people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia

Elephants Chiang Mai


Always fun to visit and pay respects to Elephants!

In recent years, a more eco-friendly brand of elephant tourism has been growing along with human debates on what is best for elephants. An ideal situation would be for all wildlife to be able to roam freely. Realistically there is just no longer enough natural habitat remaining.  Most of the elephants you visit in the various elephant camps today were formerly working for the logging trade.   These elephants are very advanced social creatures and over time develop a bond to their human keepers called mahouts. Visiting an elephant camp, you are able to learn how mahouts and elephants interact. Of course mass tourism has created a very commercialized scene, but this does not mean that ALL elephant camps are treating their elephants poorly as some animal activists or some eco-friendly businesses wish you to believe. Taking care of elephants is very expensive and tourism has been the main means of support.  Not everyone can afford the new brand of conservation packages and some tourists still lack the expectation of conservation standards.
But it is clear that tourism is a means to help support these wonderful creatures.

Below are links to reputable camps to visit:

Chai Lai Orchid and Chai Lai Sisters looking after the welfare of elephants:
Learn more on:

Elephant Rescue Park:

Patara Elephant Farm:  Hands on experience away from the tourist crowds. Enjoy being an Elephant Owner for the Day!


The Mae Sa Elephant Camp
in the lovely Mae Sa valley about 30 minutes drive north of Chiang Mai City.  This camp does cater to the mass tourist crowd, but for a reasonable entrance fee, you can observe the elephants happily bathing with option to take an elephant ride. Although riding has become less popular, I do not believe that elephant riding is all suffering for elephants. Most important, they are not overworked!   No one seems to talk bad about riding horses.
There is also a show where you can see how elephants interact with their mahouts as well as see elephants painting pictures.   I wish an elephant could tell me directly if he wants to do this or not, but one cannot help but feel that elephants have an amazing creative spirit.

If the riding and show is not for you, enjoy the quieter time visiting the Baby Nursery!

And for Mae Sa’s retired elephants receiving care, visit:

Guidelines from the Naka Elephant Foundation:

  • Shows that do not involve torturous training are acceptable: eg. traditional logging and painting.
  • Rides do not harm if hours are limited, loads monitored, saddles well-designed and handled by skilled mahouts, and elephants have time in the shade to rest.
  • Long chains are preferred to small pens or foaming freely. Chains protect elephants from other elephants of different bloodlines, and farmers whose crops they might otherwise raid. Long chains allow them greater freedom to roam for natural fresh food & water.
  • A skilled mahout uses a hook for guidance, not torture. Tourism enables owners to keep talented mahouts on the job. In an elephant’s forehead is free of bloody pockmarks, hook is used likely okay.
  • Meeting the medical & nutritional needs of captive elephants is costly. Your tourist dollar spent in the right place ensures better practices.

Asia Captive Elephant Working Group
addressing the situation for captive elephants in the tourist industry in Southeast Asia.  Very informative reading with FAQs:

Friends of Asian Elephant and Hospital in Lampang

Elephant Parade:
Design and Paint your own Elephant!

Elephant Parade is a social enterprise running the world’s largest exhibition of decorated elephant statues.  Each one a unique art piece exhibited around the world to raise awareness for the need of elephant conservation.
“Elephant Parade believes in the power of a global movement to make a happier world. These wonderful art pieces create millions of smiles!”
Visit their showroom and workshops in Chiang Mai:

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