously worked in tourism and logging. Visiting this sanctuary is a great way to directly support an organization combating cruelty against animals. You’ll have the chance to feed, bathe, and chill with all of the elephants.

The half-day experience costs a total of 3,000 THB. It includes all of your activities as well as a veggie lunch and hostel pick-up. If you’re looking to spend more time in Southern Thailand, this is a great chance to visit elephants without trekking north!

#4 The Surin Project

Location: Baan Tha Klang, Northeastern Thailand

Elephant abuse in Thailand is extremely complicated. Many times, the trainers at poorly run sanctuaries rely on their job to survive. Turning away their elephants to better conditions often means becoming unemployed. That leaves them with a tough decision to make.

The Surin Project serves as a sanctuary for both the elephants and their handlers. Roughly two hundred elephants and their former trainers live at the center. The elephants are freed and rehabilitated while the former trainers are provided with ethical employment.

It’s important to remember that you can not visit this sanctuary—you must volunteer. Volunteers can sign up for anywhere from a week to eight weeks of work. You’ll be immersed in the local village community, work alongside project leaders, and support the elephants. The expected contribution is 13,000 THB per week, which includes all accomodation and meals.

#5 Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

Location: Phetchaburi, Thailand

The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand is known for a bit more than its elephants. You’ll also get to interact with a variety of rehabilitated animals, ranging from monkeys and bears to elephants! You have the option of both half-day and full-day tours. This is a great option for anyone interested in animal cruelty as a whole, as there’s a broader focus.

A full-day tour is 1,600 THB and the half-day is 1,100 THB. Pricing includes a meal and all of your activities for the day. Phetchaburi is nearly three hours from Bangkok, however, and you will need to arrange transportation. The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand will organize it for a fee.

#6 Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary

Location: Mae Chaem, Thailand

Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (affectionately called BEES) is one of the most unique on our list. It’s run by a local Thai man who grew up in Mae Chaem, Burm, and his foreign wife, Emily, who visited in 2009 and promised to help the elephants of Thailand in the future.

Like The Surin Project, you are required to volunteer to visit Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary. However, you can volunteer for as little as three days or as long as one month. You’ll be working with elephants rescued from the tourism and logging industries. For pricing, contact BEES directly as costs are dependent on available accomodation in the village.

Of course, the list of ethical Thai elephant sanctuaries doesn’t end here! You’re sure to find others that treat their elephants well and save them from horrible circumstances. However, be wary. Even sanctuaries with the best intentions can have horrible impacts. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any sanctuary that offers elephant riding as an activity. Just do your research!

If you want to learn more about ethical tourism in Thailand, click the photo!