This elephant sanctuary was established to help a former trekking camp near Chiang Mai transition out of elephant riding and adopt a more compassionate approach to elephant tourism. The elephants living here are relishing their retirement from logging and elephant riding and instead spend much of their day interacting with each other while wandering the jungle, feeding on native vegetation as well as fruits and vegetables, and bathing in the river. Since joining our Saddle Off program, the elephants have put on weight and are noticeably more relaxed.
The program offers day trips where as part of a small group you’ll get to spend plenty of time with the elephants, feeding them fruit and observing them in a natural environment. Take a walk with the elephants through the lush jungle and experience being close to these awe-inspiring animals, feeding them bananas along the way. In the dry season, guests are invited to assist with reforestation efforts by tying blessed ochre colored sashes around the trunks of trees to protect them from being cut down, and planting saplings in the rainy season.
Reaching a bamboo hut at the top of the hill, you will be shown how to make som tum – the famous green papaya salad – and be served a delicious vegetarian buffet lunch surrounded by serene forest and a small stream. The buffet includes homemade spring rolls and a delectable Thai dessert made with mangoes and sticky rice. On the way back to the project, you may have the chance to visit a local waterfall, time permitting. Later in the afternoon, join the elephants in the river where you will have the opportunity to bathe them and marvel at how at home they are in the water, submerging themselves and using their trunks as snorkels. After getting changed into dry clothes, enjoy seasonal fruits served overlooking the beautiful rock garden and river below.
By visiting Sunshine for Elephants you are supporting ethical elephant tourism in Asia and helping to make this project sustainable so that they can continue to provide a better life for their elephants.
Support the elephants at Sunshine for Elephants
Observe elephants foraging in beautiful jungle surroundings and later swim with them in a stunning stretch of the river
Activities at Sunshine for Elephants
Prepare Food for the Elephants
Walk with Elephants
Feed the Elephants
Observe the Elephants
Help Protect the Forest
Make Som Tum & Banana Rice Balls
Walk with Elephants
Number of Guests: 6
Number of Elephants: 2
Tour Type: Full Day Visit
Fitness Level: Moderate to Challenging
Age Suitability: Adults & Children 7+
* Minimum of 4 people required for this tour to proceed
Adults & Children 12+: 2,500 Baht
Children Aged 7-11: 1,250 Baht
Adults & Children 7+
Moderate / Challenging
Elephants at Sunshine for Elephants
Ta mon was born in 1965 and for much of her life she was forced to do elephant riding. She worked at a trekking camp with a seat on her back carrying tourists, walking through the jungle and across the river in a daily grind, year after year. Her life was a lonely one with few elephant friends and constant work. Ta Mon was rescued from a camp in Mae Wang, south of Chiang Mai in 2015. Her previous owner sold her because she could no longer provide rides to tourists, and so she was seen as a burden. Sunshine for Elephants rescued Ta Mon to give her a second chance in life. When she was rescued, Ta Mon was stressed and unwell and suffered from digestive problems. She was put on a healthy diet of fruit, grass, and natural vegetation, and over time her health improved greatly. Ta Mon is much happier now that she can enjoy a more natural life where she can just be an elephant. She loves to receive fruit cakes. Being an older elephants with worn down teeth she likes soft foods including bananas, cooked pumpkin, and rice banana health balls. Ta Mon can be quite a timid elephant and is gentle natured. She enjoys walking and foraging in the forest, throwing mud and dirt over her body, swimming in the river, and hanging out with her friend, Sri Prai.
Sri Prai was born in 1990 and comes from Mae Sot in the west of Thailand, near the Myanmar border. In the past, she worked deep in the forest hauling logs in the illegal logging industry. Later, she was put to work at a remote trekking camp where she was forced to do elephant riding for many years before being sold. Sri Prai was rescued by Kwan and her husband in 2019 and came to live at Sunshine for Elephants. When she first arrived she was easily scared by unfamiliar sounds such as cars and motorbikes and was not so friendly with the other elephants. It took quite a long time for the trauma of her past to subside and for Sri Prai to feel at home. Sri Prai has changed a lot since being able to live a more natural life at Sunshine for Elephants -wandering in the forest without having to work. She loves to eat bananas and watermelon, and is also particularly fond of bamboo shoots, which she forages for in the forest, especially in the rainy season. Over the past few years Sri Prai’s life has improved greatly and she is a much happier, healthier, and more relaxed elephant nowadays. She has started to form a bond with Ta Mon and these two elephants can often be seen standing side by side, communicating and showing affection for one another.
