The Elephant Training Center Chiang Dao

The Elephant Training Center Chiang Dao

The Elephant Training Center Chiang Dao
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.


4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles168 reviews
Excellent
77
Very good
54
Average
12
Poor
7
Terrible
18

BandL101
New York City, NY3 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2011
We visited this elephant camp in April 2011. We had wanted to go to Elephant Nature Park but the concierge at our hotel pushed Chiang Dao on us, promising us that it was an authentic training camp, one of the oldest in Chiang Mai, and that the elephants are well cared for. We were tired tourists with an open mind so we agreed to go. After returning home and looking at the camps website, I now understand why we got the hard sell... we paid 5000 bhat for two people, almost double what the stated rates are for the "platinum experience". Our fault and lesson learned.

About our visit to the camp. We took the bamboo raft ride down the river; our host suggested we do this early in the morning because it was cooler. While this was true, we missed the bathing and training. The show was about 30 minutes and involving mimicking how elephants were used in logging, dragging logs in tandem, etc. There were no loudspeakers or bullhorns used. The show ended with a young elephant painting a picture.

We took a 90 minute ride up the riverbed (six elephants in the group) to a small village who was ready for us with trinkets for sale. We were told that our group was the only group they would receive that day, and that the village does not pool money from the sales. We wish we had known this because there were additional vendors we didn't see until after we made our purchases. They were very nice and welcoming, allowing us to visit their homes and see how they live.

I understand that the treatment of elephants is a hot issue in Thailand, as the animals must find new jobs and earn their keep. While I am a strong animal welfare advocate, I am not an elephant expert and am not well-versed on this issue. I think the elephants in this center are well cared for and if someone told me they really wanted to ride an elephant, I could recommend this camp.

Having said that, there is no reason for elephant painting to exist... now is an excellent time for Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center to end this part of the show.
Written May 8, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lyse-Scott
Melbourne, Australia275 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2013 • Couples
We were recommended to go to this Elephant Training Centre, as it was one of the first and remains one of the true elephant conservation projects. Only a small group can book and only a few elephants are worked once a day before they are set free to roam the surrounding jungle. When you arrive, you are invited to feed the elephants bananas - please note, there are signs that ask you to feed them a BUNCH at a time, not singularly, as they get frustrated. The elephants are then bathed in the river by their Mahouts. Once done, the small audience watch the elephants go through a series of commands to show their strength and what they were once used for (no longer the case). Not once did we see one of these elephants hit or yelled at. One of the elephants painted a picture of an autumn tree that we were lucky enough to purchase. (There are others done previously that you can also buy). I read a review that thought this practice was cruel, but I spoke with an elephant keeper in Melbourne and they explained that when wild animals are domesticated, they need to be stimulated in other ways, such as finding food in containers that are a puzzle etc. Elephants will often "paint" voluntarily when they're in their yard. Afterwards, a couple will mount an elephant chosen for you. There are strict instructions not to make sudden movements or noise and where to place your feet exactly. I know that other elephant villages allow tourists to yell and scream whilst they're riding, which is nerve wracking for them. They are gentle, quiet creatures by nature. You ride through beautiful jungle to the Lisu Village where the locals have handicrafts for sale, then back again, but this time, through the actual river. The elephants plod gently along through the shallow water and it really is so tranquil. It's an odd feeling being so high and their gait is obviously very slow. Other elephant attractions allow tourists to sit on the neck of the elephant, but again, this is considered inappropriate as it takes years for Mahouts to know exactly how to sit. The seat on the elephant has incredibly thick saddle blankets underneath, which was good to note. Once you return to the yards, you're seated at a wooden restaurant overlooking the river. The traditional Thai meal is huge with so many dishes we could hardly get through it all. To finish off, you are poled downriver for about an hour on a bamboo raft - again, very tranquil and relaxing. We saw a snake swimming towards us before it turned back for the safety of the reeds, Thai children playing and laughing in the water and an elephant having a mud bath further downstream - as carefree as you please. I asked our guide about the children and she told me they all know and play with the elephants. This day was one of the best we had in Chiang Mai. It's all about being peaceful and quiet and respecting the area and the animals. It's not about swimming with elephants, screaming and being a tourist without a thought for the animals. I encourage you to read their website: http://www.chiangdaoelephantcamp.com/activities.php
It was a beautiful day that allowed us to do something completely out of the ordinary, but with as much respect and gentleness that can be asked of a tourist attraction that involves animals.
One piece of advice, the toilets there are traditionally Thai with a water hose rather than paper. Take your own paper if you prefer, but you cannot flush it away, it needs to go in the bin. They are very clean but just a bit different.
Written March 1, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Paddy D
Dublin, Ireland28 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2014 • Couples
On arrival to the car park there was little evidence of anyone in charge and I began to feel a bit apprehensive and suspicious about what lay ahead. however once over the rope bridge and down the trail my mood changed to one of delight as I caught my 1st glimpse of the magnificent Elephants. We took the 1 hr trek through the forest and back through the river. The elephants appeared to be treated well though their collars of heavy chain might look cruel or harsh on animals of a smaller carriage, on these huge animals they seemed more acceptable. Staying on board an elephant going down a slope was challenging at times but the trek was one of the most enjoyable mornings I have ever spent. I would definitely recommend this centre, it's located less than an hours drive from chiang mai but the early start was more than worth it!
Written May 7, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

