Over the years, Thailand has become popular for showcasing its animals. Riding elephants and petting tigers has been advertised as a popular tourist activity. Unfortunately, the harsh truth is that these animals are actually being treated as slaves. Tigers are placed under heavy sedation and locked in caves while elephants are constantly abused. To avoid participating in such activities, my group and I decided to visit Elephants World, a sanctuary for elephants.
Elephants World is a non-profit organization taking care of sick, abused and old elephants. It is located about 2 hours away from Bangkok in Kanchanaburi. You must make a reservation before visiting and pay an admission fee.
Since we were staying in Bangkok, we found the easiest way to get to Kanchanaburi was via taxi. Elephants World was kind enough to send over cabs that picked us up from our hotel and dropped us off at the location in time.
There are options for staying overnight in the cabins at Elephants World or staying for the day program. The day program is about 6 hours from 10 am to 4 pm.
I’ll be honest, I initially thought it was going to be a labor intensive day. Activities listed for the day included feeding and bathing the elephants, and gathering and preparing food. You were essentially paying to work for the animals. On the contrary, it was a relaxing day observing the elephants in a beautiful scenery.
Each elephant has a caretaker or “mahout” that stays with them throughout the day. They each share a special bond as some have been together for over 20 years.
The order of activities varies according to the day. We had the pleasure of making sticky balls of hand feeding it to Tang-Mo, a 68-year female elephant.
After feeding the elephants, we also have our feeding time.
Food was surprisingly tasty, offering a variety of stir-fries, vegetables, and other sides. You expect the food served at these types of events to be less than mediocre but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality.
After feeding the elephants for the third time (they sure do eat a lot!), we ended our day by bathing them.
As they gently lay in the water, we gathered around the creatures and scrubbed down their bodies. The river is the natural restroom for the elephants, so be aware of floating excrement in the water!
All in all, a wonderful way to spend the day. Out of all the activities in Thailand, visiting Elephants World is, without a doubt, number one of my list of recommendations.
Next up, Krabi.
Check out the rest of “A Bite Out of Thailand:” series:
Part 1: Bangkok Highlights
Part 2: Shopping in Bangkok
Part 3: Street Markets
Part 4: Soei and Thip Simai
Part 5: Gaggan
Part 7: Krabi