The Elephant in the Room – Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary

So, I guess I need to start of by addressing the elephant in the room… I am painfully aware that I haven’t blogged for 249 days… To anyone that is new here (welcome!), when I left off on September 4th I was bracing myself for Hurricane Irma and naively assuming that nothing too bad would happen. Needless to say that wasn’t quite the case. 

Unfortunately, I still find it very hard to read or watch anything hurricane-related, and the idea of writing about it has been a source of a lot of anxiety for me. Maybe one day there will be a hurricane post, but it certainly won’t be today. I’m sorry. Anyway… enough of the metaphorical elephant, can we talk about literal elephants now?? 


We recently got back from the most wonderful Asian adventures (more on these to come!), comprising four countries, six cities and a good few bucket-list items checked. One of the ones I had most been looking forward to was visiting the elephants in Thailand! And it certainly did not disappoint… 

Chiang Mai was the last city on our itinerary, and I had patiently been waiting for our elephant encounter. I knew that I wanted to find an ethical elephant sanctuary, with no riding, tying up or stress for the elephants and fortunately Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary delivered the exact elephant experience we were looking for. 


Lanna Kingdom is about an hour’s drive North of Chiang Mai. We were met by our friendly guide bright and early at our hotel and we hit the road, stopping along the way to gather up the rest of our group. (Lanna Kingdom restrict their groups to less than 15 people so that the elephants don’t get overwhelmed and so that each visitor can get some time getting to know the elephants.)

We arrived to Lanna Kingdom and quickly changed into the more elephant suitable attire that they provide (you’re going to get wet and muddy, in the best way possible, so keep that in mind!) all the while marveling at the five magnificent creatures just strolling around. 


Each of the elephants has their own mahout and you are introduced to the elephants with them. We had arrived just in time for breakfast so first on the agenda was handing them their corn and bananas. We also received a quick but informative briefing about the  sanctuary and the elephants themselves, a little about their background and characters. All of their elephants have been purchased from logging camps, riding camps or circuses and many of them still bear the scars and the branding from their previous homes. It is fantastic to know that they can live out the rest of their days safely at Lanna Kingdom. They all have big personalities (excuse the pun) but none more so than the baby of the bunch, little Lanna, sooooo mischievous – you couldn’t help but feel for her mahout as she lead him on a merry dance around the property, charging around and generally misbehaving as only a little elephant can. 


After feeding the elephants (a bizarre experience that I can only liken to trying to post food into the nozzle of a very wet vacuum cleaner) their bananas (be sure to remember to say ‘di di’ (good girl) when she takes one). We then headed down to the river to start bathing the elephants. The schedule at Lanna Kingdom is pretty fluid, the same items need to get done every day, but they are somewhat lead by the elephants and what they’re in the mood for. 


We also helped out making the elephant ‘medicine balls’ – just three ingredients, these are needed to keep our favourite pachyderms ‘regular’. Banana is muddled with sugarcane and sour tamarind in a large pestle and mortar before being scooped out and fed to them. The sweetness of the sugarcane and their favourite bananas help to make the sour tamarind (the key ingredient) more palatable. 


Lastly it was mud spa time, definitely the messiest but probably the most fun, the elephants head to the water hole so that you can rub the mud into their skin, which is necessary to keep their skin healthy.


There’s always time for a water fight too…

Before heading back into the city there is just enough time for lunch! Delicious vegetarian pad Thai and slices of fresh watermelon we’re waiting for us. All the tasty food smells proved a bit too much of a temptation for baby Lanna and she squeezed herself into the enclosure in order to try and steal some watermelon. 


We opted for the half day tour and we found that was the perfect amount of time with the elephants and still allowed us time to explore Chiang Mai. The cost of our tour was B2,500. More about the tour options available can be found on their website here

(If you’re not already following me on Instagram, why not? Find lots of our Asian travels there)



  1. May 11, 2018 / 2:38 pm

    What an amazing experience! So wonderful you were able to participate. They are fascinating creatures with beautiful souls.

    • thebarefootangel
      May 11, 2018 / 3:03 pm

      Thank you – yes, we were so pleased to find such a fantastic sanctuary, which meant that we could visit and interact with them knowing that they were well cared for!

  2. May 11, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    I love the raw beauty of your post, elephants are absolutely fascinating! Welcome back, and I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through this natural disaster.

