I Will Never Go On An Elephant Ride Again

Before Phuket, I was naively excited and eager to sit atop elephants. It was number one on my list of activities in Thailand. I would look at photos and read stories about the different experiences people have riding them. Some were positive, most were negative.

Elephants are everywhere in Thailand. It is a symbol of this country. The Thai people have a long standing history with them, as beasts of burden and in battle. When this need no longer existed, the “domesticated” trained elephants and their handlers had nothing to do and no where to go. Then came the tourism industry providing the handlers and their elephants with job security. If this helped them with income and jobs, how come elephant riding as a form of tourist activity is discouraged now?


It is in the way the elephants are being trained. They start training them when they are only babies, taken away from their mothers. It is a horrible and painful process. Can you say “inhumane” when talking about animals?

As I was trying to understand more about the ethical issues involved in elephant riding, I came across these two posts. They both are for the protection of elephants but one is against riding them completely while the other is only against the use of the trekking chairs.

Click on links below to learn more.



Unfortunately, the city tour package that we took while in Phuket included an elephant trekking experience. I don’t even know the name of the company that offered the rides.

The elephants, to me, looked sad and lethargic. There was a baby elephant tied to a chain on the ground. He didn’t look happy either. Some of them also looked sickly.



When we were on top of the elephant sitting on a trekking chair with the handler in front by its neck, I swear that was the first time I ever participated in a travel activity that I wasn’t too excited about. I felt so guilty. Looking at my touristy-say-cheese photos taken by my brother only adds to my guiltiness.


The minute I saw the handlers’ hooks and how they “prodded” the elephants’ heads or ears with it, I couldn’t wait for the ride to be over. It wasn’t even considered a trek as it was just mostly around their backyard walking around in circles, with the elephants stopping most of the time to eat or I do not know what else they were waiting for.

The handler with the hook on his right hand
No, the sharp part wasn’t poked into this elephant’s head but the fact that they do carry it doesn’t change.

Now there are hundreds of elephant tours or elephant reserves all over Thailand. Not all of them mistreat and mishandle their animals. You just have to do your research diligently. You can either go all out and be against riding elephants completely or be selective with the kind of company you go for, the kind that treats their animals with love and respect. If you still want to interact with these creatures and not ride them, there are many elephant reserves that offer you the opportunity to feed and bathe them, watch them roaming freely in their natural habitat.

This particular tour just reeks of blatant disregard for the elephants’ well being and only concerned about tourist dollars.

Don’t say I wasn’t warned because I have been, but I refused to listen and let my eager adventurous self win. Pretty selfish, I could say, looking back at it.

Never again. And I hope you won’t make the same mistake too.

(Some of the photos used in this post are my brother’s. Thanks dong!)

11 thoughts on “I Will Never Go On An Elephant Ride Again

  1. Hey, I agree with what you say, but you did the typical tourist thing, what did you expect? Wild elephants?

    There are places, such as Surin, my hometown, which is the home of asian elephants and has the most population of asian elephants in that Area. There’s an elephant village there where you see little or no tourists, they’re trainers have lived with the elephants their whole lives. And I can tell you for sure that is not to make money or stay in employment.. But for the love of the Elephant.

    I’m not saying you did anything wrong, but having elephant rides in Chang Mai or Phuket where it is renowned tourist areas you can’t expect anything else. If you truly want to see man and elephant side by side, take yourself to the countryside where they’re properly looked after. ✌️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The next time I come back I plan to stay longer. That way I can explore more of the real Thailand beyond all those touristy areas. Perhaps even check out that village you talked about. Thanks for the tip.

      But seriously, I’m already craving for authentic Thai food!


    2. Interesting fact, I had no idea heavy populations of Asian elephants live in Surin. Its nice to know there are still elephants camps who actually care about the elephants, not just the money that tourism brings. I was just researching where elephants live (check out the article http://whatdoelephantseat.com/ever-wondered-where-do-elephants-live) and came across some disturbing details of elephant tourism. In Thailand, they use the term “The Crush”. Basically, they beat, prod, and deprive elephants of sleep so they become submissive and allow tourists to ride their backs – their souls are crushed and they ultimately become slaves. Very sad, especially because these are such gentle intelligent creatures.


      1. It is indeed sad and cruel. That’s why after that, I will never participate in any form of activity that involves the inhumane treatment and abuse of animals. I will definitely check out that site you linked. Thanks for your insightful comment.


  2. I’ll be going to an elephant reserve in Chiang Mai during my training course (just bought my ticket tonight, actually!)

    XploreAsia, the organization I’m going through, actually changed their itinerary this year specifically to avoid places that abuse elephants. In the past, the teachers have been brought to places where they get to ride the elephants, but with the growing awareness of how detrimental that is to the elephants well-being, we are now going to a well-researched reserve that takes good care of its elephants. I’m beyond excited because I think elephants are absolutely wonderful creatures…and I really don’t feel I need to ride one to get a sense of that.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Belle. Made me even more relieved to know I wont be riding one in a few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard of that elephant park in Chaing Mai. I’m glad you are going that route because I learned the hard way. I don’t know if I shared this blog/site with you in the past but I feel like you will like this person. She has had adventures in Asia, not only does she take beautiful photos but she writes passionately too!



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