Visiting Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Koh Samui

If you’re visiting Koh Samui, one of the most popular things to do is to visit an elephant sanctuary. To say it’s a fairly small island, there are quite a few around – but not all are actually sanctuaries, so it’s worth doing your research to ensure you’re not endorsing something unethical.

This was my number one concern when we came to Thailand back in December 2022. I have met and interacted with elephants before and become aware of the physical and mental strain that these beautiful creatures are put under for the sake of the tourism industry. I desperately wanted to see them again, but didn’t even bother looking into it, under the assumption that all ‘sanctuaries’ were actually places to ride the animals and support unethical tourist traps.

Until we arrived in Koh Samui.

I had heard of Elephant Jungle Sanctuary when we were in Phuket and when I heard the name again in Koh Samui I decided to look into it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is in fact a legitimate sanctuary, a home for five rescued female elephants who are left to roam free on the land.

A bit about Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a non profit organisation based in Thailand, which was founded in 2014 as a joint initiative between the Karen hill tribes of Northern Thailand and locals of Chiang Mai who were increasingly concerned about the welfare of elephants. There are four projects throughout the country – Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samui.

The aim of Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is to educate visitors on the importance of elephant conservation and to encourage respect and appreciation for the welfare of these beautiful creatures. The projects aim to build a future where elephants are not poached, ridden and overworked, but rather treated with love and care. 100% of the proceeds from your ticket to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (and anything you buy in the shop) goes directly towards funding the rescue of more elephants, their onsite care, and the training of the mahouts.

An important thing to note about Elephant Jungle Sanctuary which was a key part of my research before visiting is that none of the elephants are chained up and none of the mahouts use a bullhook (a sharp stick) to command them; only verbal commands are given and gentle pats on their rear to urge them in a certain direction.

There are two options to choose from when visiting Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: the feeding programme or the half day visit. The half day visit includes the feeding programme plus the opportunity to observe the elephants as they enjoy their mud bath and get stuck in with showering them off afterwards. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary are mindful of the impact of over-showering, particularly in peak season when the weather is incredibly hot and it can be detrimental to the elephants if they are washed and touched too much, as it can cause not only overheating and irritation but also cause skin infections. Therefore, this is only done once per day, maximum. I appreciated reading this as it was one of the things I was wary of at other elephant ‘sanctuaries’.

Our experience

We chose the feeding programme which lasted just a couple of hours. We were the first ones there at 9.30am and admired the elephants from a distance as we learned about each creature’s history and rescue story, as well as some very interesting facts about elephants which I will share below.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Samui is home to five female elephants, two of whom were rescued from circuses on the mainland and three were rescued from a place which was using them for rides. Each elephant costs approximately 1.5 million baht (£35,000) to rescue and one of them was pregnant, so she had cost double to rescue. We could see her baby rolling around inside her belly whilst feeding her which was amazing!

We were each given a bucket load of chopped up fruit and were set to work feeding the girls as they lined up behind a bamboo fence. They were very cheeky and kept trying to get their trunks into our buckets when we turned around! Once our buckets were empty, we walked across the site with the pregnant elephant as she required more food, and got some one-on-one time with her to take photos and learn more about her pregnancy.

We thought this whole experience would take maybe 30 minutes, but I was thrilled that we got to spend so much time feeding, observing, and learning about the elephants’ behaviour for more than two hours!

Weird and wonderful elephant facts

  • Elephants eat on average 300kg of food per day
  • They then poop 80kg per day
  • Elephants drink 80-100 litres of water per day
  • …..and they excrete 40 litres per day
  • If an elephant doesn’t poo for 3 days, they will die of constipation
  • Elephants are pregnant for 18-22 months – the beautiful mama we saw was only 11 months into her pregnancy so she has just less than a year to go!
  • Pregnant elephants eat around 20% more
  • Male elephants are 10-15% larger than female elephants
  • Elephants have a similar lifespan to humans and usually live until they’re 70-80 but can live up to 90 years old if they are well cared for in captivity

If you’d like the opportunity to interact with some of the most beautiful and graceful creatures in the world, make sure to visit Elephant Jungle Sanctuary while you’re in Thailand. We booked our tickets on the Klook app and instead of 900 baht (£22) it cost us only 550 baht (£13) per person to take part in the feeding programme.

I understand that many are against any kind of wildlife interactions on their travels, so if you have any further questions about EJS, please visit their website. If you’re like me and you get nervous and overwhelmed researching these kinds of activities, don’t hesitate to comment below or drop me a message on Instagram.

As always, if you wish to visit any wildlife sanctuary on your travels, make sure to do your research and make an informed decision before visiting 🙂

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Published by Liv

Travel blogger and digital nomad 🌏

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