My Visit to an Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai – Thailand Travel Series

Hello world! I’m still sharing pieces of my trip to Thailand from last November and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have voted for this to be my next post. So today I’ll be telling you about my experience in an elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, was my second stop on the itinerary. I wanted to continue discovering the Thai culture and trying all the delicious food in another part of the country, but also wanted to get a different type of experience and accomplish a big dream from my bucket list – to get up close and personal with elephants!

When I started my research I learned that Thailand has used these beautiful animals for tourism purposes for ages. However, it has not always been in the most humane way. You’ve probably seen pictures of travelers riding elephants or even worse, you see the poor creatures performing in a circus-like show for tourists. The first thing you need to know is that if an elephant is doing these kinds of jobs, most likely it has been tortured to learn the tricks that will keep tourists entertained and safe.

I didn’t want to continue this harsh tradition that hurts elephants, so I researched conservation groups and sanctuaries that rescue and save them from the horrible conditions they have endured. I found a group that opened their sanctuary not too long ago and the experience was so memorable! Keep on reading to find out more about this sanctuary and what you need to plan your own visit.

What is the name of the Elephant Sanctuary I visited and where is it located?

Kanta Elephant Sanctuary is located about 27 miles (45km) from Chiang Mai, so about two hours away from the city by car.

How long is the experience and what is it like?

The Kanta sanctuary offers different types of experiences. You can choose to do the half-day visit in the morning or afternoon or a full-day visit. I chose to do the half-day morning visit because my time in Chiang Mai was short and I wanted to maximized to see and do as much as possible. The transport service picked us up at the hotel around 6:30 am and dropped us off at around 4:00 pm. That still gave us the afternoon and evening to enjoy the city.

You will get to learn about the conservation program, feed the elephants, prepare their medicine and bathe them. All this happens in a super-friendly environment, which offers a chance to see, touch and interact with the elephants in an open space. There are no training hooks, no ankle chains and riding the elephants is strictly prohibited.

Are there any baby elephants?

It depends on when you go and if there have been any recent births or baby-elephant rescues. When I visited in November 2018, the youngest elephant was 4 years old (but already huge) and the oldest one was about 70! All the elephants that we interacted with were Asian and female. During our visit we learned the differences between Asian and African elephants and why the male elephants are usually kept from interacting with tourists (they tend to be more aggressive).

What should I bring to the elephant sanctuary?

If you’ve read my post on “must-pack items for your trip to Thailand“, you’ll know that mosquito repellant is definitely a must as you’ll be in a remote and rural part of the country. Keep in mind the sanctuary provides special clothing/uniforms to all visitors so you can wear whatever feels most comfortable and easiest to change out of.

You will be bathing the elephants in a pond so plan on bringing appropriate shoes and a bathing suit to wear underneath the clothes they give you. Kanta Sanctuary has showers and towels so you can clean up after the experience.

Definitely bring your sunscreen and a hat because it will be hottt! Obviously, don’t forget your camera so you can take some memorable shots of this amazing experience. Finally, bring some extra cash so you can tip your tour guide. Remember they are working to save our planet! Their work in ensuring the elephants live a healthy, long and free life is so valuable.

If you’d like to know more about my trip, check out this post or leave a comment or question below.