Elephant’s World in Kanchanaburi
During our stay in Thailand we came across a few options for seeing/riding/trekking with elephants. This was something we really wanted to do but we were concerned about how the elephants were being treated so gave them a miss. We then came across Elephant’s World, a sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused and rescued elephants in Kanchanaburi. This sounded like a perfect way to get close to these amazing animals whilst also supporting a good cause.
We booked the one day program by emailing them through the Elephant’s World website for 2000THB per person, it was easy to do and they emailed us back quickly confirming everything for us. We didn’t need to book very far in advance but we were travelling off season. Whilst the cost is quite expensive compared to some other elephant attractions in Thailand we think it’s worth it. You know that you are supporting a good cause and contributing towards the welfare of the elephants.
“At Elephant’s World we work for the elephants, instead of them for us!” Dr. Samart Prasitthiphon, Founder of Elephant’s world
We were staying at Tara B&B in the middle of Kanchanaburi (which was fantastic, if you’re in Kanchanaburi stay here!) and we were picked up from right outside just before 9am. We were the first to be picked up but we were joined by two other couples as we headed to the sanctuary. The journey was just under an hour in the back of one of the trucks that are used for taxis everywhere in Kanchanaburi. It’s a bit bumpy but fun to see the scenery as you whizz past!
Elephant’s World Sanctuary
On arrival at the sanctuary we were led through to the reception area and straight away we could see some of the elephants getting ready to have breakfast. Lam Duan in particular was very friendly, reaching out her trunk to investigate the new arrivals. Sadly, she is blind so she was probably trying to find out who we were and if we had any juicy watermelons for her. This was the first time Lisa and I had been close to an elephant so we were in awe of how close we were and having the opportunity to interact with them. We knew this was going to be a fun day!
Once everyone had arrived we had a brief introduction and were split into two groups to do the various activities. First up was feeding the elephants their breakfast. We ended up feeding Songkran, one of the older elephants. Since she doesn’t have any teeth she’s the only elephant that you need to feed straight into her mouth which was a bit unexpected! She was very gentle though and it was a lot of fun once we’d gotten used to the first few mouthfuls.
When breakfast everyone walked down to the watering hole with the elephants. Here the elephants could wash and have a drink, this was a great chance to take some photos as they sprayed themselves and played in the water.
After this we prepared fruit and rice balls for the elephants lunch. We started by chopping pumpkin into chunks and mixing this with cooked rice. We then rolled the sticky mixture into balls ready for the elephants to eat. The elephants need a lot a food! Once we’d finished this we hid a few pieces of fruit around the trees and plants to encourage the elephants to search for it. This is part of the enrichment program at the sanctuary.
We then returned to the reception area for lunch, we weren’t expecting much but the food was great! A good mix of freshly cooked thai food with meat and vegetarian options was provided and there was more than enough for everyone to have a good lunch.
After lunch was probably the weakest part of the day. We went to cut down and collect banana tree leaves for the elephants. We didn’t really enjoy this. It’s a 30 minute drive each way to the trees and there were too many people for the task and not much direction on what to do. We tried our best to be helpful and carry the leaves back to the car but it was too easy to get in each others way and feel like you were more of a hindrance than a help. It didn’t help that it was VERY hot! A few other visitors just got a drink from the little store and sat in the shade rather than helping out and we couldn’t really blame them. This part of the day varies depending on the needs of the elephants so maybe you’ll be lucky and get a better after lunch activity.
On returning to the sanctuary it was time for the best part of the day. First we fed the older elephants the rice balls. This time we fed Aum Pan who was happy to use her trunk so it was different from the morning. The rice balls didn’t last long! We also got a chance to relax and sit near the elephants as they wandered around the feeding area.
After this we walked with the elephants back to the watering hole (which was now much deeper than the morning) and went in to swim with them while they bathed! I loved this, it’s a wonderful experience. Lisa was a little apprehensive about getting in the water at first but she did eventually come in and enjoyed it too. Definitely bring a GoPro if you have one!
The day finished with another feeding at the reception area. This time we fed watermelons to Rom Sai, there’s definitely an art to handing a watermelon to an elephant but I think we got the hang of it!
Overall we loved it here, apart from the slight downside of the banana leaf collecting everything was a lot of fun and well worth the visit. The volunteers at the sanctuary were all really friendly and happy to answer any questions. If you’re interested in volunteering you can read about the opportunities on their website. It was clear that a lot of work goes into keeping the elephants happy and well cared for. We’d recommend Elephant’s World as one of the best places to go in Thailand to get close to these amazing animals.