Monday, 2 September 2013

Maesa Elephant Camp

Maesa Elephant Camp is located 20 minutes north east of Chiang Mai. To get there either hire a taxi or self drive by hiring a moped or car. It’s an easy road to drive.

On arriving at the camp you get a good impression. This is created because the camp has a beautiful jungle setting with a river and small waterfall.

The actual camp is clean and well set up, with toilets and restaurant. It was established in 1976 and was the first elephant camp in Thailand to achieve International accreditation for safety and animal welfare (ISO 9001).

The camp has over 70 elephants each with its own keeper (called a mahout). The animals are well cared for. For those concerned about animal welfare please bear in mind that elephants have been domesticated in Thailand for centuries. They were involved in logging and transport when Thailand was largely jungle. The elephants have not been taken from the wild; they are the descendants of domesticated elephants left redundant by the mechanisation of logging and transport. These animals still work for a living except now it’s not logging, its entertaining tourists.

Activities include an elephant show, elephant rides, mahout courses, ox-cart rides and bamboo raft trips. Elephant shows happen daily at 8am, 9.40am and 1.30pm. They last about 45 minutes and cost 200 Thai Baht per person. Before the show you can feed the elephants with bananas and sugar cane and watch them bathe in the river.
The show involves the elephants performing tricks. They play football, basket ball and with a hola hoop. They also display traditional skills from the logging industry. The crescendo of the show is painting. The pictures go on sale after the show and fetch several hundred dollars each. Elephant rides last an hour and take you to a village where several hill tribes, including the famous long necks, live. These people are largely Cambodian and Burmese refugees displaced by war and persecution in their own countries. This village is one of several in Thailand where the Government has allowed them to settle legally.

 If you really want to get to find out more about elephants and help care for them we suggest booking a mahout course. 1, 2 and 3 day courses are available and they last from 8am to 4pm each day. You need to make reservation for this through their website ( Accommodation and food are provided for the 2 and 3 day courses.

Of course you don’t have to feel a commitment to animals’ welfare to visit Maesa Elephant Camp. It makes a fun day out: the elephants are entertaining and well cared for, and it’s a great chance to leave Chiang Mai and see some of the great countryside scenery.

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