UncleTravellingMat67
London, UK4 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2015 • Couples
We booked this through a reputable travel agent and were explicit that we only wanted an ethical experience; what we witnessed was the complete opposite.

From the moment you arrive it is clearly wrongful abuse, the elephants are chained with woeful looking eyes, one in particular was showing signs of disturbance (constant swaying & head shaking). Bull hooks are the evil that controls these prisoners, we witnessed no natural behaviour; even the 'bathing' was entirely controlled by the ring masters.

Not a glimmer of how or why these poor elephants are imprisoned here (in paltry conditions) maybe we even expected some feigned explanation that there was some positive aspect to their entrapment, but nothing convinces you more of how very wrong this purely tourist fed cruelty is until you watch the 'show'.

Why would any where that cares about these beautiful creatures consider this acceptable? What need is there for them not to be running free but to be raising flags, drawing pictures or doing all the other un natural tricks? (and that's the give away).

Think about it anyone who has given this place a positive review - Is it not obvious that all those humanistic tricks that they have tortured them to perform is the complete opposite of what should be happening (i.e rehabilitating them not to do these things any more). But still you clapped & laughed & this was the really disappointing aspect, that clearly even when something so wrong is happening in front of your eyes, you can't see it (they even handed it to you on a plate, with photograph evidence of you complicit to the abuse printed upon it - which you then paid for).