About Your Trip
Start: 8:00am – 8:30am minivan pick up from your Chiang Mai city hotel, or from our office at 7:45am. Please advise on your reservation form if staying out of town as additional charges may apply.
Travel Time: Around 90 minutes (safety 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, change of clothing (as you may get muddy or wet), towel, walking shoes, camera & insect repellent.
Facilities: Main project area over looking the rock garden and stream, bamboo shelter in the forest for eating lunch, gift shop, bathrooms, showers, lockers, coffee & tea.
Items Provided: Traditional shirt & pants, hats, water holder, bag of bananas, sashes for tying around trees, ponchos in the rainy season, thongs, towels & soap.
Age Suitability: Adults & children over 12 – guests under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Fitness Level: Challenging – 2.5 – 3 hour walk along jungle trails with some steep, possibly muddy slopes. After about 2 hours walk guests stop to eat lunch in a bamboo hut in the jungle.
Topography: Mountain, jungle, forest, river & waterfall.
Extra Activities: Tree planting in the rainy season and tying Buddhist sashes around trees to protect them in the dry season / learn to make som tum.
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 4pm (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 5pm on the day before your visit to Sunshine for Elephants or by cash to the tour guide when they collect you from your hotel.
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Asian Elephant Projects Shop
This project is run by Kwan and her husband, who used to operate a small elephant camp that offered elephant riding. Several years ago one of the elephants fell ill, and they were unsure how to treat her. On the suggestion of a family member, they reached out to Lek Chailert at Save Elephant Foundation for help. Lek arranged for her vets to visit the camp and provide their elephant with treatment. It was at this time that the owners were introduced to the Saddle Off concept and the possibility of making the shift to a more compassionate form of elephant tourism. They were eager to move forward, and five years on, the family is happy that they made the change. There are two female elephants at this project now – Ta Mon (55 years old) and Sri Prai (30 years old). Sadly, our beautiful senior elephant, Kanjana passed away at the age of 67 in July 2022 and Wassana passed away in June 2019. All of the elephants are retired from elephant riding. Kwan and her husband enjoy seeing the elephants happy in their new lives, where they are free to interact with each other and wander in the forest. The elephants have gained weight and are healthier and more relaxed since their retirement and being given the chance to live a more natural life.
How Sunshine for Elephants is Eco Friendly & Sustainable
Support the Herd at Sunshine for Elephants
The Covid-19 coronavirus has caused severe challenges around the world and has placed extreme limitations on travel. As a result, Sunshine for Elephants was closed since March 2020 and only recently reopned. We are doing the best that we can to care for the elephants at our project, but would appreciate your support. If you are able to help buy food for our elephants, any gift would be greatly appreciated. Thank you to Save Elephant Foundation and Trunks Up for supporting our elephants during the Covid crisis.
Life During Covid at Sunshine for Elephants
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacting tourism there were almost no visitors to Sunshine for Elephants for over 1.5 years. The elephants spend their days foraging in the lush jungle near the project eating a wide variety of natural vegetation, including bamboo, and the leaves of various native plants and trees. They also like to drink from the stream and waterfall as well as cover themselves in dirt or mud and then scratch their bodies against trees. After a long walk, the elephants enjoy cooling off in the river. These elephants also receive a variety of fruit from time to time, including watermelon, papaya, mangoes, pumpkin and bananas depending on what is in season. Occasionally the elephants are treated to banana health balls made from rice, tamarind, protein pellets, and mashed bananas which they love so much. We really appreciate your support during challenging times. Thank you very much to Trunks Up and to everyone who has helped our elephants during the Covid crisis. The elephants really appreciate your support.