Eco-tourism Recreation Koh Lanta has reopened its gates as Following Giants, a truly elephant-friendly venue.
In partnership with leading animal welfare charity, World Animal Protection, Following Giants is now offering a better life for elephants and a genuine, ethical elephant experience for visitors.
Here visitors spend time with elephants that have the freedom to roam the forest, graze, and bathe in the river, mud, and dust while socialising with each other.
The elephants lead the way, not forced to perform, give rides, bathe with or interact with people. Because elephants are wild animals, and while they may look happy, if they are in close interaction with people they will be suffering.
In 2017 Charae ‘Ray’ Sangkaow, the owner of Eco-tourism Koh Lanta, made contact with World Animal Protection with the intention of transitioning his existing elephant tourism and trekking camp into an elephant-friendly business model.
Ray grew up around elephants from the age of six and is the fourth generation of his family to live with and care for elephants. His deep love for elephants fueled his dream to provide these gentle giants with the best possible quality of life. This led him to World Animal Protection and the transition of his trekking camp into a high-welfare venue that’s dedicated to the wellbeing of elephants.
Following Giant’s staff and World Animal Protection worked together to develop the venue’s infrastructure and conduct training to ensure the new venue is a success for elephants and visitors alike.
Located high in the lush green mountains of Koh Lanta, where wild rainforests and rows of rubber trees are home to Asian water monitors, flying lemurs, crab-eating macaques and 134 species of birds who all share this idyllic tropical paradise with the elephants.
Visitors can see elephants in their natural habitat, going about their daily life in peace and harmony, uninterrupted and simply living the life they were born to live.
The main activity is a jungle walk where they can follow elephants through the rainforest, allowing the elephants to lead the way. This is the perfect opportunity for people to see how elephants interact and socialise with each other in a truly natural way.
Visitors can also take part in reforestation activities, such as planting seedlings and making ‘seed bombs’ that are then catapulted across the land with a slingshot. This all helps in ensuring the forest is replenished with native foliage – an essential part of an elephant’s diet.
Mahouts are integral to the physical and emotional wellbeing of elephants’, so World Animal Protection supported the mahouts at Following Giants by providing essential training to ensure the elephants are in the best possible hands. As part of their training they spent a week at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) in Sukhothai where they learned all aspects of elephant care in an observation-only sanctuary, they also learned a variety of positive elephant training methods and shadowed vets at Krabi Elephant Hospital to learn basic elephant first aid.
Guides and office staff have all been trained to help educate visitors on elephant behavior and history to help them to explain why the observation-only model is the most ethical way to experience elephants.
Visitors to Following Giants will discover a lush jungle environment that welcomes them into a world where elephants are living free. To watch the elephants in their natural habitat, where elephants are simply being elephants, visitors can enjoy a bird’s-eye view from the tree house built into the treetops or head to one of the two observations decks. The elephants also have a brand new pool where they can bathe and play and get some respite from the heat of their jungle home. And our visitor education centre gives everyone the chance to learn more about these gentle giants and the venue’s history and there is also a nursery where anyone can take part in making seeds bombs to help replenish the elephant’s food source.
Following Giants is the second transition by World Animal Protection of an elephant riding camp to a high-welfare, elephant-friendly venue in Thailand following the successful transition of ChangChill in Chiang Mai.
World Animal Protection is an international non-profit animal welfare organization that has been in operation for over 50 years and is working towards a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty has ended.