BEES Ethical Elephant Sanctuary | 2 Days to 1 Week | from CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

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100% of travellers said they loved this activity.
  • Experience elephants in their natural habitat at this TRULY ethical elephant sanctuary in the North of Thailand.
  • Volunteer to help the elephants and improve their environment by planting trees, preparing their food and learning about what makes them happy.
  • Hands-off policy – Support Ethical Elephant Tourism! At BEES you can feel safe in the knowledge that your visit is helping to change damaging animal tourist models and helping to improve the lives of elephants all over Thailand.
  • Read a review of this experience by one of our readers!
  • IMPORTANT: Please read the Covid-19 requirements at the bottom of the description before placing your booking.

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BEES… Where elephants that used to work for humans now have humans work for them!

Are you a responsible traveller looking for a way to encounter elephants in the most ethical way possible?

About BEES Elephant Sanctuary

Welcome to BEES! At this family-run elephant sanctuary in the North of Thailand your conscience can take a rest, knowing that the elephants you see are behaving in exactly the way they choose! You will spend time with these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, safe in the knowledge that nothing that they do is done for your entertainment. This is a place where elephants can finally be free from years of exploitation and abuse and can forage, bathe, roam, explore and socialise with fellow ele’s as they would do in the wild.

Located in a beautiful area of rural Thailand, in the province of Mae Cham, South West of Chiang Mai, BEES is a retirement home for elephants, originally founded by Australian-Thai couple, Emily and her husband Burm, who was born locally. With a big passion for pachyderms, the couple set up BEES in 2010 and have since been at the forefront of elephant welfare and conservation in a constantly evolving world! Emily was a key voice in our article about Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand and her views are respected across the elephant conservation community. 

South East Asia Backpacker is proud to support BEES Ethical Elephant Sanctuary on our website.

Hands Off Policy – Please Support BEES & Ethical Animal Welfare!

BEES Elephant Sanctuary is one of a few sanctuaries in Thailand that promotes a ‘hands-off’ policy which is as much about the safety of the visitor (and the caretakers, or mahouts) as it is about the welfare of the elephants. While sanctuaries across the country continue to get more bookings as they allow visitors to touch, bathe and even ride the elephants, BEES decided that it was not in the best interest of the elephant to, despite the fact that they lost a huge amount of bookings when they made the move in 2018.

What will you do at BEES?

  • Observe the elephants in the forest, behaving just as they wish!
  • Prepare food for the elephants and learn how to care for them.
  • Help clear out the elephant areas.
  • Lend a hand with the care of the other animals that are rescued at BEES.

Other activities you might take part in (for longer visits)

  • Environmental conservation activities such as planting trees (only during rainy season).
  • Planting grass for the elephants.
  • Cutting grass or other foods ready for the elephants.
  • Support a group of local elderly ladies at the weaving club.
  • Learn to cook some delicious Thai deserts! (Please specify in the additional information box when placing your order if you would like to do this)
  • Take part in local community projects, eg, building, clean-ups etc.
  • Temple visits.
  • River tubing.

Accommodation & Facilities

There are seven traditional Thai huts on-site (built by hand by Burm himself, with the help of other family and community members). Each one consists offers a mattress, bedding, mosquito nets and a fan. Bathrooms are located in a separate block with western toilets and showers with standard shower heads. There are two sinks with mirrors in the same block.

There is a common area, known lovingly as the “cat cafe”. This is where breakfast is served and offers a spacious balcony area. There is also a small gift shop attached, where it is possible to purchase snacks and beverages, as well as T-shirts sporting the BEES logo! A washing machine is available for use, you can buy washing powder at the gift shop.

Food & Drink at BEES

For the overnight packages at BEES, three meals a day are offered.

  • Breakfast is western. Guests are invited to prepare their own toast or cereal, teas and coffee. Staff are on-hand to prepare egg (boiled, scrambled, fried or omelette). Delicious seasonal fruit is always available.
  • Lunch and dinner are Thai. Expect noodles or rice with plenty of vegetables.

