Elephant Sanctuaries in Phuket have rapidly become very popular as the attitude towards animal-based attractions changes. The emphasis at these camps is on ethical, animal-friendly interaction with these majestic creatures, many of whom have been rescued or retired from the local logging and elephant trekking industries. The welfare of the residents is often the first priority of such places.

    If meeting elephants up close is on your bucket list for your trip to Phuket, these parks are the best places to do so in a way which causes the minimum harm and disturbance to them. You'll also learn far more about the gentle giants than you would from a short ride on their back, and both you and the elephants are far more likely to have a fun time together.

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    Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

    Paklok, near Phuket Town

    Phuket Elephant Sanctuary was the pioneer of ethical elephant tourism in the area and goes to great pains to create as natural and peaceful an environment as possible for their residents. While you can watch and walk with the majestic creatures and learn a lot about the individuals, interaction beyond that is kept to a strict minimum. There are morning and afternoon tours available and you can volunteer at the sanctuary.

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    Location: 100 Moo 2, Paklok, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 5pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 529 099

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    photo by Marc Dalmulder (CC BY 2.0) modified

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    Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket

    Naithon Beach

    Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was among the first of the ethical elephant attractions in Thailand in their Chiang Mai location. Now boasting 4 venues (Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui), their half-day visits are the cheapest in the area. You'll be allowed to touch, feed and photograph the elephants, as well as giving them a mud bath and then a rinse in the river. Collection from your Phuket hotel is included in the price of the tour.

    Location: 2/12 Moo 6, Kathu, Phuket 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)94 663 6592

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    photo by Tobias Scheck (CC BY 2.0) modified

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    Elephant Retirement Park Phuket

    Bangtao Beach

    The Elephant Retirement Park still allows quite a lot of physical interaction with their residents, including giving them a mud bath and a wash. However, they still take the welfare of the elephants seriously, allowing only small groups and no riding. Aside from the usual morning and afternoon tours, there are also special private and corporate packages as well as volunteer programs for up to 3 days. Collection from your hotel anywhere in Phuket is included in the price.

    Location: 392/5 Soi Cherngtalay 1, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7.30am to 5pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 608 945

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    Phang Nga Elephant Park

    Phang Nga

    Phang Nga Elephant Park is about an hour’s drive from Phuket, but transfers are available to get you there for the morning or afternoon tours. Their “Elephant Care Experience” packages include feeding and bathing the residents and, uniquely, riding on their necks like a mahout, which is significantly less harmful than the old style of riding right on the spine. This is only available for those over the age of 7. Children under that age can have the “Family Elephant Experience”, which is much gentler.

    Location: 49/1 Moo 3, Thung Kha Ngok, Muang, Phang-nga 82000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)85 351 5536

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    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveler

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