I’ve always had a strong affinity towards elephants. Their gentleness, intelligence and sense of community are just a few of the characteristics I find absolutely fascinating. Of course, I know I’m not alone. Various cultures around the world have long revered elephants for the powerful and complex animals that they are.
For all their adoration, it’s also true that far too many elephants are abused and mistreated for personal gain. Many travel bloggers have written extensively about why you should never ride elephants, explaining the horrible truth about the mistreatment of elephants in the tourism industry. If riding an elephant in Thailand is still on your bucket list, we strongly encourage you to learn more about the issue.
On our recent trip to Thailand, we knew that we did not want to do any elephant rides or otherwise participate in the mistreatment of these gentle giants. But we also knew that we couldn’t leave Thailand without an ethical encounter with elephants. Enter: Elephant Hills.
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Located in Khao Sok National Park (one of the most beautiful national parks in all of Southeast Asia), Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp. Elephant Hills boasts adventure activities within a stunning location—without sacrificing style in the process. Or, as we like to say, it’s adventure travel with a dash of class at its finest.
While there are many features of Elephant Hills that make it stand out from your typical hotel getaway, it is, of course, the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with elephants that truly sets it apart from the rest.
Elephant Hills provides a holistic wildlife experience where guests can engage with 12 rescued Asian Elephants. These amazing animals were used in the Thai logging industry until the government outlawed logging in hopes to curb the massive deforestation taking place. The elephant owners were suddenly left with significant numbers of elephants that were no longer providing income. As Elephant Hills explains, “Dark times of illegal logging, begging or malnourishment awaited many of Asia’s largest land animals…” Fortunately, some of these domestic elephants found a permanent home at Elephant Hills, where they can now lead healthy and happy lives.
Playing With The Elephants
Our elephant encounter began by observing a handful of the elephants interact with their Mahouts (elephant caretakers) while we learned a few interesting facts and tidbits about the animals. We then hopped right into hands-on interaction with the opportunity to bathe the elephants. We sprayed and scrubbed their skin with coconut shells, naturally getting a bit of a bath ourselves in the process! In fact, we think the elephants loved dousing us with water more than we enjoyed bathing them!
After bath time, the elephants were ready for a scrumptious lunch. We chopped up bananas, pineapple and bamboo as the elephants watched on with delight. Then, we hand-fed each of the creatures, delighting in how quickly they stretched out their trunks to guzzle down the goodies.
All in all, we spent a few leisurely hours with the elephants, learning about each elephant’s story, snapping photos, and otherwise reveling in this one-of-a-kind experience.
It’s worth noting that one thing, in particular, we loved about Elephant Hills was that they kept the group small and personal. We had as much one-on-one time with the elephants as we wanted, and it was evident the elephants never felt overwhelmed or exhausted from the activity.
Playing with the elephants was just the beginning of our adventure with Elephant Hills. We were participating in the three-day Jungle Lake Safari Tour, which meant we still had plenty of adventures awaiting!
Kayaking, boating, hiking, swimming, and visiting a local market were the primary items on the agenda. Of it all, one of our favorite activities was drifting past the dramatic limestone cliffs and sparkling emerald water of Khao Sok National Park. Home to the world’s oldest evergreen forest, there was also abundant opportunities for spotting wildlife such as gibbons, macaques, bears, a variety of birds, and even the occasional flying lemur.
After exploring the park via traditional Thai longtail boat, many guests opted for an afternoon hike. We, however, were feeling sufficiently lazy and instead decided to while away the afternoon in our luxury floating tent. Reading on our private floating dock, diving into the pristine water and kayaking throughout the spectacular scenery was more than enough to keep us entertained.
The combination of luxury and adventure was exactly our style, plus we loved knowing that we were participating in safe, sustainable travel. If you’re looking for a personal way to see elephants in Thailand—and enjoy some of the country’s most spectacular scenery—then we highly recommend Elephant Hills.
All Elephant Hills tours include transfers, accommodation, activities, meals, and trained guides. Learn more about their tour options here.
We were guests of Elephant Hills. All thoughts and opinions are our own.