Some of The Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

Picking a place to see elephants in Chiang Mai can be a real challenge. These days, most of us are aware of the potential harm elephant tourism does to these giant but gentle beasts, from riding them in a basked that hurts their backs to not letting them roam free in the dense jungle where they can rub against trees and exfoliate their surprisingly sensitive skin. If you want to read more about elephants and find out what Chiang Mai is doing to set the new standards following a change of attitude to these wonderful creatures, click here to read an article by a local English language publication, Citylife Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is packed full of elephant sanctuaries and homes, that all claim some level of ethical standards and fair treatment. Although our list is not definitive — with more and more sanctuaries listening to the professionals and improving their standards every day — there are three places that we know treat elephants fairly, so much so that we have them on our website for you to connect with and experience elephants up close and personal in a safe, ethical environment.

Kanta Elephant Sanctuary

Kanta is quite unique, in its style and presentation of elephants in their natural habitat. Not only do they let their elephants roam free, with visitors going to them with mahouts rather than dragging them to a designated ‘show area’, but they also dress you up in matching shirts that are totally unnecessary but make you look awesome.

Before you head out into the jungle, spend some time learning about the elephants, from their biology to the way they should be cared for and how they should be fed. Prepare the bananas, sugar cane and other treats yourself, before filling your food bag and heading out into the jungle with your guide who tells you the individual stories of the elephants you encounter on your journey. You can touch, feed and photograph the elephants as you learn more about their behavior and complex social life, before giving them a mud bath — only if they want to — which helps protect their skin from the sun and fungal infections.

This trip is great for people of all ages, but you need to be able to trek short distances into the jungle to find the elephants and energetic enough to play with them in the water. Don’t forget mosquito repellant as this sanctuary is in the real wild.

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Chiang Mai Native Village

This day out combines elephants with the traditional communities found on the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. Just like every other place on this list, Native Village are dedicated to offering a unique experience with elephants in their natural habitat. The native Karen village where the sanctuary is situated also offers authentic cultural experiences while teaching visitors about ancient ways of life and how to properly care for and treat elephants. The setting in informal too, so if you prefer a trip that really goes with the flow, this could be it.

Here, the elephants are not trained to give rides, as the sanctuary takes a strong stance against such practices. They also refuse to force their elephants to work or perform, but rather let the animal be in control, letting it choose what it wants to do. Go for a bath? You got it. Trek around the jungle? Sure, let me get my boots. Eat some bananas? Again?! I thought you were on a diet!

The sanctuary’s wish is to connect tourists to wildlife and hope that they support and contribute to the rehabilitation of the Thai elephant in the future. Visiting Tripzii will give you competitive prices for both half day and full day trips to this sanctuary, along with more details about what the day will entail.

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Mae Rim Elephant Home

Our last location in this list is located in Mae Rim, just half an hour north of Chiang Mai in the foothills of the local mountain ranges. Again, they focus on offering elephant experiences in the wild, leaving the elephants to their own whim as they explore the land designated for them which is dense, abundant and just like the wild.

The friendly family atmosphere here is perfect for all types of groups or individuals who wish to touch, explore and feel the elephant, both physically and mentally. The trip offers education about how the elephants live and how they socialize, and if you are lucky, the trip may even involve a bath. If you forget to shower, that trunk will be sure to sniff you out! What is great about this trip is that it takes just a few hours, so if you are on a busy schedule or need to head to the airport in the afternoon, you can still fit in some one on one time with an elephant — no longer is a day with elephants necessarily a full day, perfect for those on the go.

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As we mentioned at the head of this article, these are not the only elephant sanctuaries that are ethical, safe and educational, but they are some of the best, all of which the team of local Thai and Expats working at Tripzii have experienced firsthand. Take some advice from a local and check out all of our elephant trips on today and start making your dreams become reality.

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