As a person who loves elephants, riding one was at the top of my list of things to do in Thailand.
We booked a trip to Siam Safari through our hotel and were picked up promptly by a driver at 11am and were shuttled to the park in an open sided jeep that made us feel like we were in an African safari instead of driving down the main street in Rawai. It wasn't until about 12pm before we actually got to see any elephants though due to us having to wait for other visitors to arrive for the tour. This was a little frustrating however we were kept informed by our guide Joy.
Our first experience with the elephants was little show performed by two of the younger ones. There was no time at all that the elephants were mistreated or 'beaten'. Afterwards we were able to interact and feed them as well as get some photographs.
We were then taken up the visitor’s centre where we waited for the elephants to pick us up. The trainer was friendly and made us feel at ease. The trek itself through the forest was fantastic. We were able to view the Big Buddha on the next mountain as well as Chalong Bay. The trainer also got off and took a few photos of us alone on the elephant. The rest of the trek was relaxing and the ride was pleasant - at no time did I feel uncomfortable or worried that the elephant will go crazy and stampede.
I am a firm believer in animal rights however I don't think that this place causes any need for concern. I have heard that the elephants kept at Siam Safari were obtained from a logging company who used to chain them up, so I think having people ride and then feed them a couple of times a day is a lot better. The animals hardly look distressed and the trainers seem patient and gentle with them. I am unsure what other elephants trekking companies are like but I would recommend this one to anybody, especially those concerned with animal welfare.
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