The Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Phuket
If you want to visit ethical elephant sanctuaries in Phuket then that’s great. A few years ago it was all the rage to jump on an elephant’s back and take a jungle tour, but nowadays we know that this causes a huge amount of stress and harm to these gentle giants. Most responsible tourists wouldn’t dream of climbing on board!
There are plenty of well-run, trustworthy elephant parks in Phuket for you to choose from. We’ll help you make the most of your trip to meeting these amazing animals at a place that cares for their wellbeing!
Elephant pants, elephants in the Chang Beer logo…how could you NOT want to see some elephants up close and personal while in Thailand?!
What is an ethical elephant sanctuary?
How can you tell if a place is ethical, and what can you expect when you visit?
The best way to know if a place is ethical is to do your research beforehand. Review sites are helpful, as are photos that other visitors have uploaded. Never go anywhere that lets people ride the elephants!
Most sanctuaries offer group tours, and your visit will probably start with an educational briefing followed by some sort of elephant tracking or interaction. The itinerary is different at each park, but they all offer some time to just watch the animals and take it all in.
What’s it like to meet an elephant?
After the arrival briefing you’ll be ready for the main event, seeing the elephants. They’re truly awesome! The biggest surprise is how cheeky and naughty they are, and each one has their own individual personality.
You’ll spend a bit of time watching and observing the elephants as they do their favorite thing- eating. If they’re really hungry then you might be treated to some of the inventive tricks they use to find food! These guys are smart, and are masters of misdirection. Don’t carry any bananas on you as they might get stolen…
Bring Your Swimwear
Your elephant interactions might not end at watching a meal or two, though. Many ethical elephant sanctuaries in Phuket also have rivers and pools on-site, and when elephants aren’t eating they like to get wet!
Wear your swimming gear under your clothes because a real highlight of any trip is the chance to bathe with these incredible creatures. It’s like taking a bath with playful children, as they wallow and squirt each other (and sometimes you) with water. This is like living in the Jungle Book, for real!
The Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Phuket
The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary was ahead of the game from the start, setting up an ethical park long before others followed suit. The environment here is as natural as it can be, and a trip here mostly means wandering through the forest spotting the elephants in their natural habitat.
This isn’t a tourist attraction so much as a privileged glimpse into the elephants’ private lives. If you want to do more than just watch and learn then the sanctuary also offers volunteering opportunities to committed visitors. A week-long stay allows you to integrate into the life of the sanctuary, helping to prepare food, clean enclosures and care for the elephants.
If you just fancy a brief visit then that’s fine too; a half-day experience costs 3,000 baht, or $96. Not cheap, but so worth it.
Another good choice is the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket. There are four of these types of jungle sanctuary across Thailand, originating in Chiang Mai and now also in Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. The Phuket location is well-run if very popular and therefore sometimes quite busy. The elephants here are well-known for their bathing antics!
This is a cheaper choice than some of the other parks but elephant welfare is still at the forefront. Where the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary differs from the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is that you can touch the elephants here, as you wash them in the river.
If you’re heading here then make sure you bring a waterproof camera for all the you-and-the-elephants selfie opportunities! Their ‘feed and shower’ experience costs 2,000 baht, or about $65.
The Elephant Retirement Park Phuket is exactly what it sounds- a retirement complex for elephants that used to work in the tourism and logging trades. These guys have earnt their rest! Here you can prepare a meal for the elephants (fancy hauling a ton of bananas?!) before jumping into a mud bath and then a river with them.
A half-day visit includes a buffet lunch, and there are showers for you to rinse off after your swim. If you want more time here though then there’s always the option for a 2- or 3-day course on elephant care! The 3-day version costs 20,000 baht, or $650, but there’s no better way to get up and personal with these gentle giants.
Our final pick is Phang Nga Elephant Park, a tourism and education park where teaching visitors about conservation issues is front and center. You can choose from two different programs, the Elephant Care Experience and the Family Elephant Experience, both of which come with an English-speaking guide.
The nice thing about Phang Nga park is that you get paired up with an elephant for your whole visit and you really get to know them. Back to what we were saying about elephants having personalities- each one is individual, and you’ll be sad when you have to say goodbye!
The Elephant Care Experience costs 4900 baht or $150 for a half-day visit, so it’s definitely the most expensive option on offer. If you want a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with an elephant though, it’s the best by far.
An unforgettable highlight of any trip to Thailand.
There’s something incredibly uplifting and joyful about seeing these amazing creatures in as close to their natural habitat as possible. Do your research, and make sure you’re supporting a sanctuary with the elephants’ welfare at heart. Whichever ethical elephant sanctuary you choose, you’re going to have a great time!