I booked a two day mahout's course for my family through Tiger Trails to stay two days and one night outside Luang Prabang . I did a little online research, saw that they had a good LP write up and had a decent email exchange with them to get details of the trip. The trip was very expensive but it sounded something special and the company said they had a strong emphasis on the environment, conservation and animal welfare so we all decided to give it ago.
The trip however fell far short of what was advertised and our expectations. I won't write down the litany of complaints we had but suffice to say that we were tourists on a conveyor belt with the elephants traipsing round on the same conveyor belt with new tourists every half an hour. There was no introduction, explanation or training how to work with elephants. There was no evidence of community development or conservation projects. The trip was chaotic and confusing. One of the mahouts fell asleep on the elephant and our guide later explained that he had a hangover and was tired!!
The only saving grace was that the company's credit card machine was broken so we couldn't pay before we left on the trip. Instead after the trip, we paid what we thought the trip was worth (around half the initial sum) and faced little complaint from the company.
Having said all of the above, the location of the camp was superb and the kayaking on the second day good fun. I would recommend others to enjoy the countryside around Luang Prabang but do some careful research and don't go with Tiger Trails who are classic rip off merchants!