For many people travelling in Asia, seeing elephants is at the top of their to-do list. But it can be really difficult to find an ethical place that is looking after them properly — however much research you do.
Around 75 per cent of the world’s captive elephants have been illegally captured, with over 3,000 used for entertainment purposes in Asia alone. The annual World Elephant Day (August 12) is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants, as many fight to change this fate.
In celebration of this special day, the meaningful travel experts at Rickshaw Travel have hand-picked their top five trips for observing these magnificent mammals in their natural environment…
Where to see elephants in India
A walking safari is a perfect opportunity to see an elephant in the wild. During an excursion to Periyar National Park, you can witness the Indian Elephant, a subspecies of the native Asian elephant. You can then glimpse this majestic giant by the lakes, peacefully grazing in amongst the tall grass – a sight to cherish forever.
Where to see elephants in Thailand
Get off the beaten track in Thailand and discover the Wildlife Friends Foundation – an organisation rescuing and rehabilitating sick or injured elephants. Travellers can embark upon a guided tour, staying in a quaint bungalow right next to the elephant’s enclosure – prime viewing indeed.
Head to Northern Thailand and visit the Elephant Nature Park. Located outside of Chiang Mai, this park is dedicated to caring for elephants who have endured mistreatment in camps and circuses. With more than 35 elephants calling the park home, visitors can admire these animals from afar but gets hands on with preparing lunch ahead of the elephant’s feeding time.
Where to see elephants in Sri Lanka
Those in search of elephants need look no further than Sri Lanka; a country that’s home to a population of up to 4,000 endangered Sri Lankan elephants. Many travellers opt to visit the popular Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, however due to concerns about the treatment of the elephants and ethos of the orphanage, go to the Elephant Transit Home instead. It is a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and injured elephants, with a strict no-contact policy. Visitors here can observe the elephants in a natural atmosphere and see how they interact with one another during feeding time.
Those in search of adventure should head to Minneryiya or Kaudulla National Park. During this bite-sized trip, travellers will get the opportunity to climb the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress, before embarking on an elephant safari. An expert local ranger will be on hand to tell visitors all that they need to know about these magnificent creatures and how they spend their days freely roaming amongst their heard.