Elephant Trekking, Ko Samui

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Elephant Trekking, Ko Samui

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Review of "Elephant Trekking, Ko Samui"

published 04/12/2017 | Mac83
Member since : 01/04/2011
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Hello Spring! Looking forward to the summertime, more travelling ...more reviews! :)
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"My Experience of Elephant Trekking"

Mahoot on elephant during our elephant trek

Mahoot on elephant during our elephant trek

You have only got to briefly browse travel review sites like Trip Advisor or similar to see that everyone visiting Thailand wants to do an Elephant trek. We were in Ko Samui for a relaxing holiday in a beautiful resort south of the island but were also very keen to book an elephant ride with a tour company and were recommended one which then made our decision quite easy. For us, it was made even easier because of the opportunity being probably a-once-in-a-lifetime experience and had never done this before. So we thought about the other choices around in Ko Samui (which there are lots of) and decided we wanted to do this, which involved elephant trekking at the location that the hotel travel desk recommended.

Just a quick note, what I’ve reviewed below is from my experience and from what we saw in person and haven't involved any of in-depth things that happen at the safari park in terms of the elephant treatment as we didn’t go as far as to look into that – we were just there for the duration of the trek basically as tourists. If there was any kind of cruelty to the elephant, its definitely not something I am disregarding but we didn't anything like that. Elephant trekking is such a popular thing in Thailand and is something that still is going on, so there are so many people that want to do this. In combination from what we experienced, it is also something from what we were told by locals and what we heard so whether it is something that is for you or not, only you can make that decision!

When booking the tour…

We went ahead with the trek booking amongst the choices - in fact there were so many different tours offered in Ko Samui, it’s difficult to know which may be most ethical and which parks are not, but we focused on what the tour offered and this elephant ride is different to the animal shows as if you do the elephant trekking, you don’t necessarily have to be part of the animal shows aswell. We were taken to the site with transport included and directed to where we needed to be. So although I mention there may be quite a lot of negative reviews about these kind of tours that take you to see Buddha statues, temples, rock formations, watching some Thai Boxing demonstration etc, all of this is covered in your itinerary on the leaflet you looked at in the hotel before you agreed to book it, so really all the negative comments about this tour being dull and generally a waste of time is down to how much they read the leaflet before agreeing to book so don't be put off by that.
Location for our elephant trekking experience

Our tour was located in South Ko Samui, in Na Mueang Safari Park, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani. You will probably arrive at the location from your hotel but just for an idea of the distance, the Safari Park is around a 30 minutes drive away from Ko Samui Airport.
The choice of the location was probably something we hadn’t looked into too much and just went with the location named, as this is where the company was going to take us to. But it also does depend on where on the island your accommodation is located as you are most likely to go to the one closest to you.

Overall, Na Mueang Safari Park is not much different to any other safari park in the Far East – there is a waterfall to admire within the site, some animal shows take place here and the elephant trekking of course. Along with lots of other touristy things like the opportunity to take photos with the animals and gift shops to buy souvenirs to purchase at the end.
THE TREKKING

What is involved for tourists?

It involves a 10-15 minute elephant ride through a rugged area and through the trees which will be a set route for all of these rides. When you’re on the trek with your elephant, you may be able to see some other treks already taking place somewhere in front of you, so they keep the treks running quite frequently.

A good tip is to come prepared with lots of mosquito repellent and sun cream as this trekking takes place pretty much within the rough grounds of what the elephants like best and as you wait your turn there are only a small number of elephants and quite a big group of tourists, you will be waiting around to start the trek. Once it’s your turn, you climb onto the bench that is placed on the elephant, from the level that is the same as the height of the elephant and the mahoot (elephant trainer) will already be on the elephant’s neck, helping you on. Throughout the trek, the mahoot will be with you directing the elephant on its route.

From a tourist point of view, sitting on the elephant was a very a unique experience, something completely different and something we may probably not do again. It’s a slow moving ride and very bumpy but an interesting experience and we did enjoy our time on the trek.

What is involved for elephants?

