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“Mixed Emotions” 3 of 5 stars
Review of The Elephant Training Center Chiang Dao

The Elephant Training Center Chiang Dao
108/1 Moo 9, T. Intakhin, A. Mae Tang | Intakhin, Mae Taeng 50150, Thailand
(053) 298-553
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Top Rated
$96*
and up
Elephant Trek, Rafting and Hilltribe Village Tour...
Ranked #9 of 17 things to do in Mae Taeng
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Attraction details
San Francisco, California
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
19 attraction reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
69 helpful votes 69 helpful votes
“Mixed Emotions”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 30, 2012

I am a huge lover of elephants, and the highlight of our trip to Thailand was seeing wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. However, being an elephant lover, we also decided to visit Chiang Dao Camp and signed up for the full-day tour. Signing up was very difficult. They do not reply to your email (well, they did a month after our trip!) and we had to rely on a local friend in Chiang Mai to call them on the phone (many times to reach the right person). Our friend had to send them money to make our deposit. When we arrived, no one spoke English, but they somehow did know that we had paid a deposit.

First they allow you to buy bananas and feed two elephants, including the baby, which of course is exciting, and everyone loves to see the baby elephant.

But why are they breeding these elephants? I can understand why there are elephant camps so that the once-working animals can live out the rest of their lives. But I see no need to continue this way of life except for tourism. And I would rather not support this kind of camp. A week after our visit to the camp, we read in the Bangkok newspaper that a survey of all captive elephants in Thailand had just been completed, and the result was that 80 or 90% of captive elephants in Thailand are malnourished. The main reason is that elephants eat so much per day, and the poor owners of the camps can't afford the food. Some elephants are apparently only given grass to eat, which is not a complete diet for them. We did the elephant ride, which again is exciting, but our elephant was a bit sluggish, and the mahout was often encouraging him to keep up with the rest of the parade. He did not use the bull hook, but he did have to keep encouraging him. When I look at the framed photo of us riding him (purchased at the end of the day) I can see how skinny he was for an elephant. This saddened me greatly. Frankly, I wish we had not gone, or at least did not do the ride.

We also went to the hill tribe, and I agree with other reviewers, it seems like a set up. Do those people really live there? Don't know. Mostly it's an opportunity to buy things at higher prices than in Chiang Mai. Whatever. Those people need the money more than I do, and I like the carved teak elephants that we bought.

The raft down the river would have been pleasant, as it the jungle is very beautiful. But it started raining about 10 minutes into the one-hour trip, and progressively got more and more rainy. The mahout pulled out hats and crappy ponchos to wear, but it's hard to put them on when you're sitting on a flimsy bench on a flimsy raft. Once the bench shifted and started to fall through the bamboo branches, allowing water on the raft. It would have all been OK except for the rain.

Overall, I think the elephants are moderately cared for, but if you really care about captive elephants in Thailand, it might be better to support them in a different way. I am still looking for a charity to support that will make lasting changes to the situation. Haven't found it yet though.

Visited November 2012
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Atlanta, Georgia
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Great time for kids and adults”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 24, 2012 via mobile

We decided for this camp as we were told it would not be too touristy and indeed it wasn't. We arrived and bought some bananas for 30 THB for the kids to feed the elephants. This was great. We went on to watch them see getting bathed in the river followed by a cute show. Our impression was that all elephants were treated allright which was very important to us. We then proceeded to a one hour tour on the elephants through the forrest. Our kids loved it. We skipped the river rafting on a bamboo raft - really not too excited about it and had lunch before everyone else arrived. Food was very good. We had asked for a private tour hence we had our own minivan and our own guide taking us there. We can absolutely recommend the trip to the camp.

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Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Top Contributor
68 reviews 68 reviews
40 attraction reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
“Little natural training center”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 18, 2012

We enjoyed our visit to Chiang Dao. It has very natural surroundings and as far as we could tell the elephants were treated well. Our guide told us for example that there was a baby elephant but it was away in the forest with its mother so it could gain size and strength first. We enjoyed the walk the most. Through the forest and river.

Visited December 2012
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Wirral, England
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“Wow ! an experience and a half !”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 16, 2012 via mobile

This was included as part of our 3 centre trip to Thailand, so was not sure what to expect! As an individual I now feel I know and appreciate more about the fantastic mammals. I am only Joe public, so my experience of the entire day a good 4-5 hours, feeding, a show, a trek up and down a steep hill, lovely Thai dinner, and tranquil raft ride was brill. The elephants were in their environment and are hugely powerful beasts and need a means of control surely so the wooden stick with metal hook is a means of that control possibly? The tribe thing was a bit naff admittedly didn't feel authentic, what did was returning from the hill to dinner, the guy riding an elephant behind us noticed I had dropped a lens hood off my camera. His elephant simply on instruction picked it up so delicately via his trunk off the floor and placed it in my hands, WOW :-) so impressive.

I came away feeling overall I'd helped to sustain a small community, overall it felt very authentic and real to me.

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New Plymouth, New Zealand
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
40 helpful votes 40 helpful votes
“Some good and bad points”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed November 11, 2012

My husband and I went to Chiang Dao Elephant Camp in October 2012. We chose this camp based on the price and on travel advisor reviews as we did not want to go to an elephant camp where elephants were mistreated.
We thought about booking online but our taxi driver said to book it there. Online, the price included transport, watching the elephants bathing, an elephant show, an elephant ride to the Lisu tribe and back, lunch, and bamboo rafting down the river. When we turned up we booked and thought we were paying for the same trip (minus transport and for a similar price), but found after watching the elephant show that it only included the washing, elephant ride and bamboo rafting and we were followed and asked to pay for watching the show (which i would have prefered not to see). We felt a little ripped off that that when we discussed it with the worker, he wasn't clear about what was included. I suppose the language barrier didn't help.
-The bathing of the elephants was great to watch. A great experience.
-It wasn't good to a couple of elephants in the pens rocking back and forth, obviously bored, on too short a chains and in need of some stimulation. It was a bit upsetting to see.
-The show was ok and good to see how the elephants can work together but it did feel like a bit of a circus act and was repeditive and would be boring for them to repeat each day. Also, I don't have a problem with elephants painting pictures but I didn't really like that it was taught to draw a tree, grass etc and there were many more pictures I saw afterwards exactly the same. I feel like they should have been allowed to use free thought instead of being taught one picture and it would be far more stimulating for them.
-The elephant ride was good and I really enjoyed it but I really hated seeing the big hole/gash in the back of the elephants ear. It was very large and deep and was missing a lot of skin around the hole. It had purple stuff (probably iodine) on it so at least it was being treated. It was obvious that the elephant had done something the mahout didn't like and had given it a hard hit with the pick axe like instrument they use. He also used it whacking the elephant on the trip to get it moving and although I didn't like it, it wasn't hit too hard. And the mahout did at least seem to have a good connection with the elephant and talked and sung to it.
(I also saw an elephant with a healed scar on its forhead where I assume it had also been hit hard. Being a boney area, this would have really hurt)
-It was interesting going to the Lisu tribe but I do wonder whether anyone actually lived there or if it was just for show.
-The bamboo rafting was really hot but the guy rafting us down was friendly and it was a really nice experience. It was tranquil and fun spotting wildlife along the way.
This trip would be great for lots of people but we just didn't have the best experience regarding communication about cost and although I'm sure that compared to some other camps, the elephants were treated well, we felt uncomfortable seeing any unhappy or hurt elephants.

Visited October 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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