We cater to vegetarians – Meat meals are served, but BEES will very happily cater to vegetarians and vegans. If you have special dietary needs, please specify in the additional information box when placing your order. The sanctuary is in a very remote area and it is not easy to get hold of specialist ingredients at short notice, so be sure to let us know with plenty of time!

Snacks are available at the gift shop. You will also have the chance to pick some up on your way to the centre and on sightseeing days (often Thursday). Beers can be purchased in the local town, though it is requested that you limit yourself to one or two cans, you drink them in the cat cafe or at your hut after you have finished that day’s activities. BEES request that you do not bring stronger alcohol (spirits) onto the site and would like to state that drunken behaviour will not be accepted.

Covid-19 Requirements

Please note: In order to join the program, you will need to prove you are Covid Negative with a test taken 24-48hours before arrival. This can be a test taken in the hospital or from your hotel with a DIY test kit. Please note if you chose to use a DIY test kit, we will require a picture of the receipt of purchase next to the negative test. The Purchase should be made no more than 3 days prior to taking the test.

Masks are required to be worn at all times during transportation and when you are in enclosed areas, we require guests to continue social distancing and good hygiene. If you have symptoms during your stay, you will be isolated to your room until a test can be taken and confirmed that you do not have Covid. Please note if a Covid situation arises and the program comes to a halt that the stay is non-refundable.

 

Operator

BEES Elephant Sanctuary

The South East Asia Backpacker Community have tried and tested adventures across the region and handpicked a selection of only the BEST companies to work with.

Why we chose BEES?

  • In 2018, founders of BEES, Emily and Burm made the bold move to make their elephant sanctuary ‘hands off’.
  • They made this decision with the safety and wellbeing of their elephants and their mahouts in mind.
  • Since 2018, they have lost a lot of bookings and are struggling to support their elephants, with travellers choosing to visit places where they can still ride and bathe with elephants.
  • By visiting BEES you are directly supporting ethical elephant tourism in Thailand and helping to show other sanctuaries that the ‘hands off’ policy can work!

Founder of BEES, Emily McWilliam, got in touch with us to provide valuable insights to our article: How to choose an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Emily educated us on some of the complicated topics of animal welfare; such as riding, bathing, chains and bull hooks and how travellers can help to steer elephant tourism in the right direction going forward.

BEES Elephant Sanctuary provides something that many travellers to Thailand have been looking for… An environment where they are able to observe elephants being elephants, safe in the knowledge that they are not being forced to entertain tourists in any way! This sanctuary has a strict no riding, no bathing and no touching policy to ensure the safety of their elephants, the mahouts and visitors.

Founded by Burm and Emily, a Thai/Australian couple, in 2010, BEES has been a community project since its conception. The accommodation on site was built by hand by Burm, his family and other members of the village. Since 2012 they have planted approximately 10,000 trees and they grow as much of their own food as possible. A visit to BEES is a true insight into a grass-roots, family-run elephant sanctuary. If you’re looking for a no-frills ethical experience – this is the real deal.

FAQs

Is pick-up/drop-off included?

For the 2-day to 1-week packages, pick up and drop off in Chiang Mai is included. Please provide the name of your guesthouse or hostel when booking, or you can email us later if you do not have anywhere booked yet.

For 1-day visits, you will need to make your way to the sanctuary by yourself. Please see the tab on ‘getting there’ for information about how to get to BEES.

Do I need to be fit to visit BEES?

In order to fully take part in the activities at BEES, a certain level of fitness is recommended. The fact that the elephants here are free to roam as and where they wish means that you may have to hike a considerable distance before finding them! The climate of the area is hot and humid, rain is common and the surfaces you will walk on are uneven. Some of the construction projects and food collection can also be physically demanding. Cutting down crops, shovelling and carrying materials are all common activities on the site. Aside from these physical requirements, visitors should also know that they’ll be expected to work in teams and follow the protocol and procedure as described to them by BEES team-leaders.

Is there WIFI at BEES?

