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LUXURY Travel: Samui Elephant Sanctuary, Ko Samui, Thailand
While staying at the beautiful Tongsai Bay Resort on the island of Ko Samui, it was suggested that I spent the afternoon at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary. As a life-long fan of elephants, the chance to see these animals up-close was an opportunity too good to miss (not to mention a new tick for my bucket list).
However, The Luxury Travel Bible in no way supports cruel or unethical animal tourism so I initially had some reservations about visiting an Elephant sanctuary.

Being an eco-resort, I was told that the Tongsai Bay resort suggests the sanctuary to its guests as it is in line with their beliefs and ethics, as opposed to other tourist venues on the island. A letter from the resort’s owner, Thanakorn Hoontrakul is included in each guest’s villa that details their support for the sanctuary. While the resort, of course, respect the wishes of holiday makers, it hopes they will not support business and activities that ‘prevent animals from being in their natural habitat’ and that keep animals ‘confined by walls, metal bars … [or] chained to a spot’.

The Tongsai Bay resort and its staff hopes its guests will book a visit to the Samui Elephant Sanctuary as the elephants are free to roam and are not forced to perform or do anything against their will. They consider the operator of the sanctuary to be a saviour to the elephants as opposed to an exploiter.

The six elephants who live at the sanctuary have been rescued from tourism and logging industries and can now spend their retirement on the 10 acres of forest.  Every elephant is treated with dignity and respect and it is clear to see how happy and loved these beautiful creatures are.

Sadly, due to their life in captivity, these elephants would not possess the skills to survive in the wild. Therefore, a new life at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary is a welcomed home for the elephants to live out their retirement.


The Samui Elephant Sanctuary is the first ethical elephant sanctuary on the island of Ko Samui and is inspired and supported by Lek Chailert, world renowned elephant conservationist, the founder of Save Elephant Foundation.

After arriving at the sanctuary, we were given a short, educational talk by the keepers before being loaded up with bags of bananas and energy balls to feel the elephants.

After splitting into small groups, we went with a guide to meet the elephants and feed them. It was fascinating to be so close to these majestic animals. Even just being around them for a short time it was clear to see each of their individual personalities emerging… and we quickly discovered who were the greediest members of the pack!

It was wonderful to see the elephants come and go as they pleased and witness how much love and respect the keepers and the elephants have for one another.


After speaking to one of the keepers, the message that the sanctuary wants tourists to take home is one of education. Spending time with the elephants is an amazing and memorable experience but the purpose of the sanctuary is to teach a new generation how to save the elephants and to prevent further abuse. After spending the afternoon at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary, it is clear that this is a very special place for the lucky elephants who get to enjoy their retirement here.

All the profits of the sanctuary go back into helping the elephants, but it also means that if a tourist visits the Samui Elephant Sanctuary, they are not spending their time or money supporting some of the less ethical animal destinations on the island such as elephant trekking or shows with performing animals.

Humans have made many mistakes in the past towards our beautiful planet and wildlife. Luxury Travellers have a choice to make when they travel and choosing the right activity to support can have a major influence on the future.


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