Ethical venues in Thailand
Below is our recommended list of Thailand's most ethical elephant venues.
We only recommend venues we have personally visited, or have on good authority from trusted contacts that the welfare needs of the elephants and mahouts are being met.
This is not to say that other venues not on our list aren't ethical. It just means we haven't had chance to visit and assess them yet. And this is why we have our Go To Guide, which gives advice and tips on how tourists can determine for themselves if a venue treats their elephants well.
The conditions at a venue can change quite quickly, so please do give us any feedback on your experience on these or any other venues you visit.
Observe in natural habitat
Walking with elephants
1 day visits
Long stays (2 wks +)
Hikes may be physically
Eles in forest day AND night
May be chained (part time) for the eles' safety
Forest during the day
May be kept in enclosures overnight
Burm & Emily's Elephant Sanctuary (BEES)
Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai
BEES is a magical home for elephants, staff and visitors.
Specialising in giving old and retired elephants a home, BEES is set in a tranquil location which allows visitors to benefit from the relaxed environment as much as the elephants do. The elephants are free to roam in the surrounding forest during the day, closely watched by their mahouts.
With small visitor numbers you will have a unique stay with Burm & Emily, and spend lots of time with the elephants.
BEES has a hands-off policy so sit back, relax and observe.
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary (KSES)
Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai
"Love, Care, Rescue" is KSES's motto, and that's what they aim to stand by.
KSES works closely with the local Karen villagers and elephant owners to provide an enriching and long-lasting life for their now semi-wild elephants.
The retired elephants roam the mountainous forest during the day, foraging and socialising. Enjoy your time with the elephants as well as living wth a Karen hill tribe family.
KSES only allows hands-on during occasional fruit feeds and health checks, the rest of the time is spent hiking and observing from a distance.
Elephant Valley Thiland (EVT) works closely with the elephant owners to reintroduce ex-tourism and ex-logging elephants to a non-working lifestyle. They now roam their new home at ease, without having to lug around heavy logs or give rides all day.
You will have the opportunity to get close to the elephants at feeding time, but otherwise EVT is a beautiful place to sit back and enjoy the elephants from a distance whilst learning about the important issues surrounding them in Thailand.
At EVT, education is a top priority, and rightly so.
We have had really great feedback about BLES from many elephant experts in the field. We look forward to visiting soon.
BLES strives to rescue and protect Thailand's captive elephants from abuse and ultimate extinction. BLES provides a safe haven for elephants, focusing on individual survival and helping them relearn social skills. BLES enables their elephants to interact in a natural environment, without interference from humans.
The only venue in Chiang Mai that offers 1-day trips that we recommend, 'ChangChill' means 'relaxed Elephant' in Thai, and that is exactly what the residents here are.
At ChangChill, observing from a distance rather than bathing, riding or watching shows is the focus. ChangChill is a place where elephants can simply be elephants.
Pai, Northern Thailand
CNF's main focus is and always has been reforestation. In 2017, rescuing captive elephants become a mighty ambitious project but luckily, CNF has enough forest to support four elephants.
Alongside spending time with elephants, you can relax at the bamboo hut, enjoy some yummy Thai food and plant a tree whilst learning all about the great work of CNF.
Huay Pakoot, Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai
GVI works with the local elephant owners to bring back their working elephants and reintroduce them to the mountainous forests of Huay Pakoot.
The elephants roam the forest during the day and have limited interaction with volunteers, but plenty of interaction is had with the villagers.
Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary is a Thai family run venture. They buy and rescue elephants from both the street begging and logging industries. Together, the resort and sanctuary offer a unique experience for guests in a beautiful environment.
The majority of their mahouts are Karen and have long-term relationships with their elephants. The elephants live within 360 acres of land and are able to free roam throughout the day.
Never Forget Elephant Foundation (NFEF)
The mission of NFEF is to educate tourists about the problems captive elephants face in Thailand and how we can positively impact the well-being of elephants, the communities that support them, and the health of our planet. Through this model, they hope to create a tide a positive change that will impact the future of captive Asian elephants.
They offer a week-long (7 days/6 nights), immersive program at their project, located 500km southwest of Chiang Mai.
Situated on 15 acres of forested land bordering Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Following Giants collaborated with World Animal Protection to become an elephant-friendly venue and now exists as a model for ethical elephant tourism. Visitors follow the herd of four elephants as they graze, swim and socialise in their jungle home.
Along the way, you'll learn about elephant behaviour, participate in reforestation efforts, and spot other wildlife in their natural habitats.
Be an elephant hero - visit Following Giants and see what happens when we let elephants lead the way.
Seen a venue that's not on our list? Find out for yourself if they are an ethical venue by following our Go To Guide!