There is no wifi on-site at the moment. To ensure you can connect to the internet, it is recommended that you purchase a SIM card from either TrueMOVE or AIS12CALL.

What should I bring to BEES?

  • Lightweight clothes
  • Warm jumper/jacket (depending on the season)
  • Rain jacket (depending on the season)
  • Sturdy trainers/boots or walking shoes for walking in the forest with the elephants
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sun screen
  • Toiletries

Please note: Some travellers may not be used to the sound of nature that you will experience staying this far into nature. It can be considerably louder than you expect! Light sleepers may benefit from bringing earplugs or headphones to use at night.

Do I need travel insurance to visit BEES?

Travel medical insurance is compulsory for a visit to BEES and you must show proof upon entrance.

Are children allowed at BEES?

The program is not suitable for children under 10 years old. Children ages 10-18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Getting There

BEES is located in the Mae Chaem District, to the west of Doi Inthanon National Park. For visitors planning to take the one-day option at BEES, it is highly recommended that they spend both the night before AND the night of the activity in the Mae Chaem Town itself due to limited public transport options.

2 reviews for BEES Ethical Elephant Sanctuary | 2 Days to 1 Week | from CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

  1. Zoe & Ethan

    What an incredible experience! It was tricky finding an elephant sanctuary with the correct set of morals and creating a humane experience, however with BEES, we feel we made the best decision we could! Their hands off policy gives an amazing opportunity to be within the environment of the elephants, without causing any disturbance. The owners Burm and Emily were incredibley welcoming and made the whole experience entertaining; always wanting to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and attending to our needs.

    I highly recommend BEES elephant sanctuary if you’re looking for an organic experience in the close presence of their incredible elephants! We’ll definitely be back! 🐘❤️

  2. Kathy Bannister

    We did not really know what to expect with this elephant sanctuary as we booked it online from backpackers before travelling and although there are many elephants Sanctuary’s advertised within Chiangmai this is nowhere to be found so was a little apprehensive, we were picked up at 8:30 in the morning and informed it was a four hour drive to the elephant sanctuary through the National Park what a drive, there was five of us on the tour and we visited the waterfalls for lunch, Rice fields where the Karen Tribe live and saw the most amazing scenery within the mountains absolutely breathtaking.

    On arriving at the elephant statuary we were greeted by the many rescue dogs and cats. we meet Emily for a meet and greet explained their ethos of the elephants. All the elephants were retired from working. Although the animals are not wild they are retired back to as near as nature as possible so no hands on, no feeding observe them only allowing them just to be elephants again.
    Day two We were took out in the national park trekking and looking for the elephants we were able to observe them in their own natural environment crossing rivers, eating palm trees and it was the most amazing experience I have ever had on reflection I am so glad we did not bath or feed them just seeing them being elephants in the wild helped you see how beautiful these creatures are, we also learned about the plants that we could eat and plants that were used for medicine. After lunch we had to cross a river which was interesting experience then tubing down the river.
    Would recommend as an amazing experience

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Refund Policy

  • In order to book this experience, you will need to pay a deposit online via South East Asia Backpacker.
  • This deposit is fully refundable if you wish to cancel up until 48 hours before the start of the activity. PLEASE NOTE: This policy refers to the payment made to South East Asia Backpacker at the time of booking. All subsequent payments to the operator of your chosen activity fall under their own refund policy
  • For cancellations made fewer than 48 hours before the start of the activity there is no refund available.
  • You can request a change of date at any time.
  • Date changes are entirely down to the availability of the operator and nothing to do with South East Asia Backpacker. 
  • If your date change is not agreed upon, as long as it is more than 48 hours before the start date you originally made your booking for, your deposit can be refunded in full if you wish to cancel.
  • The remaining payment for the experience is payable directly to the operator.
  • The operator can request the remaining payment via an online payment link or upon arrival at the destination.
  • The refund of the second payment, which goes directly to the operator, is based on the terms and conditions of the operator, over which South East Asia Backpacker have no control.
  • Please see our customer terms and conditions for more information.

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