Elephants are a huge part of Thai culture and many visitors to Thailand want the opportunity to spend time with these gentle giants. I have had the luck and opportunity to visit elephants through two different organizations and can say that Elephants at Home was hands down the best day I could have possibly had! Intimate, well planned and located in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, a day with the elephants at Elephants at Home is not one you will regret or soon forget!
Booking with Elephants at home was easy and simple! I just messaged them through their Facebook page and they responded the same day. In their response they included what I could expect from my visit including the full day’s schedule. They also told me the price (2400 baht per person) and asked for my personal information (name and passport number for insurance purposes), as well as my hotel location in Chiang Mai (for pick up/drop off services), the number of people in my group and my desired date. Once I gave them the information, I was booked! That simple!
They also checked in the day before to make sure I had all the information I needed and to confirm if I was still coming. There was no pre-booking charge. The entirety of the payment is made once you arrive at Elephants at Home.
- Pick Up – The day began with a pick up from our accommodation in Chiang Mai. The company will let you know an approximate time their driver will arrive (usually between 7:00 -7:30 am ) so make sure to be ready in order to avoid delays. The driver arrived on time to pick up me and my boyfriend before getting one other couple who shared our experience that day.
- Arrival – After about an hour long ride into the surrounding mountainous jungle of Chiang Mai, we arrived at Elephants at Home! Immediately we were greeted by the sight of a mother and baby elephant with whom we would spend the remainder of our day! First up though, logistics and paying for our experience.
- Elephant Feeding – Once we had paid, it was time to feed the elephants their first snack of the day! We were outfitted in traditional Karen clothing, which is something other companies don’t usually do! I had a lot of fun during this first interaction with the elephants. The guides and mahouts do a really good job of letting you get a hands-on experience. They encouraged us to touch the elephants and showed us safe ways to do so.
- Introduction to Elephants and Karen Tribe – After the feeding, we sat down with the owner to learn more about the gentle giants we had all come to see. He shared a lot of very interesting facts about elephants, including the differences between Asian and African elephants, why elephants don’t have stinky poop, how we can read their behavior, how his tribe had been living and working alongside elephants for generations and more! It was really all very fascinating and informative.
- Elephant Washing – Once we were acquainted more with the elephants, it was time to get them washed up! First, we had to prepare the supplies for the bath. This included beating a root that provides a natural soap for the elephants. Then we walked down to a small river where we used the root to scrub the elephants and then douse them with water. The elephants were quite playful and even sprayed us back!
- Walk to Waterfall – Once we had gotten properly soaked, Elephants at Home provided us with a change of clothes in order to walk to a nearby waterfall. The walk was on a clear path and did involve some up and down, though not much. The walk probably lasted about 20 minutes in total. Along the way, the mahouts taught us different commands for the elephants such as how to say ‘come,’ ‘go’ and ‘don’t be naughty.’ It was really fun using them to get the elephants from point A to point B.
- Lunch – This was a great break after the walk and truly delicious! It was lovely to eat the chicken, sticky rice and fresh fruit in view of the waterfall. Elephants at Home does provide vegetarian options for those that request it. We had more food than we could possibly eat. I bet you can guess who helped us finish…
- Bathing with Elephants – This is the part of the day I was most excited for! After lunch, we got the chance to swim in a pool at the base of the waterfall with each elephant. First the Mom and then the baby, who was so cheeky! It was beyond fun and really cool to be so close to them like this. The photographer will ask if you want pictures on top of the elephants – if you don’t feel comfortable, you can simply decline. I should also note that the water is not very deep. It was deep enough for the elephants to submerge most of their bodies, but if you do not know how to swim you will be completely fine.
- After bathing with the elephants, there is the option to take a jungle shower in the nearby waterfall. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and loved being in the stream of the thundering water to cool off before the walk back to end our day.
- Farewell – All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to our elephant friends and our guides. Back at the ‘base camp,’ there was a small table set up with local artists selling jewelry. You are by no means pressured to buy anything, but if you do, the money goes to the local people. Once you gather your things, you can download all of the photos from the day (there will be hundreds!) which provide you with some of the best memories of the day! Then the driver brings you back to your hotel and the day is over.
Why Elephants at Home?
Unlike other companies, Elephants at Home provides a unique and authentic experience. Their small group excursions ensure that you get the most time with the elephants while also not overwhelming the animals.
I also really appreciated the fact that they had a photographer capture all of the lovely moments we had with the elephants all day. Having one there made it easy to really immerse myself in the experience without worrying about taking photos. Just don’t forget to bring an SD card or USB for all your amazing pictures they will download for you at the end!
Most important though is how much the elephats are cared for; it is apparent when you first arrive that these are very happy elephants. They are not chained and are allowed to roam free through the jungle. In fact, the day I arrived, one of their three elephants wasn’t there because he had wandered off on his own that day! Now that is a free and happy elephant. It was also clear that they know a lot about their elephants; the bond between the mahouts and the elephants was touching and really cool to see.
I highly recommend spending a day with Elephants at Home. All of your money will go to support local Thai people and their few elephants. It was also cheaper than the touristy Elephant Nature Park that is well known. Give Elephants at Home a chance! You will NOT regret it!!
Things You Will Need
To fully enjoy your day with the elephants, the following are good to keep in mind:
- A swim suit – If you are planning to go swimming with the elephants, I recommend wearing swimming trunks (men) and at least a top (for women) that you don’t mind getting wet. You will not have time or a good place to change, so I suggest wearing them there.
- Hat & sunscreen – Thailand is hot, humid and sunny. These will help keep you cool.
- Insect spray – I did apply some but it got washed right off.
- An SD card or USB – You need this to take your pictures home!
- Money – The cost of a day with Elephants at Home is 2400 baht per person.
Elephants at home provided us with plenty of water in the beginning and along with our lunch. They also are responsible for insurance and transportation. In addition, they will give you traditional clothing to wear, which is a lot of fun!
Tel: +66 93 181 8599
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