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“If you want an elephant experience and don't mind them working, this is the best choice in Laos.”

Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips
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Explore Luang Prabang Backroads Biking Tour
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Elephant Village in Luang Prabang was set up in 2003 and is now owned by a group of passioante Lao nationals. Our sales office is located on the main street in town close to the National Museum and our beautiful elephant camp is located next to the village Ban Xieng Lom. Elephant Village focuses on three objectives:1. Saving Elephants 2. Community Support 3. Nature Preservation. We take elephants out of the very dangerous logging industry and provide them with an alternative way of earning their income. We try to help the elephants which desperately need help the most such as older elephants and elephants which have injuries due to accidents. We currently have 14 elephants in our care including 2 baby elephants which will never have to work in the logging industry. We are also home to a female elephant called Mae Uak, who was injured when she stepped on a 'UXO' (Un-Exploded Ordinance) some time ago, before we rescued her. She is now happily living in our herd.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children
northern california
Level Contributor
165 reviews
77 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 154 helpful votes
“If you want an elephant experience and don't mind them working, this is the best choice in Laos.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 4, 2012

For starters, let me say if you really abhor the idea of an elephant working at all, although it is a sanctuary, this isn't the place to go. But it is a wonderful place, with great elephant rides, "learn to be a mahout" and feeding experiences. Most of the elephants have been rescued from years toiling in the logging industry in the North of Laos. They are all female, and vary between about 20 and 45 years old if I am remembering correctly. With their long term mahouts, they have been rented on long term (5 year renewable) leases to live in Elephant village. So, compared to the tedium and heft of logging, riding tourists around is a major life improvement for the elephants. Of the various places in the region that have elephants available for tourist interaction, this place is head and shoulders above the rest, far more humane, the animals look well cared for (veterinarian on premises, though his english wasn't sufficient for the questions I had of him), the mahouts are personable and gentle, and they seem to have all aspects of the environment in mind.
The ride itself was great fun, and though I've ridden elephants in Thailand and elsewhere, this was the most fun I've had on an elephant. The mahout allowed us to change places with him, and ride on the elephants head/neck (though his constant banter to the elephant emphasized who was really driving!). At one point he hopped off, and took tons of photos for us (our cameras). Then there was the option to purchase a snack (bananas) to feed our elephant with more photo ops.
There is a self guided information tour which you can peruse at your leisure, with lots of written information (elephant facts - like they eat 260 lbs of food a day a piece, and are the least efficient animal in terms of food processing, with about 40% of intake passing through unchanged. The up side- they sell nice elephant dung textured paper and paper products! Also sobering to comprehend the cost of properly feeding and caring for elephants, which is one argument for their preservation in a tourist attraction ). There are a number of benches, and sun gazebos where one can rest or eat.
The mahout mini training course looked like great fun- I think it's 2 days, and you get to bathe your elephant in the river... but no time for that this time around...

The vegetarian buffet lunch was ok. Nothing special, but varied asian choices.
We booked this trip from the states, with a full day including the Tad Sae waterfalls and a kayak trip, and the cost was quite reasonable. If you book directly with the resort, or through their lodge, I think you can swim in the adjacent pool for free. Otherwise it costs $7/person.
The biggest challenge is the road to the village, which is unpaved, bumpy and dusty or muddy, depending on the weather.

Visited November 2012
Thank beardiegal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Isle of Man, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
169 reviews
68 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
“A must do”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 3, 2012

Being over 60, elephant rides are not something that readily springs to mind as a must do but we had chosen this half day tour as an activity with a difference although a bit of trepidation was in evidence beforehand. The journey from Luang Prabang was interesting as the road is presently being upgraded, hence the 15km distance did take 45 minutes. That did allow us to see some of the scenery though.

On arrival we were given a brief introduction, shown around the grounds, mounted the steps onto a platform and we were on our way. Down to the river was a bit steep but somehow we felt safe even though we were not in control. Our elephant made light work of the fast flowing river even though we were headed up stream. The opposite bank was soon reached and we ascended into a small plateau being used as an area for crop growing. Not soon after, the trail ascended further into the jungle whilst we sat in a stately like fashion being gently swayed from side to side.

The elephant riders (mahouts) descended from the elephants and allowed one of us to sit on the elephants head for a walk of about half an hour. Nothing to hold onto in front of you and only your hands resting on the elephant's head was a bit scary to begin with but I soon got used to it and was glad of the long trousers worn as the elephant skin and hairs were a bit prickly.

