Almost a year ago, we found out that our friend and ex-nanny, Raweewan was getting married in Thailand (where she is from). Deciding to go was a no brainer since we wanted to share her special day and we have always dreamed of visiting Thailand. Once that was decided, it was time to start planning! I was lucky enough to meet someone very knowledgable about Thailand tourism. She said “Check out Elephant Hills tented camp. I think your son would love it.” Boy am I glad we listened to her!
Elephant Hills Tented Camp – Jungle
Elephant Hills is a luxury tenting destination consisting of two camps in the Khao Sok National Park. Their tours consist of 2 -4 day adventures between the two camps. We did the 2 night adventure which means we spent one night at the Elephant Camp and one night at the floating Rainforest Camp. Since the two camps are quite different with activities specific to each, I am going to break my write-up into two posts. Today, I’m going to focus on the Elephant Camp which is situated in the southern part of Khao Sok on the edge of the rainforest.
One more note before we get to photos….Elephant Hills’ adventures are all inclusive. They include three meals per day (buffet style), all activities and transfers to and from the camps. The only things that aren’t included are snacks, sodas or alcohol you would like to buy from the bar and any souvenirs you wish to purchase.
When you arrive at the Elephant Camp, you enter through the open air restaurant/bar/meeting area. It is the perfect place to hang out, play a game of cards, share a beer with friends or check in with the rest of the world using the free Wifi. Just off the deck is the pool overlooking the jungle.
On Day 1, we arrived around 11am. We had a bit of time to get settled in our tent before lunch and afternoon activities.
Each tent includes a queen size bed and a separate bathroom which includes a toilet, sink and a shower (with hot water!). All the comforts of home in a tent. Each tent is under a metal roof so there’s no chance of leaks in the event of a Thai rain shower. As you can see, there is also a hammock which Dewey quite enjoyed in our few minutes of downtime. We found the tent very comfortable though some Thai bugs are LOUD. It didn’t keep us awake but a few other guests mentioned that they had trouble sleeping. If you are a light sleeper, consider bringing earplugs. If you have a child traveling with you, Elephant Hills will add a single bed to your tent for your child.
There are 35 tents in the Elephant Camp. Guests are split among different groups depending which adventure they are a part of. We stayed with our group throughout our entire time at Elephant Hills. The tents are close to each other but we didn’t find that noise carried from one tent to another enough to bother us at all. Each guest is given a padlock and key to lock the zippers together on your tent if you wish.
Once we were settled, we headed back to the community area for lunch. Each lunch and dinner buffet included a variety of Thai dishes and occasionally a Western dish or two (think fries or fried chicken).The breakfast buffet included Asian and Western favorites. We found the food to be quite tasty with a variety of spice levels for every palate. Fresh fruit was available at all meals as well with water to drink.
Time to start our Thailand Adventure!
After our bellies were full, we headed down the hill to explore the Sok River by canoe. Our tour felt quite luxurious as we had our own canoe pilot paddling for us. Along the way we got to see fish, frogs and other wildlife that our guide pointed out along the shoreline. We enjoyed our gentle float down the river but Evan was ready to SEE THE ELEPHANTS!
At the end of our water journey, we boarded an open air bus for the short ride to the elephant experience. Upon arrival we walked to an open air pavilion with large metal barricades along the front 3 sides. Since the pavilion is completely open, it took me a few minutes to figure out how the pavilion might work. Then one of the elephants arrived and it became clear. The metal bars kept the elephants from moving in too close to people but allowed them to be free. Basically, we, the participants were behind bars…not the elephants. Awesome!
Our guide, Chart, explained a bit about why you see so many elephant experiences in Thailand. Elephants are actually a domesticated animal in Thailand. They were used for logging for many, many years before it was outlawed in 1989. Once this ban occurred, there were many elephants and mahouts (elephant tenders) out of work. Thankfully, many elephants have found new homes in elephant sanctuaries. Unfortunately, not every sanctuary is the same. At Elephant Hills, you will not see elephants giving rides. Instead, you interact with them while they show their natural curiosity for people, while you feed them snacks and while you give them a bath. You get to be up close and personal without causing them possible harm by riding on their backs.
Each participant gets to prepare snacks for the elephants. When we were there, we got to feed them grass, corn, sugar cane and pineapples. Like people, elephants have their own preferred treats. If you held out a pineapple to an elephant who preferred sugar cane, they would just throw it to the side. You quickly learned what each specific elephant preferred and fed them that before trying to find another elephant who might enjoy the other treats in your basket. (And no…we didn’t let Evan use that giant cleaver. I cut his snacks up for him.)
Next the elephants head over to the mud pond for a bit of a mud bath. They had the best time rubbing up against the pond sides to cover themselves with muck. It was very interesting to hear them talking to each other with a rumbling noise that they made.
Once they were covered in mud, it was time for a bath. Our group was quite small so 4 or 5 people got to bathe their own elephant. Each group got a hose, a bucket and elephant husks to bathe their elephant under the close watch of the elephant’s mahout. The mahout really loved getting the elephant to shoot water on it’s back…drenching all of us.
Evan had a great time bathing the elephant though he was soaked by the end.
Our elephant even bent down so that we could reach the spot we missed on the top of her head.
After bath time, it was time to head home. For us, we boarded the bus for camp as the elephants headed home. We watched them tromping down the road towards their home in the jungle. We could hear their trumpets of happiness as they got closer to home.
We headed back to camp, tired and covered in elephant bath water just in time for dinner. After dinner, there was a cooking demonstration, a wildlife video screening and a traditional Thai dance demonstration by local school children. Elephant Hills works with local schools in the area to improve the education experience of the children. In exchange, they come to the Elephant Camp to demonstrate traditional dance. Here’s a little snippet of what we saw.
After a long day, it was time to head to bed. The next morning we were to be up early to travel to the rainforest camp. Stay tuned for our adventures there (here’s a hint…it involves kayaking, monkeys and more!).
What an amazing Thailand adventure and it was only day 1!
Have questions? Ask in the comment section and/or check out the Elephant Hills FAQ section.