Is it Worth Staying at Elephant Hills in Thailand?
Elephant Hills are Thailand’s first Luxury Tented Jungle Camps located in Khao Sok, Thailand which combine the camp idea of African national parks with the Thai tropical forest environment.
Suzanne Coulson from the UK recently visited Elephant Hills on her honeymoon and this turned out to be the highlight of her time in Thailand.
Here she shares her experience of what it's like to visit Elephant Hills and why you won't regret staying here...
A Dream Trip
Reflecting upon our time in Elephant Hills fills me with complete awe! As part of a three week tour of Thailand for our honeymoon, my new shiny husband and I had both had lifelong ambitions to spend time with elephants.
Just exploring where we could undertake such an experience was somewhat of a minefield! There were shows, displays, alleged 'sanctuary's' - none of which really felt ethical upon research; allowing rides and treks piggy backed upon these beautiful creatures!
Then we came across Elephant Hills and it turned out to be more than we could ever has wished for. We opted for the 2 day Jungle Safari which included the amazing Elephant experience and Jungle Safari.
Location & Transport
Despite being tucked away in the Green, these camps are easily reachable from popular beach destinations like Phuket, Khao Lak, Khanom, Krabi and even Koh Samui. Best of all: Transfers from and to these destinations are included in the package price!
We were picked up bright and early by our transfer from Elephant Hills as we set off on our three hour transfer from Karon Beach in Phuket. It has to be noted that despite where you're coming from or going to - they assist with transport directions or transfer.
Upon arrival we were offered some light refreshments and given a chance to relax, rest and take in our surroundings. Our luggage taken into storage to be placed into our luxury safari tent for our stay. The attention to detail in the main gathering area is just phenomenal. Beautifully decored with a range of elephant craft and if you're lucky, the odd 'live' animal experience with lizards, frogs and spiders!
Exploring the Rainforest
We were then escorted down to the Khao Sok river, presenting a dark yellow tinge thanks to recent rains within the rainforest. My husband and I giggled as we approached the canoes!
We're both not of the 'light' variety let's say and the notion of getting both of us into a canoe without it sinking, filled us with hilarity. We managed - thanks to the help of the tour guides - without any judgements.
We were obviously not the first nor the last to be carrying that little extra holiday weight!
Visiting the Elephant Sanctuary
To get to the Elephant sanctuary, we were rowed down the river (cue Tina Turner) and it was here when it hit me.
This wasn't just going to be an amazing elephant experience. This was going to be one of the most incredibly beautiful scenes I'd ever set my eyes on! The mountains towering above us like the floating heights of Pandora.
The whoops of gibbons bouncing off the trees. The constant vibrations of the cricket's chirp paired with the gentle rushing of the water beneath!
We wrenched our necks heavens way, attempted impossible 360 moves with our heads and dipped and dodged through the over hangings of the jungle JUST to make sure we saw absolutely everything there was to see!
The disembark from the boat was even more of a task that the boarding – but again, with the help of (a few) guides we managed and jumped on a small, perfectly rickety bus to carry us the remaining way.
But alas, alak – we stumbled upon issue! The road to the sanctuary had flooded and there was most definitely no way of driving through it! Now – being British – that'd be it!
Cancelled! Go back! Trip is OFF! But in true Thai spirit and nothing being too much trouble, they called for the canoes and paddled our way across adventurously.
The low-lying chatter developed quickly into bubbly babble as, in the distance, the gentle giants of the Khao Sok rainforest manifested their existence in front of us. As they wandered close, the guides offered discussion on the animals and allowed us to stroke them as they neared and watch the roll around in the muddy waters for their bath time.
Next up was preparing lunch for the elephants as we were taught about the nutritional values of differing fruits and vegetables. The guides, I remember Kong in particular, were extremely knowledgeable about their forte and the Mahoots, whilst unable to necessarily communicate outside of their mother tongue, were friendly and helpful and solidified Thailand as being the Land of Smiles.
As if, by this point of feeding, stroking and brushing the elephants had not been incredible enough, we were then invited to get even closer. Handed coconut fibres and a hose, the Mahoots ushered us to an open area where we could really get hands on! Scrubbing behind ears, scouring trunks and stroking their being. Their skin rough. Our movements robust and rigorous.
Without recognition, the time drifted on by and the Elephants – having been fed and bathed – were done with their pampering session and began meandering away. One of the beautiful elements of the sanctuary being the elephants rule! As they should! As they drifted away we followed back into the cover to tempt them with any scraps lying around and grab a cheeky last few moments savouring this incredible experience.
Upon our return back to the Elephant Hills camp, we were given a key to our accommodation and set off towards our safari tent. Navigating the winding paths were an adventure in themselves but when we turned to be faced with a monitor lizard were really felt like we weren't in Kansas anymore!
As seasoned campers, we're used to 'roughing it', so to arrive at our tent and find it a luxurious home away from home was very unexpected. Again – the attention to detail superb – from the drawer handles to the light pulls; from the toiletries to the taps; from the bedding to the hammock! Superb!
What Are You Waiting For
Elephant Hills has an excellent adventure feel, in the heart of the Khao Sok National Park. This was an enabler for our dream animal experience which became the adventure and experience itself. If you do nothing else when in Thailand, book a stay at Elephant Hills. Expensive for one night? Yes! Well worth it? Oh absolutely!
By Suzanne Coulson
- Ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand
- Elephant conservation holidays
- Volunteering programs in Thailand
- Asia adventure tours
- Low cost volunteering Asia