KHON KAEN, THAILAND - Isan Explorer, the leading tour company for Northeast Thailand, has created three elephant-focused tours that protect the elephants' welfare.
Travelers on these special tours spend a full day getting up close and personal with elephants, mostly out walking with and watching them in patches of forest and at watering holes where they can play and splash around with each other. Travelers even get to help the mahouts bathe the elephants in the Mun River.
Isan Explorer's tours do not partake in the usual elephant chair rides (elephant spines are quite weak and carrying heavy loads on their backs causes permanent damage) and talent shows that are, unfortunately, the staple of elephant tourism in Thailand. The elephants on Isan Explorer's tours remain off-chain the whole day.
"Interacting with elephants in a natural environment such as this is an intimate and immensely rewarding experience," says Tim Bewer, founder and director of Isan Explorer. "Far better than watching them do circus tricks." Bewer, a long-time resident of Northeast Thailand, worked with the renowned Save Elephant Foundation to ensure that these tours are not only responsible, but actually beneficial to the elephants involved.
Although spending time with the elephants forms the core of these tours, which come in two-, three-, and four-day versions, they also feautre many other cultural stops including historic Buddhist temples, a Khmer ruin, and a silk weaving village.
Full itineraries, prices, and other details about the tours can be found on Isan Explorer's website and short videos about the tours are available on Isan Explorer's YouTube channel. The website also has a page with more information about Isan Explorer's ethical elephant practices.