Thursday, 8 February 2018

Elephants World, Kanchanburi, Thailand

One of the absolute delights of Kanchanburi (a small town located about 85 miles to the west of Bangkok) is that it is home to Elephants World, an elephant sanctuary whose motto is ‘we work for the elephants, and the elephants not for us’.

Meeting an elephant has been a life long dream. I remember reading Barbar the Elephant and watching Jungle Book when I was little and just yearning to see an elephant in real life. Then I got into David Attenborough and the need just intensified.

At first I wanted to ride an elephant like you see everyone doing on their gap yarr. Luckily my friend did a bit of research beforehand and discovered that this is actually very painful for the elephant. The combined weight of the seat and a person is enough to break their back. 

You'll see some pictures of mahouts on the elephants backs, which I was unsure of after hearing about the above. But they advised that the elephants can hold up to 100kg so this minimal bareback riding is not harmful to the elephant. 

A mahout is an elephant keeper. They are assigned to an elephant at a young age and they remain bonded together throughout their life. 

Many of the elephants at this sanctuary were rescued from trekking places with broken backs. Others were rescued from circuses or from people who used them as tourist attractions in Bangkok.

So with this in mind we made our way to the sanctuary instead, drawn in by their caring approach to these mighty and majestic animals. Due to time and money limits we just did the Day Program but you can stay up to 4 weeks on the Mahout Program (the actual dream).

Elephants World kindly provides a transfer service from whatever hostel you’re staying in to the sanctuary and back again, which was so much easier than having to faff about sorting it out ourselves.

In fact, the whole day was so well organised. There’s quite a few people who turn up each day but you’re segmented into smaller, more manageable groups, I think our group had around 6-8 people in. Each group does different activities at different times so there’s never a problem with overcrowding.

As soon as we arrived we got to meet the elephants and feed them a huge basket of fruit that is apparently one of their ‘snacks’ (that’s the kinda size snack I’m talking about!). Their learned trunks slid up to the platform where we were stood and grabbed the fruit right out of our hands, I could have cried with excitement.

The sanctuary itself is so beautiful, there’s so much land for the elephants to roam on and the views are stunning. After feeding the elephants we walked with a few to a river where they had a wash and play. 

We made our way to the elephant hospital and fed one of the older elephants who needed to eat something a bit more mushy. This elephant knew the routine and was already at the door waiting for us to feed her before we’d even finished making the rice cakes!

At the end of the day we helped wash the elephants in the river. Ours was showing signs of PTSD so we backed off and left it to her mahout to help calm her down, which he did and played in the water, diving under the in the deep end.

I don’t think I am able to articulate how amazing the day was. As I said before everything was so well organised and ran at a smooth pace. The staff were very knowledgable and clearly loved the elephants they cared for. And it really felt like we were following the elephants plans, rather than the other way around.

If you’re going to Thailand and want to visit some elephants then please do some research beforehand. There are plenty of cruelty free sanctuaries out there that are amazing.



  1. I loved reading this! I love elephants and it's really nice to see a place where elephants are being treated with kindness and love. Beautiful post :).

    1. Thank you! It was so amazing to be there and just watch the elephants having fun 💙 Xx


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