I recently visited this elephant sanctuary as part of a full day excursion, with kayaking in the morning followed by the elephant trek in the afternoon after lunch in a seafood restaurant (bought through hostel at B1,200 each as group discount for 3 of us).
The kayak tour was great fun as we kayaked a good distance through the mangroves, with our guide 'Banana' attentively pointing out wildlife such as monitor lizards, hermit crabs, walking fish, and tree snakes. We were shown two caves, one with historic paintings 5,000 years old. But the elephant trek made this excursion memorable.
We arrived at the site with our guide and I got chatting to the owner, who kindly provided us with freshly plucked longan fruit and encouraged us to try the short cucumbers that are fed to the elephants as treats as part of their 200kg diet. The mahouts were friendly and were paired with their elephants. There are 9 females and they all look very healthy, and between rides can be seen eating away in the camp between the huts. Although some reviews here report abuse, I can only base my opinion on my experience and the two mahouts who led us were very gentle, knowledgeable and did not use any bull hooks. We learned our elephants names and the Thai meaning, and they had fun exploring the jungle and the guides let them play together. Our guides were laid back and allowed us to ride on their necks, and the elephants showed no signs of distress and continued to flap their ears and happily munch away. The elephant my sister rode had a skill of finding large spiders which was quite amusing!
After the ride, we fed our elephants and could buy a large laminated picture crossing the river for B200, and you can choose the image before it is printed. The animals looked very well looked after and not overworked. There was no mention of the mahouts being underpaid or looking fed up, so I hope that these issues have since been fully resolved.
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