Elephant experience in Asia ¿Love or Business?


Elephant experience in Asia

¿Love or Business?

Yesterday they asked me: Until now, what has been the most wonderful experience I ever had?, immediately It came to my mind, all those amazing landscapes I have seen, and those precious moments with wild animals.

I feel that as humans we want so many things, we dream a lot, and obviously we dream wanting those dreams to become real.

When I went to Asia, my dream #1 was to see an Elephant, and if  it was possible touch it and hang out with him.

I remember that I saw some pictures of friends with Elephants, I asked them about it  and they told me about “ Elephant Sanctuaries”

I though that because of the condition of the place, there would be just a few sanctuaries in Thailand, but when I arrived Chiang Mai for my surprise there were many of them.

Doing my research I realized there were many different experiences of all different people, of course we all talk about our own experiences, and each of them is different.

If you read the information from this places, they said there are places for Elephants who were  abused: like Elephant riding, circus etc. So at those Sanctuaries they can live free and rehab.

So here we enter the tourists with our dreams of see an Elephant and also some to volunteer in this places.

My intention with this post is not to  discredit any place, or discourage anyone, and also I am not an expert of this subject.

I just want to share my experience in this Sanctuaries with all the honesty and with all good intentions.


The price obviously depends of the days yo spend in this places, me for example stayed 3 days 2 nights, and that cost me around 150 US dollars.

This includes accommodation, food, transport from the hostel to the Sanctuary and of course the experience with the Elephants.

How to get to the Sanctuaries?

As I mentioned there are many Sanctuaries, with the oldest ones you got to book with more time, and so on. And the options are from 1 day up to 2 weeks approximately

So once you booked, they will pick you up from your place and take you to the Sanctuary.

Itinerary, activities, accommodation etc.

The place is nice and basic, you sleep in this palm houses, the showers are outdoors and you will eat Vegetarian food with the rice-fields scenery in front of you. I liked that you are disconnected from the world, you can really feel in contact with nature, you have only what you need.

In terms of the elephants in those 3 days you get to hang out with  them from 3 to 4 times,  The dynamic to hang out with them is that each elephant has their designated human, the guys call the Elephants so the Elephants come to you.

You can feed them with bananas, canned sugar leafs  and other treats.

There are also moments were you get to go to the river and they called the Elephants so they are hanging out in the river with you.

Elephants are wild animals by nature, they are not like dogs or cats.

So for an elephant to be able to hang out with humans, they have to pass a domestication process.

People from the Sanctuary told us that each Elephant has their own human in charge, that human will trained it so the Elephant kind of “ learn” to hang out with humans.

They said that the humans in charge would never harm the Elephants to make the obey them, or trained them.

But you know, I we are not there when they train them.

Each elephant has their own name, there were elephants from all ages, grown up adults, adults, teenagers and even baby elephants.

Other thing that I also didn´t seem natural to me was that in the Sanctuary there were not just rescued Elephants, they were elephants who born there and grow up there and died there.

Which doesn’t seems natural to me.

I can understand that the rescue elephants once they are recover probably they wouldn’t survived going back to the wild, but you know I am not sure about it.

But what about the baby ones?, they will never know what it is to live free in the wild, like they should live.

My sister ( who is Biologist) told  me that Elephants normally takes shower once a week, and for example in the Sanctuaries they are obliged to go to the river to hang out with us 2 times per day so each group can have the experience.

The place was beautiful, green, rivers, and with mud, and the guys in charged of the elephants seemed very fine people.

The Elephants sleep like under a roofs and as I mentioned it seems they have like the whole routine planned that goes accorded for the schedule that offers the Sanctuary.

So… Where can you see  Elephants in  South East Asia :

1.-   I saw this in so many temples in Cambodia in Siem Reap, were they were riding elephants.  Elephants that are in their feet for moths then 8 hours, without rest, under the sun, carrying a huge wooden thing over their backs, so the people can ride them. And who knows what  the Elephants had to suffer to learn to give people a ride in there loins.

I am completely against this, Its completely cruel. And this practice  should be prohibited in all the world.

2.- Sanctuaries, ( above I described all my experience ).

Honestly I found a very selfish situation, including myself of course, because as visitors of this place we propitiate that they are pent, maybe in a large space, but at the end they are locked up.

But at the end, I think they are not treated as bad as for example in circus or in Elephant riding. ( well, of what I could see).

Options to see Elephants were they are totally free:

3.- In the jungle, obviously because is a jungle  and they are free and wild there is no guarantee you will see them.

My sister and I went also to this experiences, we tried in 2 places: one in Thailand in a National Park named Pak Chong Mu Si in this huge National park you can find not just Elephants, also many other wild animals .

Unfortunately we couldn’t see any Elephants here because:

  1. They go for walks at the evenings because is when the heat is lower, and the tour finished  at that time.
  2. Elephants are shy animals, they are not like Dolphins or Whales who likes to interact with humans.
  3. Luck

We didn’t see elephants but we saw snakes, birds, very cool monkeys and many more cool and wild animals, besides  amazing landscapes.

The other place we went in search of Wild Animals was The Jungle of Borneo.

We went to this river called Kinabatangan

There is a whole post about this place  if you want to check it out. Borneo Forest, Malaysia

In this place we also didn´t see any Elephant but in  both places I have mentioned that we saw fresh Elephant poops, so that showed that they were alive, there, around us, and  for real and you can really be able to see them.

A group of guys from Sweden witch the day before went to the jungle, showed us a video of a group of Elephants  swimming just a few centimeters beside their boat, it was totally amazing, I almost cried watching this video, I wish I could  attached it to this post but with the emotion, I forgot to ask for the video.

At Borneo we didn´t see Elephants but we saw a bunch of cool wild animals.

We left the place very happy because besides we didn’t see Elephants, we knew they were around us, very close, breathing the same air, walking over the same land, and specially they were free and happy.

So I stop here  to think at what cost do we want to make our dreams come true?

Or okay, yo are at the point were you know that you are decided about something, would you  make a decision that hurt the less?

I also get it, that you probably are there in Asia, you traveled from  very far, and had the dream and etc.  But I just wanted to put everything at the table, and then you could make your decision.

We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but we can learn from them. From my side I promise myself  in the future just to see animals in their natural habitat, not been part of zoos and etc, not to be part of put animals under limitations or suffering.

I am sure that love to any alive being has to be wishing it happiness and freedom, and sometimes that can separate us from them, in a physical way, but our spirits will have that connection, ( because at the end, we are one whole being) and we would know that love is freedom, and that everyone should live in there natural habitat, how it should be. 

Being what we are, at our way, been ourselves, in freedom.

Because only in the forest, the mind reminds pure…..



Please write a comment bellow telling me your experience in this topic, so we can all help each other to have the best experience as  possible in a responsible way.

So we read each other in the next post, in the meanwhile I see you in my other social media that you can find bellow the post.

Big hug wherever you are….

Nataly Vargas.

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