You may or may not know, but I am ever so slightly obsessed with elephants. They are my absolute favourite animals, so of course I had to go and see some elephants in real life during my trip to Thailand. However, I’m aware of all the elephant tourism harming them going on so I wanted to ensure I went to somewhere that loved elephants as much as me and let them be themselves. That’s when I came across the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, a sanctuary designed to literally provide a sanctuary to elephants, and to ‘pioneer ethical elephant tourism’.
Today I’m going to share with you all my trip to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. I’ll warn you now, I do mention a little about the cruelty elephants sometimes suffer.
We started the day by getting a taxi to just outside; we then all got into our jeeps and headed into the elephant jungle sanctuary. As we drove in you could immediately see how large and green the area was, and we even spotted an elephant or too freely roaming around.
We started our day by stopping by the conservation centre there, where we were all sat down and a video was played to us. This video was incredibly educational, but I can honestly say I can’t believe what I saw, I can’t believe elephants can be treated this way, treated with no care in the world for them. An elephant’s spine is not built to carry weight or people. Did you know that the weight of the saddle used if you were to go for an elephant ride/trek is several stone? Imagine being forced to carry a bag full of weights nearly 24/7, plus even more weight, if you take into account that sometimes a whole family sits on one elephant.
I simply struggle to comprehend this, and why anyone would want to hurt an elephant. This is not to mention the ‘crush’ training they have to undergo to even start doing elephant rides, treks and/or circus tricks. Elephants can be tied up as they walk to teach them to behave a certain way. A sharp pin of some kind, also known as a bull hook, will be used to stab them behind the neck so they follow the trainer due to fear. This means elephant riding not only causes physical pain, but can cause mental problems too. They are taught to behave exactly how their trainer/handler wants them to by creating fear, fear of the bull hook and being tied up again.
It is horrible, but also the truth and I couldn’t write this post without mentioning anything. I knew that elephant tourism was a problem, but I didn’t realise just how bad it was, and I’m sure many people simply aren’t aware of it either.
After this session we were led out to the elephants, elephants in their natural environment. Here, we had the opportunity to feed them, a truly amazing experience. We were told elephants love to eat watermelon and bananas, but that they also love rice, I’m not sure exactly what rice it was but it was sticky. I fed them bananas to their trunk, which they then moved and placed the bananas into their mouths.
After feeding them the elephants wandered off, although I think they could happily have carried on eating, they eat so much! We followed and were led around the elephant sanctuary, or the elephant jungle as I like to call it. The photo above is one Luke took of me wandering off towards the elephants, getting way too excited!
We spent our time watching them and simply enjoying the elephants enjoying their sanctuary. It was such an amazing feeling being so close to them and seeing them in their natural environment.
When we visited the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary they had 4 elephants, which had been rescued; Gaew Ta, Madee, Kannika and DokGaew. Each of them looked so happy as they were wandering, chilling and flicking mud on themselves to cool down.
A little bit later on we wandered back to the conservation centre for lunch, an amazing array of vegetarian dishes, and watched the elephants bath themselves and play in the water. It was beyond amazing.
It’s difficult to put into words how much of an amazing experience this was, but it really was. The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary actually only recently opened in January too, so they have space for another 16 elephants there, and they have since rescued one more already.
I highly recommend visiting if you go to Thailand, and I really hope I get to go back in the future. I’d love to visit the other ethical tourism sanctuary too, the Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai.
Have you visited an elephant sanctuary before, or been to Thailand?