Set deep inside the tropical rainforest southern Thailand, Elephant Hills Camp is the undisputed best in authenticity and animal welfare
Photography | Unique & unusual | Wildlife
A gap of 80km between the popular Koh Phangnan and Elephant Hills Camp is telling. Gone are the hordes of tourists, replaced instead by the gentle magnificence of roaming wild elephants. Khao Sok National Park is home to some of the world's oldest evergreen rainforest, and is indeed the largest rainforest in southern Thailand. Karst limestone mountains tower above, while the surrounding lakes are backed by a rich array of flora and jungles beyond.
There are just 40 canvas tents, 30 of which are in the main camp, while an additional 10 belong to the Rainforest Camp – floating on the lake no less – and offer hot water in the en suite facilities. The beds are comfortable, while nets ensure the tents remain bug-free every night as you listen to the jungle's myriad fantastical sounds come nightfall. Each tent offers hand-made furniture in traditional Thai style to complete the authentic experience.
In keeping with the welfare-conscious mindset of Elephant Hills Camp, all meals are prepared using locally-sourced ingredients, and are included during your stay. Dishes are nourishing and revitalising, while if you fancy learning how to cook Thai food yourself, then you'll be well serviced by the excellent cookery classes that are regularly hosted. Think well-balanced jungle curry, sublime pad thai and refreshing green papaya salads.
The main draw is undoubtedly the unparalleled access to the elephants. The trainers (locally known as mahouts) have forged close relationships with them and will ensure you have a memorable experience with opportunities to feed and bathe the elephants. And, having become the first elephant camp to achieve a 100% rating for its animal welfare, the level of care that the elephants receive here is unprecedented. Understandably, elephant rides aren't on offer; instead, there are guided treks through dense rainforest – teeming with birds, monkeys and deer – and longboat trips down the river as expert guides spot fauna and explain the flora. Perhaps take your own, private canoe trip down Khao Sok river, visit the nearby villages to gain a keen insight into the local way of life or simply relax in the pool back at base. Come evening, share your experiences with fellow guests and enjoy traditional dance performances.
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