Travelling to Thailand is more of a drinking session for a lot of people. I agree – the party scene is like no other. The beach bars, the casual-style clubs and of course, the crazy full-moon parties.
However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t give up one day of partying to experience life in the jungle. Once stepping off the plane in Thailand, my first mission was to visit an elephant camp! Most hotels in the Chiang Mai region will sort you out with an organised tour-guide trip. I’d recommend enquiring with your hotel as the language barrier can be a bit of hassle sometimes.
Thailand is renowned globally for its animal tourism. The conflict between animal rights activists and animal camp owners is still ongoing. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out which animal attractions I should avoid. It’s a constant struggle for tourists knowing which companies don’t partake in animal cruelty. Before travelling to Thailand, I carried out a lot of research to ensure I didn’t become of the many tourists who are mistakenly supporting animal abuse. Luckily, once I carried out some enquiries I found cruelty-free alternatives.
Before leaving the hotel, don’t forget to bring the essentials in your backpack. Pack sun-cream. Don’t be fooled by the cloudy skies, the hidden sun will still burn you! In my opinion, the most important thing to bring is insect repellent! I was bit alive in Chiang Mai. If I’m honest, I don’t even know by what. There are insects and spiders everywhere; in the jungle grass, the mud baths, the rivers and just flying about in general.
Finding an ethical elephant visitor centre proved to be harder than expected. Asian elephants are endangered. Increased tourism, poaching, deforestation, farming, and a vast reduction in their natural habitat are all factors of this increased endangerment. Not surprisingly, widespread abuse also plays a huge role in this. There are nearly 4,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand working in tourism-based industries, a concerning figure.
Elephants are intelligent, and this is something that should not exploited. Unfortunately, this is one of the main reasons why these animals are abused on such a high level. In some places in Thailand, elephants are nothing more than a profitable business asset. The abuse the elephants are put through is simply disgusting. The elephants work continuously while being physically exhausted. These camps also use hooks to force the elephants to keep walking and this often causes bleeding. Riding an elephant causes grave long-term harm to these beautiful creatures.
The worst thing of all? Some tourists genuinely don’t realise they are mistreating these animals by riding them. Elephants are not built to carry weight on their back. They are scared and abused into carrying tourists on their backs, all for the tourist’s enjoyment and ‘wildlife animals’ Instagram pics.
One elephant sanctuary that I cannot recommend enough is called the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. It’s located in the middle of a jungle in the Northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai. It is an eco-tourism project jointly owned by Karen hill-tribes and Chiang Mai locals. Like many people, they are concerned about the welfare of elephants in Thailand. Their goal since its foundation in 2014 has been to contribute to a positive change in the perception of elephants by supplying elephants with good health, freedom and happiness.