Thailand is top of the holiday list for many travellers from Australia and New Zealand. It’s a short journey, full of great cultural experiences and not too hard on the wallet. A highlight for tourists visiting Thailand is the opportunity to see elephants. Unfortunately most are kept in cruel conditions, forced to entertain travellers. 

A herd of Asian Elephants are protectively a newborn elephant calf in the plain of Kui Buri National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand. Photo credit: Tanes Ngamsom / iStock
A herd of Asian Elephants are protectively a newborn elephant calf in the plain of Kui Buri National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand. Photo credit: Tanes Ngamsom / iStock

In recent years, due to Thailand’s increase in tourism, World Animal Protection has seen a 30 per cent rise in elephants suffering in captivity. As people become more aware of these issues, responsible travel companies like Intrepid Travel have banned elephant rides on their tours and many others are starting to follow suit. Today being World Elephant Day, it’s the perfect time to think about how to be a more responsible traveller. 

Senior Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, Ben Pearson says,“There are thousands of elephants in captivity in Thailand, but you don’t need to get up close with one to appreciate how incredible they are. The best place to see elephants is in the wild where they’re free to just be elephants. Luckily, there are great National Parks in Thailand where you can see elephants in their natural habitat, alongside a myriad of other wildlife.”

In honor of World Elephant Day (August 12th), here are the top National Parks in Thailand where you can enjoy an ethical experience with wild elephants.

Kui Buri National Park

Kui Buri is known as the best elephant sighting place in Thailand, with elephants out and about all year-round. The National Park is also home to one of the biggest populations of gaurs (largest known wild cattle) in the country. There are fewer species of wildlife at Kui Buri than other National Parks, but the animals are easy to see with accessible open areas at the wildlife watching area, Huai Leuk. Visitors are recommended to do a day trip to the wildlife watching area from nearby towns like Hua Hin, Pran Buri or Kui Buri. Once at the Huai Leuk Wildlife Watching Area, visitors take a safari vehicle through the dirt road on a wildlife viewing tour. 

Khao Yai National Park

Established in 1962, Khao Yai was Thailand’s first National Park and is currently the country’s third largest. Elephants are one of the most common mammals to be seen in the park, along with macaque, deer, gibbon, porcupine and civet. Other more obscure animals include bears, otters, dhole and jackal. Khao Yai also has a range of reptiles to see, including pythons, Ahaetulla prasina, Chinese ratsnake, Chinese water dragon and crested lizards. Aside from the wildlife, there are a number of waterfalls at the park, including the famous Haew Suwat Waterfall, which was featured in Leonardio Di Caprio’s The Beach movie. The park is located a two hour drive away from Bangkok, but there are hotels and guesthouses just outside the park’s boundaries. 

Kaeng Krachan National Park

Covering an area of 2,914 km², Kaeng Krachan is the largest National Park in Thailand and almost twice the size of London! It’s famous for its diverse wildlife, being home to 57 known species of mammals, including elephants, leopards, bears, stump-tailed macaques, deer, wild dogs, golden jackal, gaurs, crab-eating mongoose and more. The park is also one of Thailand’s top bird- and butterfly-watching locations, with over 420 species of birds and around 300 butterfly species. There are resorts close by for visitors to stay, and there are also camping grounds within the National Park for those who are keen to immerse themselves in nature. The most popular time to visit is between November to February when it is cooler and drier, but all seasons provide different wildlife watching experiences.