I don't know what it is, but I make sure every year during my birth month, I will give back to animals in need. It started 2 years ago when I visited Anima and donated food to their sheltered dogs. Last year I organized a dog walk with Masdaw where we played, fed, and donated the collected funding to their sheltered dogs. Let's just say that this year I celebrated with even bigger dogs. We got to meet these gentle giants: Moob, Pui, and Dookdik over at the Phuket Elephant House Sanctuary. Compared to other elephant shelters around Phuket (and I think there are a total of 5?), this shelter was located the nearest to our hotel resort. The sanctuary is also fairly new, operating a little under a year when we visited last May 2023.

Watch our Phuket Vlog here:

The sanctuary had a total of 4 elephants all saved from previous unfortunate situations that vary from being enslaved or groomed for entertainment. Most of them scarred with wounds and one of them even blinded, it makes me feel at ease to know that they are now in good hands and living the rest of their lives at peace.

We only met 3 of them since one of them was sick the day that we visited. We chose "program B", totaling 3 hours of learning, walking, bathing, and feeding the elephants. Workshops were also included but more on that later. Keep reading as a try my best to type these all out from memory (it had been 3weeks since I got back from Phuket as I'm preparing this post :P). 

I'm guilty for being one of those tourists that ever tried elephant riding. As I've mentioned in my previous post, this is not my 1st time in Thailand. For the number of times I've traveled to Thailand, I can recall at least 3 times riding on elephant backs. I'm not proud of it. And now that I've grown and can contribute more, I promise to never ever support places that uses any animals for entertainment purposes anymore. Which leads me to my next point: are elephant sanctuaries like this also using elephants for monetary gain? The answer is yes.

The difference is with the care and treatment used on the elephants. You can argue that they might just be treating the elephants a certain way because that's what the tourists expect. But on the other hand, the elephants were given so much freedom to roam or do really anything they wanted at least when we were there to witness it. They teach you the proper way of feeding them, the places you should avoid touching due to trauma, and how to read each elephant's emotion and needs. I'd place my bets on being pro-elephant sanctuaries. Besides, they need the money to maintain the surrounding land and feed the elephants daily.

You know what I didn't expect from the sanctuary? Chickens. There were so much darn chickens around and it's funny that sometimes they tend to piss off the elephants too. I regret not doing the mud bath, all you have to know is that we were with the wrong group of visitors. So much regret that when it was time to bathe at the lake I was the only one who went in the water. Even Adrian didn't but he had his reasons.
We ended the tour program by making paper out of elephant poop. Something I'd never thought of doing ever but here we are. They prep the poop, do all the nasty work before you even get your hands on it. And by the time you start the workshop, you're dealing with a bucket of wet "washed" poop that feels weird but only smells like wet cardboard. You don't get to keep the ones you made since they take a total of 2 weeks to fully dry into paper sheets, however you do get to bring home ones that were made prior from other visitors.

I wanted to share more details about each of the elephants we met, but I feel like our guide did a way better job so I'll leave it to them to do that. Besides, if ever you visit the same sanctuary, I want you to learn about these elephants for the 1st time as well. Which brings me to my next and last point: is it worth to visit an elephant sanctuary in Thailand? The answer is hands down, a thousand times: YES.

Interacting with these gentle giants easily became the highlight of our whole Phuket trip. If I was given a chance to visit other elephants from other sanctuaries, I'd definitely do it. And you should too! 
And that's it for me! I miss those big babies already. I don't mean to pick favorites, but Dookdik will forever have a special place in my heart. I immediately was filled with love when I 1st saw her. I hope one day you can meet her as well :)

Much love!

~Katee Of The Day

Photo Credits: Adrian C. (@dash_ad)