This is our complete guide to visiting Chiang Mai Elephant Camps. There are many Elephant Camps accessible from Chiang Mai as a half day or full day tour. There are a range of experiences available:
1. Elephant Sanctuaries (no riding). These facilities choose not to train their elephants to carry people and focus on other interactive experiences.
2. Elephant Care Programs (bareback riding). Learn how to feed and wash elephants and ride bareback.
3. Elephant Shows. A circus-style presentation.
4. Elephant Rides (basket rides). The elephants carry 2 people in wooden seating on their back
5. Elephant Safaris (basket rides). A combination program including elephant show, elephant riding, and other activities such as ox-cart rides and bamboo rafting.
Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuaries (no riding)
We encourage you to choose a camp where the elephants are not trained to carry people. This is ideal for the long-term physical and mental health of the elephants. As an increasing number of visitors choose not to ride, the incentive is decreased for training young elephants to carry people and perform tricks for human amusement. We recommend Elephant Rescue Park where you can feed, bathe and play with the elephants.
This family-run elephant camp is a genuine sanctuary for rescued elephants. They currently have 1 mature female that is a veteran of the teak logging industry in Mae Hong Son. They also have 3 young elephants who have been rescued from circus/zoo environments.
Elephant Rescue Park responsibly limits the number of visitors, so if you would like to spend a day with the elephants, please book ahead. We can also arrange 2 or 3 day programs with accommodation on site.
You will get dirty! The focus of this camp is getting up close and personal with the elephants. Shower facilities are available at the completion of each program.
Elephant Rescue Park provides a set of mahout clothing, gum boots, straw hats and towels for showering. Remember to bring socks so you don't get blisters from the boots! Small lockers are available. We suggest you bring sunscreen lotion, insect repellent, and also swimwear to wear under the provided clothing if you like.
Chiang Mai Elephant Care Programs (bareback riding)
If you really want to ride an elephant, then we recommend bareback riding as it is better for the long term health of the elephants than wooden basket rides. Elephant Care Programs give you the opportunity to feed, ride bareback, bathe and play with the elephants. We use several small family-operated elephant camps in idyllic country settings.
You will receive instruction on safety around the elephants and learn basic commands in Thai language to communicate with the elephants.
As with the elephant sanctuaries, mahout clothing is provided and shower facilities are available at the completion of each program. The bareback riding is best experienced with bare feet - so we suggest you wear flip-flops so you can walk from the camp entry to the elephants.
Elephant Care - Typical Program
- Change clothes & receive instruction about elephants and basic commands'
- Feed elephants with banana and sugar cane & learn how to mount and sit on elephant bareback. Ride elephant through farmland and along the river.
- Enjoy bathing and playing with your elephant in the water.
- Take a shower and enjoy compelementary drinking water.
Chiang Mai Elephant Shows
This video shows Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, and is fairly typical of what you can expect at any camp that provides 'Elephants at work' shows and basket-style elephant rides.
Elephant Shows & Rides at Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Mae Sa Elephant Camp is located in scenic mountain foothills 40 minutes north of Chiang Mai. Of all the elephant Camps close to Chiang Mai city, Mae Sa Elephant Camp has the best elephant show. The elephants demonstrate their skills related to the logging industry, and also show off some more playful skills such as soccer and oil painting. The show runs twice daily (morning and early afternoon).
If you are travelling with small children or have limited time, you may choose to simply spend an hour or 2 here. Besides the show, there are opportunites to feed bannanas to the elephants and watch them playing in the river.
The elephant show is included in the basic admission ticket. Elephant rides (basket style) are available at additional cost.
If you have limited mobility, Maesa Elephant Camp is the most convenient.
Elephant rides are for 1 or 2 customers per elephant, with a maximum carry weight of 170 kg / 375 lbs.
For more information, refer to the Maesa Elephant Camp official website.
Chiang Mai Elephant Safaris
- Elephant Show
- Elephant Ride (basket style)
- Ox-cart ride
- Buffet Lunch (vegetarian available, Maetaeng is Halal certified)
- Bamboo Rafting