Get up and personal with elephants at Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. This small operation collects and supports rescued and retired elephants and you can support them by spending a day feeding, walking with, and even bathing the elephants. Visiting this Thailand elephant sanctuary was one of our absolute favorite activities during our trip to Krabi.
Read more below to learn more about planning your visit, what to expect when you’re there, and our personal experience at the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. As always, make sure to do your own research when planning an ethical animal experience.
A Brief History of Elephants in Thailand
Once a symbol of power and spirituality, elephants have a long and troubled history in Thailand. The elephant has been such an important symbol over time that you will see sculptures, paintings, and other artwork of elephants almost everywhere you go in the country.
In 1900 there were roughly 100,000 Indian Elephants in Thailand. Today that number hovers between 3,000-4,000. For many hundreds of years, elephants were used for manual labor including during wartime and for logging. Today, logging with elephants is prohibited, and elephants are primarily used in the tourism industry. In 2010, Thailand passed to protect elephants in the tourism industry.
Growing concern over their humane treatment has led many places around the country to rescue these gentle animals and provide an ethical way for people to interact with these intelligent animals.
Is Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand Ethical?
If you’re planning to visit an elephant sanctuary in Thailand it is very important to do your homework. Even though elephants are protected, some places are better than others. Never visit a place that includes riding on an elephant. The most reputable elephant sanctuaries in Thailand provide enough space for elephants to roam and opportunities for people to gently interact with these animals.
We did a lot of research before visiting the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary and had an incredibly positive experience. It is worth noting that these are not wild elephants – they are domesticated elephants. So while they are free to roam and there are no chains or ropes used, you are not visiting the elephants in the complete wild.
Planning Your Trip to the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary
You can book a visit to the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary for either a morning or afternoon time slot. We did the morning spot when it was cooler and they picked us up at 7:00 am and dropped us off at noon. The afternoon session runs from 13:00 – 18:00.
Each tour takes about 5 hours and includes a pick up from your location and a 50-minute drive to and from the Sanctuary. With a limit of 20 people, you get lots of hands-on time with the animals. The drive is comfortable and interesting as well, especially if you haven’t spent time in the countryside outside of Krabi. You can book your visit right through the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary website.
These tours do sell out, so if you know when you plan to go, make sure you book well in advance. It may also be possible to book through your hotel or lodging facility or at one of the stands in town.
There are restrooms and some basic items for sale under the pavilion at the Sanctuary including t-shirts and water. You can also buy a few elephant-related items made locally.
The cost for the visit is roughly 2500 Baht when we went. This is definitely on the pricey side for activities in Thailand (especially for 5 people). Remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you are also paying to support the people and elephants that make this experience possible. When you see how much the elephants eat, you will have a better appreciation for the cost it must take to maintain them.
What to Expect at the Elephant Sanctuary – Krabi
When you arrive at the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary, you will get an overview of what to expect during your visit. They also discuss the background of elephants in Thailand and how they’ve been treated over time. You are not rushed through the 3 main activities and have plenty of time to feed, walk with, and bathe with the elephants. They also provide bamboo hats you can wear to keep the sun off your face (and for fun)!
First, it’s time to feed the elephants. You will be given bananas, sugar cane, and protein bars to feed the elephants. Taking your time, the guests will walk forward and feed each elephant. Some of the food can be passed off into their trunk, while the protein balls are put directly in their mouths. The texture of an elephant’s tongue is unlike anything I have ever experienced!
After you’ve fed the elephants you will all take a walk to the field. The elephants know the way, so you really aren’t taking them for a walk, just following them. They browse for a while here and give themselves dust baths. They are free to wander.
This was probably my favorite part because you could sit back and really observe them. You also got a sense of their sheer size as you could stand next to them and even feel their rough skin.
After the walk, you head for the water, where the elephants take a bath. Just like the walk, they really don’t need help with their bath, but we loved getting in the water with them and you could give them a bit of a scrub if you liked. They do have a few people in the water with you so an elephant doesn’t accidentally knock you over in the water.
The water is pretty muddy, but it really is worth it to get in and have this experience with the animals.
When we visited in early 2020, there were 3 elephants that we interacted with and the caregivers were all incredibly attentive and kind.
Other Krabi or Phuket Elephant Sanctuaries and Experiences
There are several other elephant sanctuaries that you might mistake for the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. There is Aonang Elephant Sanctuary, Krabi Elephant House Sanctuary, as well as several elephant sanctuaries in Phuket. We also considered having an elephant experience when we were in Khao Sok. Since we didn’t visit any of these places, just make sure you do your research into how they treat their elephants before you buy a ticket. Also, note how much time you get to spend with the animals. We spent at least 2.5 hours with the elephants.
Where to Stay to Visit the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary
Your best bet to visit the Elephant Sanctuary is to stay in Krabi or Aonang. The driver will simply pick you up at your lodging. We stayed in an Airbnb just outside of Krabi and they were happy to pick us up there with no problems.
If you want to see a quick video of our experience visiting the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary – click on the image just below:
Looking for more amazing things to do in Krabi and Thailand? Check out:
- Amazing 2 Week Itinerary For Thailand – The Perfect Adventure Trip
- Visiting Tiger Cave Temple Thailand (Krabi) 5 Things you Absolutely Need to Know
- 15 Best Things to do in Krabi, Thailand
Common Questions and Answers about Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
What activities can visitors expect to participate in at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand?
Visitors can engage in activities such as observing elephants in their natural habitat, feeding them, and even participating in gentle interactions like bathing and walking alongside them.
Are visitors allowed to ride elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand?
No, ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand promote responsible tourism and do not allow visitors to ride elephants. They prioritize the well-being and conservation of these majestic animals. Do not visit a sanctuary where you can ride and elephant.
How can visitors contribute to the conservation efforts of an elephant sanctuary in Thailand?
Visitors can support the conservation efforts by learning about elephant conservation, making donations, volunteering their time, and spreading awareness about the sanctuary’s mission and values.