Since 2016, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary has been pioneering the ethical elephant tourism movement in Southern Thailand by offering a new and final home to elephants who have worked their entire lives in the logging and tourism industries. Numerous celebrities including John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Kevin Hart, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kevin Love have visited the sanctuary in 2019 and praised its genuinely ethical approach. In addition to its existing programs that include a short, non-intrusive feeding interaction, the sanctuary is now launching a new, 100% hands-off program for elephant enthusiasts that are happy to just observe the elephants in their natural habitat.
Since its opening in late 2016, the sanctuary has rescued and rehabilitated 12 elephants back into a tropical, 30-acre jungle where they can roam around, socialize and bathe freely in fresh water lagoons, while visitors observe them from a respectful distance and learn about the elephants’ stories from passionate tour guides. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary currently also offers a short feeding moment as part of its half-day and full-day programs.
“It has always been our mission to give the elephants the freedom and space they deserve after decades of hard work in logging camps, shows and riding camps.”, said Mr. Montri Todtane, founder of Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. “Since our opening, interaction with the elephants has been limited to a short feeding moment as part of every tour. We do not offer bathing or any other form of interaction with the elephants in order to respect their freedom, and to offer visitors an opportunity to observe elephants engage in their beautiful, natural behavior.”
Only elephants that are happy to engage in a short encounter take part in the feeding activity. Many of the elephants living at the sanctuary already do not have any interaction with visitors. These include Gaew Ta, a loveable 58-year old blind elephant, or Sroy Fah, a 45-year old elephant who previously suffered from abuse in riding camps and has not fully regained her trust in humans.
“My ultimate dream is for our rescued elephants to live together as a herd in an environment that truly resembles their natural habitat and way of life – an environment where visitors are merely observers and learn about the elephants’ history and important role within our ecosystem. While we will continue to offer programs that include a short, non-intrusive feeding interaction for the time being, the new hands-off experience gets us one step closer to realizing this dream.”, added Mr. Montri.
The “Hands-Off Experience at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary” starts with a scenic drive to the Tree Top Lounge, where visitors are shown an educational documentary to prepare them for their visit and to understand why Asian elephants need to be protected. They then meet Kannika and Madee, the sanctuary’s first two elephants, before helping the team to prepare supplementary elephant food. “Khao Tom Mat” consists of sticky rice, mashed bananas, coconut meat, salt and sugar, all wrapped in a large banana leaf. While the nutritious snacks are steamed, visitors explore the sanctuary with an experienced tour guide and observe the elephants as they roam around, forage and bathe freely. The delicious Khao Tom Mat packets are then delivered into the jungle, where visitors can sit quietly and observe the elephants as they devour their nutritious food. The visit ends with a sumptuous, Thai vegetarian dinner buffet for visitors back at the Tree Top Lounge.
To learn more about Phuket Elephant Sanctuary or to book a visit, please go to www.phuketelephantsanctuary.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.