We hadn’t read much into elephant trekking, but knew the background that the elephant trekking was quite a common activity in Thailand and quite popular for tourists, that being around the elephants can be dangerous but also the controversy with elephant trekking if the elephants are not treated correctly. After our trekking experience, we felt a little uncertain with some moments of it especially when seeing the queues of tourists (like ourselves) waiting to take the trek and it does make you wonder when does this end for the elephant. We were told by the local Mahoot that all the elephants are treated well and are fed well and we didn’t actually see any moments where the elephants were treated badly, like I mentioned earlier, but since the whole thing goes past so fast and the elephant trek is over within minutes, it is easy to miss things that indicate the controversy around elephant riding and I guess it depends on which site you choose aswell, as in some places, elephants can be treated poorly whereas in other locations, they can be more ethical and the elephants are well-known to be respected, just as they should be.
Why are elephants used for trekking?

Since elephants are intelligent animals they have been known in Thailand to be used for their strength for war and for the logging industry but since then they have been used by the Thai owners in the tourism industry for tricks which are now illegal. The Thai people clearly need to make money and they have set up elephant trekking to make money from tourists and visitors like ourselves pay to take an elephant ride which is a novelty for a tourist whose travelled from the other side of the world. In addition to that, it’s an experience which lasts just 20 minutes approximately, which we wouldn’t think could create too much of an issue, but when we thought about it, it probably does because so many people want to do it.

Cost for the trekking experience

The cost of the elephant ride can be around 500 Bahts which is good money for the Thai people - around £10-13 – although sometimes the tour booking desk can do a deal and reduce the price if you include the full day tour or half a day tour. We had a full day tour so the cost of the elephant ride was inclusive of the other sights we visited during the day. And unsure of whether this amount justifies the cost of the elephants working, we did pay but there is a point where by the end of it, it does make you realise that no matter how much all of the tourists pay for this, it may never equate to the elephant’s freedom – and the only option to prevent this is to not offer these tours, because as long as they continue to offer them, tourists may continue booking.
Additional costs – the photos

Within a specific moment, the point where the elephant walks by while we were on the elephant, a man with a camera will take a photo of you and whoever you sat with, on HIS camera well aware this is a shot you will not get anywhere else! – it will actually be a fab shot as it will be a full picture of you on the elephant as opposed to the usual selfies you would have already taken, or shots while sitting on the elephant, like the one I've already attached. At the end of the tour, we see a couple of ladies at a desk with a large range of those photos of each couple that the guy took as you trekked along on the elephant. We had never been so tempted to buy – mostly because we never had that EXACT wide shot. We knew that if we didn’t buy it, it will be heading straight for the bin and the lovely photo-frame souvenir-styled album that the photo currently was displayed in will be removed and be used for another couples photo.

So we bought it – it was around £10-£12, roughly a 500 Thai Baht for two A5 photos (a lot of money for Thai standards) but I think this turned out to be the best photo we had of this experience despite the optional cost of purchasing it or not.
OVERALL

Although I didn't intend to write this to review to discuss whether elephant trekking was a GOOD or a BAD thing, it is probably one of the most obvious issues - however I personally chose to write this as a travel review for something to do in Ko Samui, and that it is actually was a memorable activity. For us there may or may not be an opportunity again to really sit on an elephant unless we travel to the right places again, and we hope the money helps the care of elephants, but who knows where it really goes.

Maybe it’s a similar situation to the Seaworld centres – it’s available for tourists but until it’s banned it’s difficult to stay away and it just seems an attractive thing to want to be part of. In terms of elephant trekking there IS obviously a good and a bad side to this because actually sitting on the elephant for the trekking is not cruel – but when the elephants are treated badly then that would be quite upsetting, but I hope the Mahoot really do take care of their elephants but the Thai seem to respect elephants and treat them well - and we didn’t see any cruelty ourselves.

Overall, we enjoyed our time at the Safari Park, the weather was great and our overall holiday in Ko Samui was amazing and relaxing. Elephant trekking is something that only you will know if it should have a place on your to-do list for trip to Thailand but if it’s not, then there’s lots of other options there too!


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Comments on this review

  • mikemelmak published 09/12/2017
    It makes good business sense to keep the elephants docile. Great review!
  • antonblack published 07/12/2017
    All stars review!!
  • aclevername published 06/12/2017
    Excellent x
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Product Information : Elephant Trekking, Ko Samui

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Listed on Ciao since: 17/10/2017