Best Ethical Locations to Visit Elephants

Jennifer DeSimone
January 16, 2024

When I began to plan out my trip to Asia last year, one of the things I desperately wanted to do was see an Asian elephant. Since, first seeing an elephant in the wild in Ghana nearly 10 years ago, I have become more aware of elephant conservation and more in awe of their beauty.

As I began researching, hits for elephant riding kept appearing – and when I dug deeper I learned of the inhumane and brutal practice of “phajaan", which literally means to crush or break.

Elephants are not meant to be ridden, and in order to place one human on top of an elephant, handlers use this technique to tame the elephants, many of whom are babies. Elephants are chained, caged, burned, hit in the head with spokes – continuously tortured until their spirits are broken and they submit to their captors. 

It’s a brutal practice that needs to end

Getting up close with this beauty in Thailand

In order for such practices to be brought to the forefront, people must set out to see their creatures in either their natural habitats or in safe havens. 

I have been fortunate enough to visit each place on this list. I hope that you too will be inspired to learn more about the locations you visit and support local organizations ethical seeking to support its wildlife and environments.

Here are my favorite ethical locations to visit elephants:

The Chang Chiang Mai in Thailand

Feeding elephants and getting slobbered on

After months of searching for the right location to ethically interact with elephants – and to find the right destination for Under30Experiences travelers coming to Thailand – we found two great places.

The first is called Elephant Nature Park and the other is called, The Chang Chiang Mai, or formely known as The Thai Elephant Care Center.  

And guess what? You can experience this magical place on the Under30Experiences trip to Thailand.

During my visit to The Chang Chiang Mai, I was able to learn the history of each elephant at the center and meet the mahouts who care for them. In case you are wondering, a mahout is commonly known as elephant keeper. Traditionally, the role of a mahout passes down patrilineally along with ownership of a family's elephants.

Not only did I learn about the history and care practices of the elephants, I also assisted the on-site veterinarian in making healthy snacks for the elephants. These herbal balls a good for the elephant's digestive system and serve as medicine to cure common ailments.

Last but not least, I was able to go on a short hike through the forest and grasslands of the center while a few of the elephants walked nearby. It was great exercise not just for me but for them as well. Plus, it was nice to see them roam around in a natural environment.

After spending time in such locations in the shadows of such gentle giants, I am more more than ever convinced elephants are to protected and respected, not exploited for human enjoyment. 

I invite you to continue supporting organizations and practices that are gentle to all creatures, both great and small. This sanctuary and U30X trip to Thailand is a great opportunity to do just that.

Elephant-Conservation-Is-Important-saying goodbye
Saying goodbye

Mole National Park in Ghana

Wandering Soul

My first trip to Africa was my first encounter with wild elephants. Mole National Park is the largest nationally protected parks in Ghana. Home to more than 90 species, the lions and elephants run wild, protected by poachers seeking their tusks. I took part in a walking tour and although nearly 10 years ago, I remember seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time as if it were yesterday. 

She was majestic, her size larger than any other living creature I had ever seen, and her spirit was gentle. I left the park humbled by the elephants and wanting to see them again soon.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Center in Nairobi, Kenya

Look at his smile!

One of my favorite non-profits, the Sheldrick Center, is the premier orphan-elephant rescues and rehabilitation programs in the entire world! I don’t say this lightly...

The center’s responders are the first on site when an elephant or rhino poaching is reported, or when one creature is in some kind of distress, moving quickly to save the orphaned babies and bring them to safety. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice, and the babies, despite their traumas, are so carefree. 

The Center allows visitors to visit twice a day and watch the elephants eat and play, and they are hysterical. 

They splash in the water, push each other, and walk up to you for love. It’s a beautiful sanctuary with an impactful mission.

Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Mama and baby eating in the Mara

The Mara is home to the great migration, when nearly 1.5 million animals travel across the area for several months. While protected, massive loss of life of animals have been reported in recent years due to illegal poaching and over development of the surrounding areas. 

Now more than ever is it important for people to support the Mara and its inhabitants. As our safari truck drove around in the early morning, we drove by herds of elephants, gracefully walking the ground. If the lion are the kings of the jungle, elephants are its queen, deserving of equal respect and reverence.

Want to support this cause right now?

August 12th is World Elephant Conservation Day and I am so proud to continue raising awareness in support of this cause. One of the best ways you get involved with today is to purchase elephant chocolates from L.A. Burdick Chocolates. Proceeds support the Sheldrick Center and they are delicious! Trust me, I buy some every time I am in NYC.

Jennifer DeSimone
Currently based in Austin, Jennifer is the Chief of Community for U30X. She has a passion for creating connections, community, and opportunities for more empathy. In her spare time you can find her on her yoga mat, whipping up something yummy in the kitchen, or reading a good book.


last minute deals


As Seen In...