March 31, 2017

Elephant Hills Camp in Thailand

Thailand may not be the first place that springs to mind when you picture a good-for-the-soul, relaxing experience in nature. But the popular country still has some hidden gems to discover, far from the bustling holiday crowds of Bangkok or Phuket. Jenna Berndt, Sure Travel’s digital marketing specialist, took a trip to Elephant Hills, home to Thailand’s first luxury tented camps that offer a unique – and very importantly – an ethical encounter with elephants. Here’s why it was so good for the soul…

Rain-heavy clouds are drifting in and the mist is lazing its way down from the mountain peaks on the horizon. Blanketed in thick vegetation, the rainforest seems to be holding its breath. It's all very Jurassic Park. But it's not a Triceratops swaying silently through the trees towards our small group. We're here to meet an altogether different species of gentle giant - the endangered Asian elephant.


A luxury camp in the rainforest

I'm in the jungle of Khao Sok National Park, the largest area of rainforest in southern Thailand. After the crazy of Bangkok and Phuket, some time in nature sounded good for the soul. We're at Elephant Hills, home to Thailand's first luxury tented jungle camps.








It's not the glamping that got me here though, so much as the chance to have a unique elephant encounter - washing and feeding their 11 elephants. Elephant Hills has won numerous awards for their sustainable tourism and animal welfare initiatives; you won't find any tourists riding elephants here.

Did you know? Tripadvisor announced last year that it would no longer sell tickets to elephant rides (and other attractions cruel to animals) anywhere in the world.

A unique and ethical elephant experience

That is how I find myself, coconut fibre "sponge" in hand, trying to scrub the mud off a bristly elephant leg. It's more difficult than it sounds, especially when your elephant has had a really good mud bath beforehand. The first raindrop plops on my face, a welcome relief from the humidity. We’re soon soaked to the skin – though whether from the rain or the hosing down of the elephants, I can’t tell. After a good bath (for us and our large friends), it’s time for dinner; for them, not us. We chop pineapple, bamboo, bananas and palm fronds which are soon vacuumed up from our hands by some greedy (and others rather fussy) trunks.

Although smaller than their African counterparts, throughout the experience I can't help but feel intimidated by the size of the elephants. Their strength is all too obvious, but it's their gentleness that catches my heart. They’re patient (even when some inept traveller is taking too long to chop up more bamboo) and playful and have eyes so kind that it feels as if they could see into your soul. If they could, they’d see that spending time with them in the middle of the Thai rainforest is very good for the soul.






About Elephant Hills

Elephant Hills offers 2-4 day luxury adventure tours at their two camps. These can even be combined with a beach stay to make the most of your Thai holiday. View Elephant Hills packages here.

Elephant Hills tour packages include all meals, accommodation, tours and activities, fully trained guides and pick-up and onward transfers between Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, Phang Nga, Surat Thani and Koh Samui (they even include the ferry ticket and transfer on Samui island).

Other activities include kayaking, exploring the mangrove forest, trekking through the jungle, evening entertainment in the form of traditional Thai dances, cooking demonstrations, swimming in the clear emerald waters of the lake and simply relaxing at camp.




The camps

Glamping is the order of the day. Expect luxury safari tents with en-suite bathrooms (and hot water obviously), tasteful d├ęcor touches and 24 hour electricity.







Elephant Hills also has the Rainforest Camp – a floating tented camp on the spectacular Cheow Larn Lake. Choose a package that has a night at both camps. The rainforest plus the lake – you’ll leave your most refreshed self ever. Trust us.

Coming soon: a review of the floating rainforest camp!

Browse and book Elephant Hills packages here.
This article first appeared in the summer 2016 issue of the Sure Travel Journey magazine. Read it online here

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