The end of the walk was down a steep track and the mahouts returned to the elephants to guide us down to the disembarkation point from where we walked to the splendid waterfall site.

The tour was ended but a fantastic lunch aboard our own bamboo vessel before heading back to the centre. As a bonus we were given a guided tour of the accommodation being provided. We vowed to come back, especially if our guide is "phone" who took our cameras for much of the journey, taking pictures of us all the way.

Visited December 2012
4 Thank richard0837
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
87 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 106 helpful votes
“A day with Elephants....”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 29, 2012

As others have said before, this is an absolute must. We booked a "full day" trip through their office in central Luang Prabang, and we're picked up/dropped off at our hotel as part of the deal.

After a thirty to forty minute bumpy ride to the "village", you're up close with the elephants pretty much straight away. The elephants themselves seem well cared for, and the Mahouts while forceful at times certainly look after them. Some of the more wayward elephants are have to be encouraged to move in the direction their Mahouts want them to go, but there were no signs of injuries on the elephants.

The highlight of the day is bathing time, where you literally climb on the back of an elephant and lead them down to the river. When we were there the river was fast flowing, but the Mahouts were in control all of the time. The bathing session is an absolute laugh, and everyone in our group got completely soaked - so bring a change of clothes.

The final part of the day, was a trip up river to a set of waterfalls. To be honest, this was pretty dull and something I wouldn't repeat if I was going to do another day at the Elephant Village.

All in all - absolutely brilliant and well worth the USD spent!

Visited November 2012
1 Thank Round_t_World
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
199 reviews
43 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 88 helpful votes
“Highlight of our trip, but...”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 27, 2012

We booked our day Mahout trip via Manifa Travel in Luang Prabang, who were very good. We were picked up at our accommodation by mini-van with 4 others. The trip was about 30 minutes on gravel road, through villages and forest. The camp is well set up and the elephants seem to be cared for and well fed. We were delighted with our rides and bathing the elephants. The lunch was also good, as was the boat trip and waterfall. However, I have two concerns. I suspect the elephants do the same tricks/walks every single day for tourists. These are intelligent animals that need stimulation. After saying that, obviously this life is better than logging
I am concerned that logging has not been banned in Laos, and that the majority of elephants at the village were rented from logging companies. This is no reflection on 'elephant village' as they are trying to purchase elephants to save them from logging. A mature elephant costs $30K US, so I understand that it would be impossible to buy them all. When/if logging is banned/phased out it makes me wonder what will happen to all the elephants.

Visited November 2012
2 Thank Eco2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington, DC
Level Contributor
228 reviews
48 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 169 helpful votes
“Washing & Riding!”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 27, 2012

Riding elephants? How could you not give it a try!

We registered online for a half-day tour (~$42). They picked us up from our hotel in Luang Prabang around 8:45AM, a few other passengers along the way, and drove us down a "new road" (read: a bumpy dirt road) to the sanctuary. Once there, we visited and pet the elephants while waiting for our tour to begin.

We started by taking a boat down the river to the Tad Sae Waterfalls where you can swim, photograph the waterfalls, and hang out for about an hour. There is a separate tour company there that offers you a chance to "bathe with the elephants" for an additional fee (~$13); I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND YOU DO IT! Basically, we got to ride an elephant bareback (without the mahout) through the waterfall pools for about 15-minutes or so. The mahout directed the elephant from the shore and took pictures of us with our camera. It was an awesome-fun time holding on to the elephant via a single rope around her neck (no, it doesn't hurt her) as she dove under the water, played with other elephants, and ate branches provided by a mahout on shore. This was the highlight of the experience; bring a swimsuit!

Once our time was up, we headed back to the elephant village via boat and hopped on an elephant with a bench strapped to its back. We think our bench might have needed adjustment because it felt like it was too far forward; we felt like we were going to fall on top of our mahout the entire time. In fact, he spent a lot of time trying to push our bench back because my knees were literally hitting him in the back; it was a rather uncomfortable ride and made me miss our time riding our elephant bareback through the water. After we completed our ride, we bought a single bunch of bananas and fed our elephant before having a tasty lunch (included) at the village restaurant.

Overall, I highly recommend the tour. I didn't see any evidence of abuse of the elephants and our guide told us that the elephants work in shifts for a half day, and then are released out to the jungle for the remainder of the evening. Although the elephant ride on the bench was uncomfortable, I believe it was because our particular bench needed to be adjusted. With that said, the highlight for us was bathing the elephant at Tad Sae Waterfalls.

Visited November 2012
3 Thank Don N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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