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“Experience of a Lifetime”

BEES - Burm and Emily's Elephant Sanctuary
Ranked #1 of 8 things to do in Mae Chaem
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: MUST make a booking. Please do NOT just show up. We are an Elephant Sanctuary and Animal Rescue Center. We are located in the valley of Mae Tan, Maechaem and are near beautiful forest land and rivers and have a beautiful view of Doi Inthanon the Highest mountain in Thailand. We are home to all animals in need. We run rescue, rehabilitation and release programs for local wildlife, rescue all domestic animals in need and run community projects to sustainably develop our local community. Become a volunteer and join us to create a better future for the animals, elephants and community. By working together we can make a difference. Thank you!
Level Contributor
10 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Experience of a Lifetime”
Reviewed September 15, 2013

After spending a week at Bees Elephant Sanctuary in Mae Chaem I am counting down the days until I can return!

Emily and Burm, the owners, picked me up at my hotel in Chiang Mai and after a 3 hour drive through beautiful, lush green forest (stopping at Doi Inathon National Park on the way) we arrived at Bees.

Accommodation is traditional thai style in a bamboo hut with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. Nights are spent listening to the myriad of geckos, cicadas and frogs in a very serene and peaceful setting.

On the first night there was a welcoming ceremony where the elders from the village came down and blessed us. Even though I couldn't understand a word of the blessing it was a very touching ceremony and they all took turns to tie a piece of string around our wrists and welcome us to the area and bless our stay.

My week passed so quickly. My favourite part was the days spent walking in the forest with the elephants. Bees has retired 2 elephants (aged 57 and 68) from a gruelling life in a trekking camp and hopefully they will be able to retire more. The elephants pass their days unchained and are allowed to roam freely in the forest. This is the first elephant sanctuary I have ever seen that actually encourages elephants to forage and relearn their natural behaviours. The mahouts do not have a ankus and the relationship between these two old elephants is beautiful to watch.I especially loved watching them bathe in the Mae Chaem river.

Other activities included teaching english to students at a local school, planting sugar cane and pineapples in the field and visiting the local temple.

The week cost me A$500 and included transfers, accommodation and 3 huge meals a day. Burm is an amazing cook and his papaya salad is by far the best I have ever tasted ( and I have tasted a few!). Lunch in the forest was catered for and presented in beautifully shaped and freshly cut bamboo crockery! He even made a bamboo kettle to boil the water for the coffee!

Besides the two elephants Bees is home to some delightful cats, dogs, turtles and a tortoise!

I loved my time here and would actually recommend people to book a 2 week stay as a week is simply not long enough. Also make sure to take a torch for the trip to the toilet (when I was there they had just installed a western flush toilet) in the middle of the night. Also take mosquito repellant and gumboots for the walks in the forest.

This is really a special place and by volunteering people are also helping a good cause.

Visited July 2013
7 Thank Tintagel32
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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59 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • Any
English first
Queenstown, New Zealand
Level Contributor
58 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“Support a wonderful cause!”
Reviewed September 14, 2013 via mobile

... volunteer in relative luxury and have the opportunity to really experience modern mountain township life!

Having previously met Burm (park founder) I couldn't wait to meet his partner, Emily, and volunteer at BEES. My week lived up to and exceeded expectations.
I have done volunteer work with Elephants on several occasions, but this was completely different.
Burm and Emily are in the early stages of establishing their sanctuary in the village and area that Burm grew up in.
I was the only volunteer for the week, and was welcomed as part of the family. It really did feel like I was over at my best friends place!

Accommodation was in my own hut, built by Burm and his father. Emily has decorated beautifully with elephant knick-knacks. There are also books and a great folder of articles about Elephants. Bedding, as per standard in Thailand, a mattress on the ground, covered with a nice big mosquito net. LOVED turning off the lights at night to see many fireflies flitting about!!!
Bathroom... Western loo, tho non-flush; as per usual in Thai there was a bucket to pour water to 'flush'. Showers... Cold water, but a very nice shower. Occasionally there may be no water (as the pipe comes a long way from the mountains and can easily get damaged!), but again, a huge tub of spring water for bucket showers.
BEES is on mains power and has intermittent wifi connection (heavily effected by the weather!)

The huts are set around a pond, which makes a great outlook, sitting on the balcony, patting rescued dogs and just enjoying the peace.
Burm and the cooks make delicious meals, served up in the 'dining area' under the hut. Our evenings ended up sitting with at least one of the mahouts playing Uno (and learning a bit if Thai!)

WORK & elephants:
Currently there are two elephants at BEES. While their area is a bit separate from the accommodation base, you do get plenty of time with them. They pretty much have free reign in a larger forested area. Usually in the afternoon you help splash them for their bath (it's more awesome just to sit and watch them playing in the river!), and treat them to some fruits. I spent a morning just sitting, watching the girls enjoy the forest. Another day we walked with the elephants down the stream to the Mae Chaem River; again, great to see the girls in their natural environment.
Other jobs depend on what needs doing. We planted some grass crops; went to a local farm to cut corn for the elephants... among other things...
We spent a day in Mae Chaem township at a couple of local schools where we had basic English lessons with the kids.
We also visited Burms local temple, where they have a very close relationship. I was fortunate enough to receive a blessing from the head monk!
The first night all the local elders gave me a beautiful welcome ceremony; and during the week Burm's mum came and taught us to make a delicious local dessert (Kanon jok).

As mentioned, I've done volunteer work and been to Thailand several times, but my week at BEES was most rewarding, I learnt most about Thai culture and got involved with everyday, normal Thai people living their lives, learning about elephants and trying to make a difference.

Burm and Emily are working hard to build a great project, they are well worth any support you can give; and a great experience to volunteer.

Visited June 2013
7 Thank pineapplesensei
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Australia
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Volunteering with passionate people.”
Reviewed September 13, 2013

In July my husband and I went to BEES Burm and Emily's elephant sanctuary. Emily has moved from Sydney Australia to be with Burm and also the love of looking after animals. They have rescued Mae Kam and Mae Jumpee once logging and trekking elephants, plus several dogs, cats and tortoise/turtles. But Emily and Burm don't stop there, they take care of elderly in the village and teach English at several local schools.
Our time volunteering was great, we were in local style accommodation, Burm cooked all our food which was amazing. We walked with the elephants, watched them bath daily, fed them, tended to the other animals and got lots of love.
Emily and Burm are amazing hosts, very informative, warm and welcoming. We enjoyed their company a lot and will go back. It is affordable to stay and they also pick you up from Chiang Mai and return you there.
If you want a holiday with a conscience this is a must do and also help these animals have a better life. Oh if you are into photos then you will love this trip.

Visited July 2013
9 Thank Karyn S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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