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The Ethical Way to Interact with Elephants on Holiday

Elephants are often a huge part of Asian and African culture and interacting with these stunning animals is an opportunity that few people are willing to miss out on. However, over the years, many popular nature attractions have attracted controversy and not every company is ethical. Tourists flock in droves to interact with elephants on holiday, but with the hordes come money-making opportunities and some companies have come under fire for prioritising profits over the welfare of the elephants. The great news is that, as an industry, we're starting to win the war when it comes to putting a stop to those unethical experiences – in particular elephant rides. And crucially, as a traveller, it's still possible to find safe ways to interact and play with these magnificent creatures. Here is our guide to seeking out reputable organisations that are cruelty free and benefit both tourist and animal:

Do your research 

Whether you are visiting India, Thailand or Africa, Elephant attractions are ten a penny. Many of these attractions allow you to get up close and personal with the elephants, but not every company will have their best interests at heart. It can be tempting to pick one at random, choose the cheapest option or the most convenient, but seeing these precious animals in less than pleasing conditions or watching them being forced to perform or be riden under sufferance can be a distressing experience. While it was common a few years ago to get a snap riding an elephant, there is so much more information out there today about the cruelty behind these seemingly innocent tricks and performances. Doing your research before you arrive at your destination can help you identify an ethical way to see elephants in a stress-free environment. 

Watch out for red flags 

So, what should you look out for when researching local elephant attractions in your area? Firstly, avoid organisations that offer elephant rides or performances of any kind. Rather than visit elephants that are being forced to perform or work in any way, seek out establishments that allow you to feed them or observe them enjoying everyday pleasures such as bathing or taking a mud bath. As a tourist, we have a certain responsibility to be clued up on the possible effects of unethical animal practices and being educated when it comes to the mistreatment of elephants can help us avoid contributing further to this problem. Many tourists stumble upon unethical elephant attractions simply by being naive and letting their excitement surrounding interacting with elephants take priority. 

Visit a rehabilitation centre, sanctuary or nature park

So where exactly can you see these incredible animals without causing them unnecessary discomfort? While elephant rides may be off limits, there is no reason why you still can’t have an unforgettable experience. Visiting a sanctuary – like Elephant Hills in Thailand – as a volunteer is both a memorable and rewarding experience where you can help nurture retired and rescued elephants. Here you can do everything from feed them to walk with them as they bask or bathe. Places such as these not only provide a safe habitat for elephants, but also provide a place to interact and spend time with these impressive creatures in an ethical manner. By providing visitors with a responsible way of seeing elephants while on holiday, it takes the power away from unethical elephant attractions and provides a better experience for both the elephant and the visitor. 

Chat to your Travel Expert about our ethical interactions with elephants, in particular staying at Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park.

Written by Remie Lund

Remie Worrall is a freelance writer, luxury lifestyle blogger and Huffington Post contributor with a degree in English Literature from York St John University. Remie writes about beauty, lifestyle and travel. Follow me at @remsluxuryblog

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