Best Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuaries in Thailand
Planning a dream trip to Thailand? Check out our list of incredible and ethical elephant and wildlife sanctuaries to visit in places like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and Surin where you will learn more about animals, meet inspiring staff or be more than just your average tourist by volunteering.
Unfortunately in Thailand, like a lot of countries, elephants and other animals are treated badly and face increasing problems like poaching, habitat loss and exploitation.
The good news is though there are lots of people, both Thai and international working to help. More and more sanctuaries are opening which offer an ethical alternative to the traditional Thai elephant camps which exploit elephants for profit.
Our guide features sanctuaries throughout the country, from the southern islands to the north of Thailand which offer half day, day, overnight and longer visits where you can ethically interact with elephants and other animals without doing any harm.
There are options for solo travellers, groups, friends, families and people interested in volunteering. Some sanctuaries are free to visit, whilst others charge a fee or require a donation.
If you are currently researching a trip to Thailand consider adding the following sanctuaries to your itinerary:
The Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand who offer visits and volunteering opportunities. There are lots of animals being cared for at ENP including elephants, dogs and cats. By visiting or volunteer at ENP you will get to learn about elephants and efforts being done to protect these creatures.
Day trips and longer experiences are available. You might like to read this experience; 'Alternatives to Riding Elephants in Thailand' of volunteering at ENP.
Address: 209/2 Sridom Chai Road, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
The Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is a Non-Profit Foundation who are dedicated to giving their elephants the best life possible with the help of visitors and volunteers. Their aim is to bring elephants home to the forest by working with the local communities to not only provide a haven for our elephants, but also provide an alternative livelihood for their mahouts and owners.
Their elephants have been taken from a life of inadequate health care, poor diet, exhaustion and entertaining tourists, they were unable to just be elephants. They brought these wonderful creatures back to their natural environment where they are living in semi-wild conditions, free to roam as much as possible and live their lives how they choose – interacting and foraging.
Address: 259 Moo.9 Soi.6 Hangdong district, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50230
Located in Sukhothai Thani, a small town about 427 km north of Bangkok on the River Yom, Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) is devoted to creating a safe and natural environment for elephants.
BLES puts the well-being of elephants first, there are no performances - just elephants being elephants. You will get to see elephants roaming free and also learn about the inspirations efforts of founder Katherine Connor in trying to secure a positive eco tourism future for these creates away from the forced tourist rides. If you would like to volunteer helping elephants this is one of the best places to go.
Address: 304 Mu 5, Baan Na Ton Jan, Tambon Baan Tuek, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai, Thailand 64130
Wildlife Friends Foundation (WFFT) located in Phetchaburi is a wildlife sanctuary which rescues and cares for sick and abandoned animals. They aim to help wildlife, educate people, prevent hunting and promote conservation. You have the option to visit the centre or spend time volunteering where you can work direct with elephants, bears, gibbons, monkeys and other animals.
Address: Moo 6,Tambon Thamairuak, Amphoe Thayang, 76130 Petchaburi, Thailand
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is a home for retired working elephants, set on 30 acres of lush tropical jungle. This is the first and only ethical elephant sanctuary we are aware on in Phuket. By visiting you will be able to observe how elephants rehabilitate into forest life after decades of abuse, and experience how incredible this sanctuary is.
Address: 100, Moo 2,, Paklok, Thalang, 83110, Thailand
Krabi Elephant Sanctuary is a recently opened haven for retired & rescued elephants. They provide a home for elephants in a sustainable, safe and natural environment free from profiteering and neglect. Krabi Elephant Sanctuary has a strict no riding policy and is the best places to see elephants in an ethical environment in Krabi province.
Address: 83/13 T.Ao Luek Tai, A.Au Luek, Krabi 81110
Located close to the Cambodian border northwest of Surin city, The Surin Project is a not-for-profit organisation focused on helping improve living conditions for elephants in Thailand and providing economic assistance to local communities.
The Surin Project is not an elephant sanctuary, they work with a government run facility to improve animal welfare standards for elephants and they which is important to help prevent the suffering of elephants usually found working in the tourism trade. You can volunteer at the Surin Project helping to plant, maintain and harvest elephant food and care for the 13 resident elephants.
Address: Ban taklang Tambol .Krapoh, Thatum district, Surin province, Thailand 32120
The Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket rescues and cares for thousands of dogs every year. Many have been rescued from suffering on the streets or as survivors of the Asian dog meat trade. All are deserving of a forever home and the process is a lot easier than you think.
Soi Dog’s shelter is open to visitors Monday to Friday from 09.00 to 15.30. Guided tours run at 09.30, 11.00, 13.30, and 14.30 and do not have to be booked in advance. The shelter is open on Saturday mornings for tours at 9.30 and 10.30. The shelter is closed on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday.
Soi Dog also welcomes volunteers who love dogs, and who enjoy giving tours of the shelter and talking with visitors.
Address: 167/9 Moo 4, Soi Mai Khao 10, Tambon Mai Khao, Amphur Thalang, Phuket 83110.
On the spectacular island of Koh Lanta you can visit or volunteer with Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) who are a non-profit organization which rescue and help dogs and other animals. You can sponsor an animal, make a donation, adopt and also if you would like do something rewarding they are always in need of volunteers all year round.
Address: 629 Moo.2, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand, 81150
How to Choose an Ethical Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand
There are so many different elephant and wildlife sanctuaries in Thailand and many claim to be ethical when in reality they are not. Here are some tips how to select an ethical place to visit:
- Check to see if they are included in our list
- Do the sanctuaries allow unethical rides, or use bull hooks and chains? This is a clear sign they are not ethical.
- Always read reviews online on websites like TripAdvisor
- Look at comments on Facebook pages
Tips How to Be a Responsible Tourist & Not Harm Wildlife in Thailand
- Avoid travel and tour operators which offer elephant rides and treks
- Do not visit places like the Tiger Temple or animals circuses
- Avoid paying to/having pictures with exotic animals on the streets of places like Bangkok and Phuket, this fuels the illegal wildlife trade
- Always ask yourself is this normal/ethical for example selfies and pictures with animals
- Don't accidently buy ivory, if you have any doubts always ask questions
- Don't be afraid to speak up if you see harm being done and contact local authorities
If you have been to one of the places listed above or a sanctuary we have missed off our list let us know in the comments section below.