Support the Herd from Karen Elephant Experience
The Covid-19 coronavirus has caused severe challenges around the world and has placed extreme limitations on travel. As a result, Karen Elephant Experience has been closed since March 2020. We are doing the best that we can to care for the elephants at our project, but would appreciate your support. We understand that this is a difficult time for many people around the world and offer our heartfelt sympathy. If you are in a position to help support our herd, any gift for elephant food would be greatly appreciated.
Update on the Herd from Karen Elephant Experience
As a result of the Covid crisis in April 2020 the herd from Karen Elephant Experience returned to live near the remote Karen village of Baan Huay Bong in Mae Chaem, Northern Thailand. Here the elephants have joined with other elephants and live in a larger herd where they have the chance to interact, forage in the forest and swim in the river.
You can read more about their journey home through the story featured on BBC News detailed below. In order to find ways to support the elephants Elephant Homestay was set up and was featured in the National Geographic Thailand. The article welcomes people to visit the this area for a unique experience – camping in a serene natural environment, learning about hill tribe culture & rice cultivation, and walking into the forest to observe elephants in their natural habitat. With little tourism in Thailand now, visitors are rare.
Karen Elephant Experience - Closed Since March 2020
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
This ethical elephant project 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.
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: 8:00 am – 8:30 am minivan pick up from your Chiang Mai city hotel or from our office at 7:45 am.
Travel Time: Around 90 minutes (safety video en route to the project).
Travel Details: Transfer from a minivan to a 4WD vehicle for the last 10 minutes of your journey to the project.
Return: Arrive back in Chiang Mai city 4:00 pm – 4.30 pm.
Facilities: Lunch area overlooking the valley, lookout, bathrooms, showers & gift shop, lookout.
Items Provided: Karen shirts, wide brim hats, boots & ponchos in the rainy season, towels, soap & shampoo.
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 hillside jungle trails in potentially muddy conditions.
Topography: Jungle, mountains, stream & tiered 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. In the past it was a struggle to earn a living to provide for the elephants and their family. This often meant leasing 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 Saddle off model 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 the Karen family has been encouraged by how happy people are seeing 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.