From the second we decided to go to Thailand, I started searching for the perfect place to get my elephant fix, and what a better place than an elephant sanctuary! In college, I spent a summer interning at a zoo with elephants and I’ve been hooked ever since. They are huge, yet gentle and graceful, each having their own distinct personalities. Their deep brown eyes can nearly look into your soul. A visit to Thailand is not complete without visiting Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.
Turns out, it’s not easy to find a place that has elephants AND treats them well. The more I searched, the more I discovered just how terrible the conditions can be over there for the elephants. I was a little heartbroken and very disappointed. But I forged ahead in my googling, and somehow, eventually, I stumbled upon Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES). I was overjoyed as I typed my email requesting any availability during the time we would be in Thailand. I nearly pleaded with them (as their calendar was completely booked online) to have a night free. I’m sure I sounded like a desperate lunatic. I waited for what felt like years (they were having internet issues) for a response. D and I had conversations about delaying our trip to Thailand until a time when the elephant sanctuary might have availability. I HAD to stay at this place. Finally, I heard back. They had one night in the middle of our trip. We rearranged our entire schedule and it was SO worth it. It was the most fantastic place I have ever been, and Katherine Connor, founder, is the most inspiring person I’ve ever met.
A driver picked us up from our hotel in Sukhothai (Old Town) and we, along with another couple, rode the 1.5 hours to the elephant sanctuary. The cabin we stayed in was rustic and simple. Absolutely perfect.
We tossed our backpacks into the room and went straight back out to take it all in…
Hang on a second – that’s not the kind of elephants we were expecting!
Fa, an employee at the sanctuary, was heading to Chiang Mai to run the marathon for BLES in an elephant costume. The elephants seemed impressed… but the dogs were not.
One of the favorite activities at BLES seemed to be getting water from the hose. If you’re willing, they’d stay all day playfully taking the hose from each other.
Every day the elephants go on walks with their mahouts, guests, Katherine and the dogs. It was amazing to get to spend so much time with her and hear the stories of each elephant as we walked behind them. She is unbelievably passionate, kind and caring.
We stopped to admire the view whenever the elephants felt like a snack.
It’s so easy to fall in love these gentle giants. We spent several hours in the Thai jungle talking about their histories and the sanctuary, while listening to their quiet munching and elephant chirps and rumbles. Their communication skills with each other are astounding.
After our walk, we sat down for lunch. All meals are served communal style, are vegetarian and utterly delicious.
Of course, the elephants couldn’t resist some of the delicious papaya, cheeky girls!
Its not just elephants that call Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary their home, many cats and dogs do too. D took a liking to Cha Cha who was incredibly sweet and persistent in getting some affection.
We even got to spend some time close to Boon Thong, a quiet elephant who is still recovering from her days in the tourism industry.
I wish we could have stayed a while longer (forever, if they’d let me)… it was an extraordinary place, a true sanctuary, even for us. I will definitely be back one day, and will know to book much more in advance to stay longer.
So I said my goodbyes, for now…
However you choose to experience wildlife while traveling, please make sure that you do not ride an elephant! For more information on how we choose to travel with a conscience, check out our Guide to Ethical Travel!
Looking for everything else we did in Thailand? Check out our Thailand Roundup!