First of all, if you are an animal lover, stop thinking about riding on elephants and stop doing review on any elephant trekking trip. Similarly, do not ride on horses, do not watch monkey show, do not watch circus show, do not pay a visit to the famous Phuket Fantasea Show (Elephants in Fantasea show can dance. Imagine how hard these big creatures are being trained). Continue reading if you are a moderate thinker and more open minded.
Well, think positive, if these elephants are not used in business purpose like elephant trekking, they may get hunt (e.g.: to get the ivories) and end up more elephants die.
Back to topic, my wife and I visited Kok Chang Safari during our trip in Phuket after reading many positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Yes, the mahouts are holding hooks and may use it to hit on elephants if they misbehave. If you think this is cruel, then the horse riders are cruel devils too. In fact, we saw not all mahouts use the hooks to hit the elephants. Most of the time the mahouts just give voice commands and body language.
Both of us enjoyed our 30 minutes elephant trekking (800 bahts for each person). This was our first time riding on elephant. We felt it was fun riding on elephant in a jungle. Kok Chang Safari's staff will help you take photos (using your own camera, no extra charge) when you first get on elephant and when you reach the top of the hill, where you can see a beautiful scenery. When the trekking about to come to an end, you have option to ride on the elephant's head.
Their staffs seem taking care of the elephants. Elephants are served with lots of leaves to eat. After the elephants done a trek, Kok Chang Safari's staffs will bath the elephants. Visitors can also feed the elephants with bananas and pineapples for free or voluntarily give some donations. We do not know if these are just a "show" in front of tourists but at least they show us a good example.
Kok Chang Safari provide hotel transfer service. We stayed in Patong area and charged 400 bahts for the private car transfer, which we think it's quite reasonable. We like it because we do not need to share a van with other tourists like most trips in Phuket. Kok Chang Safari's staffs are very friendly and they can speak basic English.
If you came to Phuket or any other places in Thailand, the land of elephants, you should at least try to experience once for elephant trekking. Kok Chang Safari is one of the good option.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.