Hill Tribes and Elephants

Meeting elephants is one of the most popular reasons to visit Thailand and certainly something you won’t forget. On this responsibly-run overnight visit, you will encounter these magnificent animals up close and have the chance to feed and touch them, but the elephants are in charge and they decide what you do! Complete your experience with the chance to learn about Karen hill tribe culture and daily life by staying overnight with a village family.

Day 1: Drive north from Chiang Mai the Karen village of Pa Kao Lam (3 hrs), where you will change into traditional Karen clothes and enjoy a typical local lunch. Your guide will introduce you to elephant habits, behaviors and daily routine, plus anatomy, biology and how to get close safely, before handing over to the elephant keeper (mahout), for more about tracking and observing them in their real home, the jungle.

Now it's time to start searching for the elephants, as they are not kept in captivity and can move around freely in the forest. Along the way into the jungle, the mahouts will teach you jungle survival skills and share stories and then when you find them, the mahout will guide your interactions, for example feeding, touching and using basic words to communicate. This helps to build trust between you and the elephant.

When it’s feeling more comfortable with your presence, walk alongside to a sunny field by a nearby river where you will bathe, brush and play with the elephant and spend some quality time with them. Around 17:00, say goodbye and walk back to the village - this is when the villagers return from their fields and you may well witness their traditional way of life firsthand. Enjoy the beautiful sunset while having a delicious dinner and there might even be a chance to have some fun sharing stories and games, before you head to your bed in one of the local family's houses.

Day 2: After breakfast you are free to stroll around the village, meet and chat with the villagers, learn about their daily routines and listen to their stories. We will also visit a local school to see how the village kids kick-start their day.

The mahout will meet you and head into the jungle where you can practice the elephant tracking skills that you learned on the previous day. Don't be afraid of making a mistake, the mahout will help you as elephants are surprisingly good at hiding!

Learn how to prepare your own tasty lunch in the jungle, using only bamboo to make utensils and cook, a unique experience! Afterwards, head to a nearby organic farm that grows food for the elephants where you will learn more about elephant diet and harvest crops such as elephant grass and bananas to feed to your new friends.

You might also witness an elephant health check and see how to make herbal treatments, plus there are more elephant care activities to enhance your experience if time permits. Finally it's time to say goodbye and walk back to the village in the late afternoon, where the driver will pick you up and take you back to Chiang Mai.