• A Elephant Sanctuary Trip In Laos

    Seeing any animal in the wild is very high on anyone’s bucket list I reckon, but seeing elephants this close and being able to feed them was so surreal. This is the elephant sanctuary trip we went on when we travelled in Luang Prabang. I can’t wait to book a African safari one day and see all of our amazing wildlife up close in their natural habitat. We should be able to experience wild animals like that from afar without disturbing them and causing them any trouble.

    I have seen wild gibbons and elephants whilst travelling Thailand and the various charities and causes that are working alongside the animals in Thailand from their abusive past and it has really driven me to kinder travel when it comes to our wild animals. I would never ride an elephant or pose with a drugged tiger just for the Instagram shot! I couldn’t wait to join this kind elephant excursion in Laos to visit an elephant sanctuary that is working with pregnant elephants to help get their numbers up.


    Be careful who you book your elephant sanctuary trip with in Laos. We booked our trip with Chateau Orientale because they marketed themselves so well in Luang Prabang, it looked super legit and they had awesome trips and activities on offer. But the sanctuary wasn’t really a sanctuary. The people there weren’t even sure how many elephants they had and some had even randomly turned up that morning. The hotel they took us to claimed to be the sanctuary, which the sanctuary was actually further down the road. The hotel were loaned the elephants by the sanctuary to use for these trips which I thought wasn’t right.

    Either way, despite the lie and confusion it was still great to see elephants up so close and be able to bathe and feed them and learn about how dangered they really are in Asia.

    A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, or keeper. As with many professions in tribal or undeveloped areas, a mahout starts as a boy, as a hereditary family profession, and he receives an elephant early in its life, and he is trained to keep it by his family.

    They remain bonded to each other throughout their lives. A mahout never used physical commands like slapping or whipping the elephant. They mainly use vocal commands or occasionally using their body weight to move the elephant in the direction they want.

    Some of the commands they use include:
    How = Stop
    Maep = Down
    Song = Lift (Up)
    Pai = Go
    Sai = Turn Left
    Chua = Turn Right

    Despite the excursion not being exactly what we were told or expected, we still enjoyed our time and got to spend some time with these beautiful creatures and get some photos of them. We had quite a drive out of Luang Prabang to get to Chateau Orientale and experienced some Lao road works and also got to see the new high speed train line that is being built to connect Laos to China via Vietnam.

    Once we arrived at Chateau Orientale which was beautiful, we were welcomed by our guides and had the plan for the day explained to us and what the mahout do for the elephants.

    We got talking to the manger of 525 Tapas, James who is originally from Newcastle and now lives in Luang Prabang. He actually recommended a proper elephant sanctuary called Mandalao Elephant Conservation, so that is definitely worth checking out. It’s about a 2 hour drive outside the city but is definitely worth it and is actually a legit ethical sanctuary for elephants. Unfortunately, we didn’t know how bad Chateau Orientale was until we spoke to him after we’d done the excursion.

    Top Tip: Always ask James what is good to do in Luang Prabang!


    READ MORE: A 5 Day Guide To Luang Prabang

    Once we were geared up in our attractive water shoes and ready to start, we walked down a short path to the river bank to get into a small boat which took us across the river to cross through some farmland that was being used by local families to grow crops including cabbage, rice and other vegetables.

    Once we had walked through the farm land, we went into the vegetation to find the elephants. Our mahout guide, found an elephant up a small incline and guided her out of the trees to join us. We spent a little time taking pictures of her and feeding her bananas before walking through the woodland to guide her through the water to where the other elephants were.

    At the end of the excursion, we took the elephants to a small island of land to bathe and feed them. A few of them were being quite stubborn but we managed to entise them in with bananas and we were able to chuck buckets of refreshing water over them to cool them down and wash them. Let’s just say, we didn’t have bananas left at the end of the day. I was also a pro at feeding them bananas!


    A single adult ticket with Chateau Orientale will cost you 618,000LAK which is roughly £47.29 (as at 21/06/2021)


    Here are the things that I packed and brought with me:

    • ● Comfy gym leggings and top
    • ● Sunglasses
    • ● Lots of sun cream
    • ● Water bottle
    • ● Microfibre towel
    • ● Waterproof bag
    • ● Camera and choice of lenses
    • ● A pair of socks (for afterwards)
    • ● Tangle teezer and hair ties
    • ● Deodorant
    • ● Pressed powder and any makeup bits I’d need
    • ● Headphones for the mini bus journey

    It is always best to come prepared, so I wore my trainers on the trip just in case but as it turned out I didn’t need them. Although I was glad I had some comfy shoes for after the trip. I also brought everything with me in my water bag.

    Before we left Cheateu Orientale, our trip included a sit down lunch which featured lots of delicious dishes from around Laos including their famous Laap salad and lots of yummy curries. We got talking to a few of the other people on our trip, who didn’t do the elephant part of the excursion but did off road biking that you could choose to do instead.

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    If you have any content recommendations, please let me know and I’ll see if I can put together some guides for you.


    Have you done any experience like this? If so, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.

    Happy travels,

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