Visit this elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand for an unforgettable experience and join the growing number of people choosing responsible and sustainable elephant tourism. The project is run by a Karen family who has lived and worked with elephants for two generations. They are happy to see their elephants freed from riding, with time to forage, socialize, and play.
Karen Elephant Retreat is currently home to six elephants, including two mothers elephants and their young. The owner is determined to keep the elephant families together. It is a special experience to witness the playful innocence of baby elephants watched over by their highly devoted mothers.
As part of a small group of guests, accompanied by a tour guide, enjoy elephant-friendly activities in nature. Dress in traditional Karen clothing and feed the elephants rice-tamarind balls that you have prepared for them, take a walk with the elephants in the forest, bathe them, and watch them play in the mud pit. In between activities, a delicious vegetarian buffet lunch will be served while the elephants graze nearby.
Since their retirement from riding, the elephants are enjoying being able to interact as a herd, and are healthier and more relaxed.
All of the people involved in this project are Karen and local weavers create traditional clothing made from handspun, naturally dyed cotton, woven on a hand loom. The preservation of Karen culture in a fast-changing world is important to the elders of the family.
Spend time with elephant families in beautiful surroundings where they are respected and given the freedom to interact with each other and do what comes naturally
Walk with Elephants
Number of Guests: 12
Number of Elephants: 6
Tour Type: Full Day Visit
Fitness Level: Easy
Age Suitability: All Ages
Adults & Children 12+: 2,500 Thai Baht
Children Aged 2-12: 1,250 Thai Baht
Family Friendly-All Ages
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 & talk en route to 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, walking shoes, change of clothing (as you may get muddy or wet), towel, camera & insect repellent.
Operational Months: All year round.
Age Suitability: All ages – guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Fitness Level: Easy – leisurely walk along mainly flat paths, which can become muddy in the rainy season.
Topography: Grassland, forest, hills, stream & natural pond.
Extra Activities: Watch local Karen weavers create traditional textiles on a hand loom.
Location: Mae Taeng, 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 or 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.
Karen Elephant Retreat is owned by Khun Dee, whose family has been involved with elephants for two generations. The family is Karen, an ethnic group found throughout Southeast Asia, with a long tradition of working with elephants. By adopting the ‘Saddle Off’ model, the owner feels that he can finally do what is best for the elephants. Khun Dee has witnessed the transition from working with elephants in the dangerous logging industry during his father’s life, followed by elephant tourism based on riding and shows, and now to a model that allows visitors to observe elephants living a more dignified, natural life. The project is still very new and they are currently planting elephant food on their land to help sustain the needs of their elephants. They buy much of the food for the elephants from local farmers and the elephants can also forage on natural vegetation from the surrounding forest, including medicinal plants that help resolve digestive problems common in elephants. Khun Dee has acquired a lot of knowledge about elephants and their ways during his life and is dedicated to their well-being.