Ethical Elephant Tourism
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is the only ethical elephant attraction available on this island in Thailand.
I knew I wanted to see the elephants while I was visiting Thailand. But before my trip I discovered that a lot of tourism companies there exploit the elephants in a harmful way.
Did you know elephants are actually not meant to be ridden or carry anything heavy on their backs? A common misconception is that since they are large animals, they are able to carry heavy loads on their backs. Their bone structure can’t handle that much weight, and over time this causes them physical and mental harm.
I got to see the elephants, and the elephants remained happy and healthy: a win-win! I had such an incredible experience booking a tour through this organization and recommend it for anyone visiting Phuket.
Here’s my complete guide on what to expect when you book a tour with Phuket Elephant Sanctuary:
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary – An Elephant Rescue Park
Getting To The Park
The sanctuary is located in Paklok on the island of Phuket.
The only way to get into the sanctuary is to book a tour. Since this is an elephant rescue, the organization does not allow for walk-ins or access to the general public.
However, when you book a tour the company will provide you with transportation into the park. They will arrange to have a driver pick you up regardless of where you are staying on the island!
The day of your booking, everyone in your tour group will meet up at the organization’s office located in Paklok. From there they will transfer you into the park. If you need transportation from your accommodation to their office, they will gladly provide you with a driver. On my tour day I was staying at an AirBnb in Nai Yang, about 16 miles (25.5 km) away from the sanctuary, and my driver provided me with round-trip transportation directly from my apartment.
What to Expect on the Sanctuary Tour
The tour starts off with an informational overview of their history and why they do what they do. Everyone gathers around to view a short video of how the sanctuary came to be what it is today. As well as how they promote a more ethical elephant tourism for Thailand.
Afterwards, your group is led into the park guided by one of the knowledgeable sanctuary staff. Since the elephants are free to roam as they please, no two tours are the same. During the guided tour you are able to walk alongside the elephants and observe them in their natural habitat.
Depending on where the elephants are hanging out that day, you may be able to observe them swimming and may even have an opportunity to get up close!
At the end of the walking tour you will be able to feed the elephants fresh fruits and veggies. This will also be your best opportunity to take photos with them. However, keep in mind that the sanctuary staff never force the elephants to do anything. So they cannot guarantee that they will be in any particular place for photo ops. But I mean, who isn’t motivated by food??
After feeding the elephants the sanctuary provides you with a vegan/vegetarian lunch buffet which is included with your tour. Some of the lunch choices included rice, stir fried vegetables, noodles, salad, mango sticky rice. They also offer an assortment of drink options such as coffee, tea, juice, and soda.
Helpful Tips for Visiting The Sanctuary
Here are some things you should know before your tour at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary:
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES / LAYERS
Depending on what time of year you are visiting Thailand, it may rain! Phuket has two seasons: wet & hot, and dry & hot. The rainy months go from May-October, and the dry season is December-March. I visited the sanctuary in May and it rained on us for the first portion of our tour. However, the sanctuary provides guests with ponchos, rain boots and umbrellas when it rains so you can stay dry during your walk. If you are visiting during the rainy season, consider bringing extra layers of clothing to stay dry.
THE REMAINING BALANCE OF YOUR BOOKING IS DUE ON TOUR DAY
When you book your tour online, you are only charged for the deposit, or 30% of your total. The remainder is paid upon arrival to their office location. They accept cash (in Thai Baht) or credit cards for this. Credit card charges will also include a 3% surcharge.
CHOOSING THE MORNING SANCTUARY TOUR VS THE AFTERNOON TOUR
There are two tour options available, both of which are half-day tours. The morning tour goes from 9:30am-1pm, and the afternoon tour goes from 1:30pm-5pm.
I opted to do the morning tour for a better chance of being able to feed the elephants. Later on in the day, it’s possible that they won’t be as interested in human interaction. And they may still have full bellies from being fed by the morning tour groups.
Have you ever visited this elephant sanctuary or another one like in in Thailand? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.