The pristine beaches, picturesque sunsets and unlimited partying, Thailand is truly a tourists’ paradise. While these popular activities draw people to this country, a unique thing about this place is also the serene and fun-filled elephant sanctuaries.

A day out with these majestic animals has become extremely popular with the travellers, especially the ones that visit with children. You get to interact with the elephants, most of which are rescued from unethical practices or retired from the local trekking and loggia industries.

Here’s what you can do with them.

What to Do at the Elephant Sanctuary?

Most of these sanctuaries are located amidst the green jungles, near the beaches to simply a visit is sure to refresh you from the late night parties or fast paced adventure sport in Phuket. And the best part you can explore the place at your own pace, taking the scent of flowers or admiring the nature.

The tours are divided into two parts – morning around six to noon and mid-day from noon to early evening till about five or six. Most tour operators and guides speak English so it is easy for you to interact with them. Additionally, your package may include two traditional Thai meals and pick-up, drop to your accommodation in Phuket.

During these trips, an important aspect is learning about the conservation of elephants and helping them survive. The guides explain the welfare programs for these gigantic animals in detail as well as offer some interesting trivia and safety measures about elephants.

Morning Tour:

This tour is ideal if you are visiting with a group of friends or with children as it involves multiple fun activities.

The morning tour usually starts early with a scenic drive through the local villages. You finally reach your destination in the woods, where there will probably be a pond or hillsides for a stunning view. After an educational video or talk by the tour, you are given safety tips for your interaction with the elephants.

Next you finally meet these beautiful creatures and spend time with them. The tour guide gives you a basket of food comprising bananas, cucumbers and pineapples to feed the elephant. He will even introduce each animal, their names, their background and any special skill.

Next, you can take a walk with the elephants to the pond while keeping a safe distance. You can then play with them, give them a mud bath and then bathe them in the pond, under the supervision of your guide.

Mid-Day Tour:

This tour is ideal for wildlife photography enthusiasts as well as those who simply want to observe this large land mammal.

The schedule is similar to the morning safari that includes an education talk or video about elephant welfare, learning about safety measures and finally meeting with the elephants. Here also you can feed them from the basket given to you by the tour operators.

In the noon, however, you can sit at a safe distance from the animals, which are the observation areas created by the operator and view the elephants in their natural habitat. You can enjoy watching move and play amongst themselves and roll in mud and bathe in water.

What to Keep in Mind?

– Since the tour involves you being in the water with the elephants, it can get messy. So it is advised you bring a pair of clothing to change at the venue.

–  Don’t forget to carry you sunscreen, hat, bathing suit, towel and insect repellent, Phuket can get quite hot during the day.

– These sanctuaries are mainly for the well being of elephants and for the tourists to enjoy their company in peace. So stick to the instructions given by the operators and do not push for rides or tricks or troubling the animals with loud noises and camera flash.

– If you want pictures with the elephant you can bring your own camera, however, most operators provide a free service of photography or clicking your pictures at a nominal cost. This is so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.

– Always opt for an ethical sanctuary in Phuket, as the other can be rather cruel to these beautiful animals. You can even offer a financial donation to these places for the welfare of elephants.

Recommended Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries

1. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Located close to Phuket Town, the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary has been the first to introduce ethical ways to be with the elephants in the island. The operators here are genuine and go to great lengths to create a habitable and peaceful environment for old, injured or rescued elephants to live. In addition, they are approachable and friendly for the tourists and their questions. You can avail of their morning and afternoon tours and even become a volunteer at the place for six days.

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Hours of Operation: 9 am to 3 pm
Book Via: Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and Facebook
Price: TBH 3,000 (Rs 6774, US$ 91) per adult for the whole tour. For children under 12 the cost is TBH 1,500 (Rs 3387, US$ 45)

2. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket

Operating in three locations, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is another top operator in Phuket for observing these mammals. The top feature of this organisation is their price point; you can opt for the half day tour which is one of the cheapest in Phuket. And they even offer transfer to and from your accommodation anywhere in Phuket.

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Hours of Operation: 08:30am to 6.30pm
Book Via: Facebook
Price: TBH 2,500 (Rs 5654, US$ 76) per adult and TBH 1,900 (Rs 4290, US$ 58) for children under 10 years of age.

3. Elephant Retirement Park

Besides the normal afternoon and morning tours, the Elephant Retirement Park even offers special packages for private and corporate tours as well as volunteer programs for three days. They are slightly strict about caring for the animals, so offer tours for small groups with strictly no riding or flash photography. They also offer free transfers to and from your hotel.

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Hours of Operation: 7:30 am to 5pm
Book Via: Facebook and Elephant Retirement Park
Price: TBH 2,600 (Rs 5879, US$ 79) for adults and TBH 1,800 (Rs 4070, US$ 55) for kids under 10 years of age.

4. Phang Nga Elephant Park

This place is at Phang Nga which is an hour away from Phuket by car, but the beautiful views are worth it. In addition transfers are available for morning and afternoon tours. In this tour, children under seven years of age can opt for riding the younger elephants too, if they are healthy and it is safe. You get to ride their necks, which is not harmful as riding on their spine.

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Hours of Operation: 9:30am to 6pm
Book Via: Facebook and Phang Nga Elephant Park
Price: TBH 4,900 (Rs 11080, US$ 149) for adult, TBH 2,900 (Rs 6557, US$ 88) for kids under 14.

5. The Elephant Retirement 9 Dee

Specially created for retired elephants this organisation rescues, rehabilitate and then frees the elephants in their natural habitat if they are healthy. They offer half day tours, private tours and even feeding only tours for tourists. You can even opt for an overnight volunteering tour with them

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Hours of Operation: 8am to 4.30pm
Book Via: Elephant Retirement 9 Dee
Price: Starts from TBH 2000 (Rs 4552, US$ 61) for adult feeding-only tour and TBH 1600 (Rs 3618, US$ 49) for children feeding-only tours.

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