I am so remorseful that I was there to witness it (particularly other humans enjoying it) and expect my travel agent to remove this from their package, donate what we spent to an Elephant Welfare Charity and use all their power to help rescue these poor elephants from this barbaric side show.
Written March 3, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ILM-FAR
Wilmington, NC1 contribution
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2015 • Couples
First time reviewer on TA. I'm simply trying to redeem myself after visiting and paying for clear cut abuse. My wife and I were misinformed to believe this to be a sanctuary environment and did not take the time to do our own due diligence. Although the setting was beautiful, and the caretakers were not outwardly abusive to the animals, the elephants were clearly forced to perform unnatural tricks for our amusement. Patrons are also given the opportunity to ride the elephants. Again, we regrettably participated not recognizing the treacherous trail, the length of the trail, and the extent of the duress to the animals. I am by no means an animal activist, but could recognize that these poor animals had absolutely no spirit. Rather, they were circus acts for profit presented in a natural environment forced to behave unnaturally. As we were leaving, the next wave of tourists were arriving with pockets full of bahts eagerly ready to continue the abuse. My wife and I are absolutely disgusted with ourselves and remorseful. As the reviewer suggested below, please only patronize true sanctuaries. They are plentiful in the area. We will also be making a generous donation (by our standards) to a true sanctuary as an attempt at redemption.
Written March 28, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Annabel G
Surrey, UK25 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2016 • Couples
Myself and my boyfriend went to Chiang Dao Elephant training centre as part of a tour we booked with Viator. Everything I read about this place was incredibly misleading and I am amazed people believe these poor elephants are "treated well". Firstly, the name of the elephant training centre as advertised on the Viator website was just "Chiang Dao Elephant Centre" which sounds far more innocent and caring, but as soon as I discovered it was in fact a training centre, alarm bells began ringing.
The setting is lovely but that's it! The elephants walk around in rattling chains with their mahouts constantly sat on their heads. The elephants are forced to perform like circus animals while still in chains, dragging heavy logs and lifting up their mahouts. We where then told we could ride the elephants and they were strapped up with heavy harnesses, more chains, with the mahout sat on their head the whole time with a stick that had a sharp metal curved point at one end. The mahouts would drag it across their ears when they went in the wrong direction or made a noise.
The whole experience was frankly very upsetting and uncomfortable. I feel so ashamed I contributed to such a business. I did read the centre's website before I went which was also incredibly misleading. I urge you to not visit this place! Find a local sanctuary for elephants instead or see them in their natural habitat, not forced to perform chained and against their will!
Written June 12, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Hannah U
England, UK17 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2016 • Family
This is not an attraction which treats its elephants well. They are chained up and ridden over treacherous terrain with weights on their backs which are too heavy! The center is generally run down and the overall experience was very uncomfortable as my heart went out to the poor elephants. Not an attraction which people should support!
Written February 13, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Tim N
8 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2018 • Couples
If your goal is to ride an elephant and watch them forced to do tricks, stop reading now and go here. You may like it.

For everyone else, this is a sad and terrible place and should be avoided. It was booked for us by our travel agent and we only realized what type of place it was the morning of. We hoped for the best but in the end, I'd have preferred just staying in my hotel room.

So everyone is aware, elephants should not be ridden. They have a history of being ridden and doing work but they are not built for this. They are not horses or dogs or yaks. If you spend time in Thailand and Chiang Mai, it's not hard to spot all the anti-riding information coming out. The sanctuaries and rescue places around are very public about not riding them and how they're not working animals.

You show up at this place, there's no information on elephants or anything. They just put you on an elephant and you ride for 40 minutes. If the elephant tries to stop and eat or relieve itself, the mahoota or whatever has called, grunts at him and digs his heels in.

When that's over you get to stand behind a fence and feed them bananas for 10 minutes. During this time, we noticed one of them in a nearby field whose leg was chained up.

After this, they take them to the river and they do some choreographed washing show while you watch from 100 yards.

Then they take you to some stands and they make the elephants move logs around, pick up some hats off the ground and one of them paints a picture.

Total time with the elephants EVEN with the ride was 2 hours. Couldn't have been happier to leave. Like I said this was booked for us so I don't know how much it cost, but I'm sorry I gave them any money.

I have friends who have gone to the sanctuaries etc. And they have spent all day hanging out with elephants and feeding them, learning about them. This is a 90 minute ride out of town to be part of the saddest circus I've ever seen.
Written February 3, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Sue R
4 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2016 • Couples
We visited this centre and in hindsight I wish that I had done some research on ethical elephant camps - if so I certainly would not have come here. From the moment we arrived I hated the experience. The baby elephants were swaying, a sign of anxiety and stress in elephants, the "show" that the elephants display reeks of circus activity. I had anticipated a ride on an elephant with just a mahout, however both my husband and I, plus the mahout were on the elephant, which is too much weight for the animal. The mahout constantly shouted and used his bull hook which upset me greatly. I totally regret that I did not do research myself, so if you have any regard for elephants and their ethical treatment, please do not book this trip
Written April 21, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Myellowsub
Perpignan, France30 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2015 • Friends
I chose this place because of the good rate on trip advisor and a mention in a very good touristic guide. I have been even more chocked when I saw thoses elephants in chains making poor circus performances (paintings, raise flag...) and being hit when they wouldn't do it.
I thought I could just see them and maybe stroke or feed them but not at all, just saw those creatures suffering. If you love animal and especially elephants, I advise against going there.
Written February 24, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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