There are many elephant camps around Thailand but most of them are in the Lanna areas of northern Thailand around Chiang Mai. Thai elephant camps are the result of the collapse of the logging industry in which elephants played a key role. The owners of the elephants were forced to find them alternative work to maintain them and the rise of the Thai tourist industry provided the needed opportunity. It is believed that responsible elephant tourism is the best way to help save captive elephants in Thailand. However the best places to see elephant is in their natural environment but as habitat loss and fragmentation is taking their toll, the next best thing is to visit them in semi captive wild life settings in well run camps and sanctuaries where the elephants have space to roam and feed.
Elephants in most camps in Lanna areas earn their keep by interacting with tourists, providing entertainment and demonstrating skills and intelligence. Interactions take the form of feeding bananas or sugar cane to the elephants purchased from vendors on site and photo opportunities that include visitors sitting on top of elephants or being hoisted up on their trunks. The most important, and in most cases the impatiently awaited interaction is riding on the elephant in a howdah through nearby jungles and across streams and in some camps helping with bath time by scrubbing and splashing water on the elephant lying on its side in a stream. Elephant performances take place in many camps and they take the form of the pachyderms playing musical instruments, kicking soccer balls, dunking basketballs into hoops, sitting down and walking on hind legs and ‘dancing’ to music. The elephants are also put through their paces to demonstrate various logging tasks and some even paint using the tips of their trunks to hold brushes. However as interesting as they may seem not all of it goes down well with visitors who are becoming more aware of the need for ethical treatment of elephants and their welfare. For the moment tourism does seems the best way to preserve Thai elephants in captivity rather than have elephants wandering the streets in urban areas ‘begging’ for their food.
Another type of elephant camp in northern Thailand is those where visitors can learn about the care and husbandry of elephants and the correct eating, sleeping, bathing and exercise regimes. There are no elephants performing for tourists here and baby elephants are not separated from their mothers. These camps also provide homes to rescued elephants.
Volunteering in elephant camps in northern Thailand is a popular way of getting up close and personal with the beasts. The day starts with the elephants being fed and bathed. Breakfast is corn and grass which the volunteers help prepare including cutting the grass. Volunteers get the opportunity to work with a mahout to get to know a grown elephant or a baby elephant and to help with the training.
Stay in the heart of Lanna country at Anantara Golden Triangle Thailand among a stunning setting of misty mountains and lush jungles. As one of prominent Chiang Rai hotels guests can not only experience spacious well appointed guestrooms and suites and a range of modern amenities and facilities but also experience a series of leisure activities such as time with elephants at the onsite elephant camp which is certain to provide unforgettable holiday memories of this hotel Chiang Rai.
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