“10/10 An amazing once in a lifetime experience, I loved the bamboo rafting, elephant hospital and trek and of course being up close and personal with the elephants. The guides were so much fun, the food was AMAZING, the experience was one I'll never forget.” Amy
An exciting opportunity to experience a new elephant home which is leading the way in the move towards more ethical elephant interaction – one which puts the elephants’ well-being first – that means there is absolutely no riding allowed here and no tourist hordes. With the welfare of the elephants being at the forefront, this program really is eco-tourism at its very best!
Through living on site and working with the mahouts, you can spend as much time as you wish with the elephants, helping with feeding, cleaning of their living areas and (a huge highlight!!) you'll accompany them on walks and bathe them in the local river.
The exciting one-week program includes an adventurous trek through the surrounding hills accompanied by a Karen Hilltribe guide, bamboo rafting through the local valley and a visit to the Friends of the Elephant Hospital in nearby Lampang province.
Day 1 (Wednesday) Arrive to Chiang Mai at any time today and check in to your hotel in the city centre (included). No activities are planned today, you’ll meet your guides and the rest of the group tomorrow morning, so take time to explore the lovely city of Chiang Mai.
Day 2 (Thursday) Pick up from the hotel is 9.30am and we transfer directly to the Elephant Home, around 45 minutes out of town. On arrival there will be an orientation meeting, introducing you to the home, the surrounding area and what you can expect during your week - and you will of course meet the elephants!! You'll check into your accommodation, literally on the elephants' doorstep and settle into the village community.
Day 3 & 4 (Friday & Saturday) Village life starts early and you’ll wake to the sound of the elephants nearby. After breakfast you’ll be working alongside the mahouts on a range of activities. You’ll get involved with feeding the elephants, making their special vitamin ‘cakes’, cleaning the elephants' living area and a huge highlight walking alongside the elephants and bathing them in the local river !
During this time whilst helping the mahouts you’ll really get to see the personality of the elephants and learn about how they interact with each other. Your work revolves around feeding and cleaning, these gentle giants are very hungry and very messy !!
Day 5 & 6 (Sunday & Monday) It's time to explore the valley as we head off on a trek through the surrounding hills and forest. This part of Thailand has a large number of Karen hilltribe villages and as we walk through the countryside we’ll pass alongside small settlements and farming outposts. The scenery is wonderful as you pass through rice terraces and into forested areas and your guide, who is from one of these communities, will provide a great insight into life in the villages.
We cross rivers, rest by waterfalls (for obligatory swim and cool down sessions!) and eventually reach our overnight ‘jungle camp' by the river where we have dinner by campfire – a fantastic experience. The trek today is between 8 and 10km and the pace is nice and slow ensuring everyone can enjoy the experience. You don't need to be super-fit, the route is suitable for all. Our camp accommodations tonight are simple jungle huts with mattresses and mosquito nets.
Next morning we awake to the sound of the forest and freshen up in the river before completing the trek. We’ll be picked up from a Karen village and head further down the valley for some fun on the river, bamboo rafting. We get a totally different view as we drift slowly downstream on traditional bamboo rafts, heading to a riverside stop for lunch. Later we transfer back to the elephant home, with a chance to rest up and watch the elephants go about their business!
Day 7 (Tuesday) Today we head to the Friends of the Elephant Foundation Hospital in Lampang province. Dedicated to helping injured and sick elephants, this hospital also works with local communities to ensure that pregnant elephants give birth safely. Your day here will include a tour of the facilities and you'll gain a great insight into the work and passion that many people have for elephants in this part of the world.
Day 8 (Wednesday) After a relaxing breakfast there is time to say your goodbyes to all your four-legged friends and of course the villagers before we head back to Chiang Mai where your trip concludes around midday.
Accommodation In Chiang Mai, you’ll spend your first night in a city hotel (twin-share). At the elephant home we stay dorm-style in a simple but clean fan-cooled wooden long-house. Very much the real SE Asia jungle experience, you’ll have a mattress and your own mossie net and shared bathroom facilities. The rooms are located very close to where the elephants live although far enough away to ensure you don’t disturb or upset the elephants when they are sleeping. You are based at the top of the local village with great views across the valley and of the surrounding hills.
Meals Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided throughout the itinerary, from Day 2 onwards. Please note that no meals are included on Day 1, and the trip concludes after breakfast on Day 8
The training of domestic elephants by mahouts is an ancient tradition in Thailand. Traditionally elephants were largely trained for logging to support the local community. With the ban of the logging industry many mahouts were forced to bring elephants into urban areas to beg for money.
This experience provides a responsible and sustainable alternative. It provides an experience that financially supports the whole community whilst allowing visitors to participate in village life. This fosters an opportunity for travellers to learn about rural Thai culture as well as begin to understand the diverse challenges that face elephant communities in Thailand. Along with your group, you will spend lots of time up close to these magnificent animals.
You will also come to understand the meaning of ‘sanook’. If it's not ‘sanook’, it's not worthwhile! – boy do the villages know how to have a great time!