This elephant sanctuary is situated deep in the jungle and offers some of the most picturesque scenery found in Northern Thailand. It is home to a small herd of happy elephants now retired from elephant riding thanks to our ‘Saddle Off’ model. The Karen at this project have been able to bring their elephants back home where they can be properly cared for and at the same time generate an income through ethical elephant tourism. Here, the elephants have time to interact with each other, wander in the jungle, and forage.
As part of a small group accompanied by an experienced tour guide, change into traditional Karen clothing and get to know the elephants while feeding them fruit and vegetables. Once the baskets are empty, join the elephants for a trek through the jungle, watching them forage on native plants along the way.
Guests will enjoy a delicious vegetarian buffet lunch overlooking the valley and forested hills, followed by a downhill walk to watch the elephants play in a large mud pool. This tour includes a visit to a stunning stream with a tiered waterfall shaded by the jungle canopy, where visitors can bathe the elephants. On the way back, the elephants like to give themselves a dust bath and rub their bodies up against the trees.
After the 1989 ban on logging in Thailand, the Karen people needed to find an alternative form of employment for their elephants which would provide the means to support their families and meet the high costs of caring for an elephant. Many Karen saw no other option but to lease their elephants to camps that included riding, shows, and often poor living conditions, resulting in a decline in the elephant’s health. Since their retirement from riding, the Karen here have watched their elephants gain weight and become more relaxed. The Karen who are known for their long tradition of living and working with elephants are embracing the chance to provide a better life for the elephants.
Visit elephants retired from riding and shows in the remote mountainous jungles of Northern Thailand where they are now enjoying the respect and freedom they deserve
Walk with Elephants
Number of Guests: 12
Number of Elephants: 4
Tour Type: Full Day Visit
Fitness Level: Moderate
Age Suitability: Adults & Children 7+
Adults & Children 12+: 2,500 Thai Baht
Children Aged 7-12: 1,250 Thai Baht
Adults & Children 7+
About Your Trip
Start: 8:00am – 8:30am minivan pick up from your Chiang Mai city hotel, or from our office at 7:45am. If staying out of town (outside the middle ring-road) additional charges apply. Please advise on your reservation form.
Travel Time: Around 90 minutes (educational video about Asian elephants / safety video en route to project).
Travel Details: Transfer from an air-con minivan to a 4WD vehicle for the last 10-15 minutes of your journey to the project.
Return: Arrive back in Chiang Mai city 4:00pm – 4.30pm.
Baggage Allowance: One small day pack per person.
What to Bring: Hat, sunscreen, sandals/flip flops, change of clothing (as you may get muddy or wet), towel, walking shoes, camera & insect repellent. This project can be very muddy so a change of clothing and footwear is essential.
Operational Months: All year round.
Age Suitability: Adults & children over 7 – guests under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Fitness Level: Moderate – walking on mountainous terrain up and down slopes with potentially muddy conditions.
Topography: Jungle, mountains, river & waterfall.
Location: Mae Wang, South of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
Nearest Airport: Chiang Mai (CNX) – we recommend you stay in Chiang Mai city the night before your visit. Please note that we cannot collect you from Chiang Mai Airport – only from your Chiang Mai city hotel / guesthouse.
Booking Details: Bookings close at 5pm (GMT+7) on the day before the date of your tour if made in person at our office or 24 hours in advance if booking online. A 30% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your booking. The balance should be paid at our Chiang Mai office by 8pm on the day before your tour.
This project is owned by Sam and Boon Som, whose Karen families have a long history of working with and caring for elephants. Before joining the ‘Saddle Off’ program, it was a struggle to earn a living to provide for the elephants and the family. This often meant renting out their elephants to trekking camps that provided elephant riding and sometimes circus shows. The condition of the elephants deteriorated after being away for several months. When the family heard about our concept of providing a natural home for elephants by offering ethical elephant tours they realized this was an opportunity to bring their elephants back home to their village. Since opening Karen Elephant Experience in 2015 they have been encouraged by how happy people are to come and see elephants living in their jungle home with the freedom to socialize, forage, and roam. As a result, the elephants have gained weight, their mood has improved, and their skin has taken on a healthy appearance. To provide for the elephants, they grow grass and buy fruit and vegetables from nearby farmers, which also helps to support the local community.