When you think of Thailand, often elephant experiences come to mind. The southeast asian country is known for its history with the gentle giants, and the tourism industry has been offering experiences such as elephant trekking for decades.
While we were researching ways to hang out with elephants prior to our trip, we came across Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to changing the way people interact with elephants.
This means absolutely no riding – and for good reason, too! It may seem like a no brainer that elephants can easily carry weight due to their large size. But, unlike horses, their bone structure doesn’t allow for supporting heavy weight above their spine, especially for prolonged periods of time. Many trekking elephants have sustained injuries due to decades of being ridden… decades!!
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has a few locations throughout Thailand and we visited them in north Phuket. There are two sessions per day where the organization will pick you up from your hotel and bring you to meet the elephants, prepare bananas and feed them, and then bathe them in the mud pools.
Elephants eat TONS of food a day, so the cost of your admission to the sanctuary helps support the millions of bananas EJS needs to feed their growing population of rescued elephants.
EJS has elephants up to around 70 years old, and all have been rescued from trekking, logging, or the tourism industry. The youngest little guy is just a baby and was born a year ago to a rescued mother at the sanctuary.
After everyone took turns feeding the elephants, it was bath time! The muddy water helps keeps elephants cool under the hot Thailand sun, and visitors are encouraged to get in their bathing suits and hop in, too.
A quick rinse at the elephant shower station later, it was then time for lunch!
Authentic home-cooked Thai food was the perfect way to end the morning. Delicious curry, pad thai (of course), and spring rolls were prepared and ready for the visitors once everyone got cleaned up and dry.
I can’t stress how important it is to do your research when vacation planning, especially when animals are involved! While we were in Thailand, another tour group that advocated trekking had an incident where a tourist pulled on an elephant’s tail and the tour guide was trampled in the resulting chaos. These intelligent animals are no joke and it’s important to learn about and respect them.
Huge thanks to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for the great half day experience that we had. I hope more organizations like this will start to change the way people view elephant experiences in SouthEast Asia!