    • thebarefootangel
      May 11, 2018 / 10:02 pm

      Thank you – you’re very kind! I’m excited to get into blogging again!

  3. May 11, 2018 / 9:51 pm

    Yay, you’re back! I’m so jealous, thi is one of my bucket list activities for sure xx

    • thebarefootangel
      May 11, 2018 / 10:03 pm

      I’m back!!! I can’t lie, it really was an incredible experience! xx

  4. May 12, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    So much fun❤️❤️

  5. Stephanie
    May 12, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    This has been on my list for forever! I need to get back to Thailand for this. Love your photos too!

    • thebarefootangel
      May 12, 2018 / 9:51 pm

      Thank you! It is so worth it – they are such beautiful creatures!!

  6. May 13, 2018 / 10:06 am

    I’m so glad to see that you made the effort to find a humane shelter for these gentle giants. A for effort in promoting responsible animal tourism. Also, I’m sorry to hear about the cause of your long absence, but welcome back and I hope you heal in the days to come 🙂

    • thebarefootangel
      May 13, 2018 / 11:15 am

      Thank you! It’s so important to find a humane sanctuary – unfortunately there are too many unscrupulous places looking for easy tourist dollars!

  7. May 14, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    These animals are so sweet! I still haven’t had the opportunity to meet one up close, but would love to some day =)

  8. May 16, 2018 / 11:03 am

    Sorry about your disaster. I understand. I just watched a show on the differences between places that aren’t actually sanctuaries for these animals. Places like this one are so wonderful!

    • thebarefootangel
      May 16, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Hi Shan, thank you! You’re absolutely right, I think it’s so easy for people to get caught out. A little bit of research is crucial!

  9. May 18, 2018 / 1:39 am

    I had no idea that elephants had to rub mud on their skin to keep it healthy! So interesting. I would love to visit an elephant sanctuary one day. It must have truly been an magical experience!

  10. May 18, 2018 / 10:31 am

    This sounds like a dream experience! Elephants are one of my absolute favorite animals and it has always been a dream of mine to visit an ethical sanctuary to get closer to these magical beings! Thank you for sharing your experience! 🙂

  11. Hammad Raza
    May 18, 2018 / 10:34 am

    welcome back charlie after a long interval…it is very interesting article.

  12. May 18, 2018 / 3:32 pm

    This is beautiful! I love seeing travel posts about animal sanctuaries instead of the ones that let people ride animals or pet sedated tigers. Thank you for sharing, your pictures are amazing.

    • thebarefootangel
      May 18, 2018 / 3:45 pm

      Thank you so much!! Some of the animal tourism places are so awful and really should be avoided at all costs!

  13. May 18, 2018 / 5:12 pm

    What an incredible experience! I’m so sad I didn’t make it up to Chiang Mai but it’s definitely on my list thanks to your beautiful description of what looks like a wonderful home for these elephants.

    • thebarefootangel
      May 18, 2018 / 5:34 pm

      Thank you Jessica! Hopefully next time, it’s so hard to fit everything in!!

  14. banx63
    June 8, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    This looks absolutely fantastic! Such wonderful creatures – never had the experience of seeing them close up. I did see them in an Animal Park in the USA a few years ago and I remember not liking it, they looked too stressed and unhappy. These don’t though! Amazing trip – keep the updates coming, I shall be popping back!

    P.S is ‘Di Di’ elephant language or Thai 🙂

    • thebarefootangel
      June 8, 2018 / 2:37 pm

      I totally agree, so distressing when you see any animal in a stressed and unhappy captive state which makes it even more refreshing and exciting when you find a location where you can really enjoy your time with them!! Thank you for your kind words! 🙂
      From what I can see, Dek di means good girl in Thai, so I think this is slightly simplified elephant speak…

  15. Meg
    July 21, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    WHOA , that an experience. How beautiful to see elephant being treated humanely and kindly. Thanks for supporting the sanctuary and sharing your experience.

  16. Jasmin
    July 22, 2018 / 10:35 am

    That sounds like such an amazing experience! And it’s so refreshing to hear that the elephants are treated like they should be treated. Heard so many horror stories from other places!

  17. July 22, 2018 / 3:10 pm

    We in Florida were lucky with Irma, it is so easy to forget that others were not. I hope all is well or on its way to being well again.

    Your trip was absolutely phenomenal. Elephants are my absolute favorite animals and I would ugly cry during the entire tour. Definitely going to have to add this to my bucket list.

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