KAREN ELEPHANT HOME
This elephant sanctuary south of Chiang Mai offers the special experience of spending time with two friendly elephant brothers – Dodo and Khum Meun. Rescued from elephant riding and performing, they now live a better life together in nature near a century-old Karen settlement. The goodhearted Karen family operating the project has been caring for elephants for three generations and their intimate knowledge of elephants and their ways provides visitors with a unique insight into the nature of this fascinating animal as well as Karen culture.
Arriving at the project, guests prepare food and feed the elephants bananas and grass and then take a walk with them along scenic hillside trails that pass terraced rice paddies and weave through tall grasses, orchards, and forest – stopping to watch the elephants forage along the way. Guests can observe the elephants playing in the mud and later watch them bathe in the beautiful stream that winds through the sanctuary. In the rainy season, guests also plant saplings to help reforest the area and learn about cultivating rice.
These bull elephant brothers share a close bond and can often been seen showing affection for one another. They spend their days wandering the sanctuary together, foraging on the hillside, taking mud baths, scratching their bodies against trees and relaxing and drinking by the stream.
By visiting this ethical elephants project you are making it possible for these magnificent bull elephants to live a more natural life, as well as helping to support the local Karen community.
Support the Elephants at Karen Elephant Home
Hang out with two contented bull elephants in a beautiful natural environment and gain insights into elephant behavior from a Karen family who have been living with and caring for elephants for generations.
Walk with Elephants
Watch Elephants Bathing
Number of Guests: 6 – 8
Tour Type: Full Day Visit
Fitness Level: Moderate
Age Suitability: Adults & Children 4+
* Minimum of 4 people required for this tour to proceed
Adults & Children 12+: 2,500 Thai Baht
Children Aged 4-11 yrs old: 1,250 Thai Baht
Adults & Children 4+
The Story & Location of Karen Elephant Home
Karen Elephant Home is an ethical elephant sanctuary, located next to a Karen settlement, south of Chiang Mai, home to two handsome, gentle natured bull elephant brothers, Dodo and Kham Meun. Mae Thor Khor, Dodo and Khum Meun’s mother, used to live with them at the sanctuary, but sadly passed away from natural causes in her 70’s in 2018. It took time, but the brothers have now adjusted to the loss of their mother and happily spend their days together in nature.
The project closed to visitors in February 2019 due to the Covid pandemic and opened again on 2 October, 2023. During this time the Karen family expanded their organic farm to make ends meet and project owner, Krieng Krai taught organic agriculture cultivation at the Royal Project. The elephants were cared for by mahouts, Son Chai and Adee, and were supported by many kindhearted people from around the world.
Over the past couple of years many changes have been made at the project and new structures have been built, including a bridge across the river, bamboo stairs and walkways, a feeding platform, a simple café, a lunch area, bathrooms, a traditional house for guests, and improvements made to the elephant’s chain free shelter. A big thanks to Trunks Up and Johnna & Buddy for your generous support of Karen Elephant Home, which has enabled these improvements to be made and also greatly benefited the elephants.
The Elephants at Karen Elephant Home
Activities at Karen Elephant Home
About Your Trip
Start: 8:00am – 8:30am minivan pick up from your Chiang Mai city hotel, or from our office at 8:00am. If staying out of town (outside the middle ring-road) additional charges apply. Please advise on your reservation form.
Travel Time: Around 1 hour & 45 minutes (safety talk en route to project).
Return: Arrive back in Chiang Mai city 4:30pm – 5.00pm.
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 refillable water bottle.
Facilities: Cafe overlooking the stream, lunch area, bathrooms, lockers, water dispenser.
Items Provided: Traditional Karen shirts, hats, boots, ponchos & umbrellas in the rainy season.
Age Suitability: Adults & children over 4 – guests under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Fitness Level: Moderate – walking through grassy fields and hilly terrain for about 1.5 hours.
Topography: Hills, forest, stream, terraced rice paddies in the rainy season.
Extra Activities: Learn about Karen culture and traditions, including planting and cultivating rice in the rainy season and watch Karen woman weaving handmade textiles.
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 can be paid by cash to the tour guide on the day of your tour or by credit card (+3%) at our Chiang Mai office by 5pm on the day before your tour.
About the Elephants
Khum Meun was born in 1997 and was the fourth calf of Mae Thor Khor, who passed away from natural causes in 2018. He is easily identifiable by his one long glorious tusk. The other tusk fell out after becoming infected some years ago following an accident at a trekking camp. Early in his life, Khum Meun spent 6 years performing in a circus and was later used for bareback riding at a trekking camp. Since 2016, Khum Meun has lived at Karen Elephant Home with the Karen family who cared for him when he was a baby. Today he spends his days wandering the sanctuary with his younger brother, Dodo. The two brothers get along very well and supported each other after the loss of their mother in 2018. Interestingly, they also share the same father so are closely tied genetically as well. Kriengkrai, the project owner believes that Khum Meun and his brother are from a subspecies of Asian elephant found in Thailand and Burma, distinguished by particularly long legs, smaller ears, and a more pronounced curve in their backs than other Asian elephants. Despite Khum Meun’s imposing size, he has a kind, gentle nature.
Dodo was born in 2002, and was the fifth calf of Mae Thor Khor. When he was born, Dodo's health was in a fragile state and he required special care. When he was older, Dodo walked beside his mother while she did elephant riding at an elephant camp and later performed in shows. With those days of hardship behind him, Dodo has relaxed into sanctuary life and enjoys the company of his older brother as they wander the hillside, foraging and playing in the mud and river together. Like his brother, Dodo has an easy going nature and is very friendly towards people despite past hardships. He can sometimes be heard making high pitched squeaking sounds, which he learned to do as part of his performances. Dodo only makes those sounds now because he wants to, for example when he’s excited. Dodo is easily recognized by his two small tusks – such a handsome bull elephant. His life is infinitely better since coming to live at Karen Elephant Home. Dodo and his brother Khum Meun now have a lot space with the freedom to roam the beautiful natural surroundings of the sanctuary and just be elephants.
Thank You for Supporting the Elephants at Karen Elephant Home
The Covid pandemic caused severe challenges around the world and has placed extreme limitations on travel. As a result, Karen Elephant Home closed to visitors in February, 2020 and only reopened again in October 2023. We would like to thank all of the kind hearted people who supported Kham Meun & Dodo during these difficult times. Thanks to supporters of Asian Elephant Projects for giving fruit cakes and food gifts to the elephants. Our sincere thanks to Save Elephant Foundation & Trunks Up for their essential support of the elephants over the past couple of years.
Life During Covid at Karen Elephant Home
The Covid-19 crisis has had a dramatic impact on the elephants with the absence of tourists for over 3 years. Krieng Krai, together with the mahouts, cared for Dodo and Kham Meun well, but with no guests it was difficult to provide for them sufficiently. Elephants need to consume vast quantities of food each day and we thank everyone who supported our elephants during these challenging times. During Covid bull elephants, Kham Meun and Dodo, spent their days wandering in the grassy fields, walking up the mountain, foraging in the forest, swimming in the stream, and playing in the mud. Thanks to many kind hearted supporters of Asian Elephant Projects, Kham Meun and Dodo were given many delicious fruit cakes and platters of fruit and vegetables to share over the past few years. Having never eaten a fruit cake before the elephants were always very excited to see their cakes and didn’t leave until every last piece of fruit was eaten. The two brothers shared their cakes and fruit treats so peacefully, standing side by side and savoring every morsel.
In order to survive during Covid and support his family, project owner, Krieng Krai focused on expanding his organic farm and grew a variety of vegetables. In addition to growing rice, he has also set up several greenhouses where organic lettuce and other green leafy vegetables were grown.
The owner of this project, Kriengkrai Dinu, and his family have worked with and cared for elephants for over three generations. He previously spent time at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang where he received further training in working with elephants. When he heard about the Saddle Off model he seized the opportunity to bring his elephants home where they could be retired from elephant riding and be properly cared for in the hills near his Karen village. The project opened in late August 2017, and is located in a century-old Karen settlement surrounded by hills, forest and rice paddies with a beautiful stream running through it. It is home to two male elephants who are brothers, Khum Meun and Dodo who used to work in elephant riding. Their mother, Mae Thor Kor, used to live at this project with her two sons but sadly she passed away in late 2018 from old age . The family wants to help preserve Karen culture and aims to provide visitors a glimpse of the traditional Karen way of life. The project also supports local weavers who have their handmade Karen textiles on display, which are available for purchase.