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“Experience with elephants that justifies the price tag”

Elephant Steps Chiang Rai
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Walking and bathing with elephant in the jungle.. Go with them to their nature home, have lunch in the forest with bamboo cooking and planting trees with the karen people. Follow us , love, respect and care in a different way to their past lives with no riding , by accompanying them in their naturel environnment you contribute has their confort.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Lockers / storage, Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Reviewed 3 October 2017 via mobile

This place is not easy to find but thankfully people had already reviewed it here. The day started with an 08:30am pick up from our hotel. The driver and "greeting" girl were identified only by a hand-scrawled A4 paper reading "Elephant Steps Chiang Rai". Neither spoke anything other than Thai. Then we were asked for our passports so she could take a photo of them for "jungle insurance". Our tensions were only increased when we hopped in the back of a Hilux open truck and were transported 50 minutes deep into the jungle outside Chiang Rai. No mobile reception, no signage, we didn't have a clue where we were!
Thankfully the owner Sophie was there to meet us with refreshments and to explain the day ahead. Today, there just the two of us!
We met the elephants: Melanie (45), her daughter Gypsy (17) and a recent arrival Papikon (75!). We had the chance to feed them by hand.
We then changed into local style clothes and rubber boots before setting off with Melanie and Gypsy and two Thai elephant handlers up a steep hill into the jungle.
The climb is not for the faint-hearted so definitely only the fit should do it. Luckily the rain only started half way down the descent, right before we sat to eat a delicious home-cooked meal. We were pinned to our bamboo seats under a makeshift tarpaulin cover for the next 2 hours whilst the loudest thunder storm I've ever heard closed in on top of us! Nothing to do but sit and wait it out, whilst drinking tea brewed over the fire in bamboo shoots! And we paid for this!!
Once it died to a mild rain, we continued down the slope (a gushing river by now, full of slippery stones) until we reached the road.
We then crossed the road and entered the brown river in most of our clothes to play with and wash the elephants. Shame the sun didn't join us but we were wet through by then anyway so getting in the river was no hardship.
When we got back to camp, we took a cool but clean shower, changed clothes and enjoyed a warm cup of tea. We then said goodbye and headed back to our hotel, tired and happy, and were back by 5pm.
The bathing, the 2kms walk back up the dirt road back to camp and earlier watching Melanie rub her bum against a huge rock for a good 15 minutes, were the highlights of this trip.
Yes the price is a bit steep but at least some of the money goes to feeding and caring for the elephants, the farm animals and a local education charity that Sophie runs. And it really is the closest you will get to this beautiful animal in its natural habitat. So much better than watching from afar or crudely riding their backs up a tarmac road on a hand-made thronal saddle.
For this main reason I've rated this experience a 5 and would highly recommend it to fellow animal lovers.

Thank Mari K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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2 - 6 of 102 reviews

Reviewed 17 August 2017 via mobile

We booked this through a random travel agent in Chiang rai and were completely unprepared for the day. Turned out there was over a kilometre of steep muddy uphill trekking involved. A group of 7 of us followed two beautiful elephants through unspoiled jungle. We are both 65 and the temperature was about 35 degrees. We were equipped only with poorly fitting wellingtons fishermans trousers a Karen top and a stick. Things could have ended badly. My husband is diabetic and at one point declared he had to go back. But the lovely staff (mahouts with no English really) fanned him with leaves and encouraged him onwards. I struggled too. However we made it and the rewards made it all worthwhile. Playing with the elephants in the river washing them and riding them bateback like the mahouts was magic. We were exhausted but it was in hindsight one of our best days. Sophie the French owner does love her animals although 33 dogs did seem on the excessive side. 11 of them including a three legged girl came on our hike with us and helped to egg us on. They were also trip hazards at times. Sophie's place is an arcane delight but I don't think I would like to live there! The language in use was mostly French although Sophie does speak some English. Personally I enjoyed reviving my French from 50 years ago with mixed results but we could have managed fine without. Would I do it again? Definitely although I would find some proper boots and a stout walking stick rather than a random 'baton' handed out by Sophie.

Thank thurnestar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 July 2017 via mobile

What a wonderful way to while away a few hours. We went on the four hour walk with 2 elephants and 2 mahouts and lots of friendly canines. Elephants are there way to the jungle then disappeared for their lunch on fresh bamboo whilst the mahouts prepared our lunch and made us tea in bamboo! They even carved us bamboo cups.
Then the elephants returned and we meandered down to the river to bathe the elephants. They loved this very much and it was delightful
100% recommend

Thank Chefdeb71
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 July 2017

First the pro's. The elephants are well looked after and there are lots of other animals there.

The con's. Way too much walking up steep hills and slippery slopes, it's bordering on the dangerous. The guides had almost no English skills and it's definitely overpriced.

Completely unsuitable for anyone other than those at their physical peak.

Thank coleenf3243
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 July 2017 via mobile

We were a party of 9: (2) mid-70's, (5) 30-40's, (1) 14 year old and an 18 months old visiting from out of town. We booked a full day experience on short notice with Sophie via email/telephone the night before. Usually there's a limit of 7 persons per visit but since we were the only group, Sophie gave us the exception. We paid half price for the 14 year old even though the usual price was for 12 and under. The baby was free.

We stayed a friend's place in Chiang Rai and on the day of, the driver picked us up promptly at 8:30am. The 50 minute drive was an adventure in and of itself for some of us sitting in the back of the open-air pickup truck.

At the camp, we were greeted by Sophie, 30 dogs and the stars of the show: Melanie the mother elephant and the daughter Gypsy. We changed into the provided garments, fed the elephants and off we go on the hike. I don't want to go into much details as something like this is best experienced in person, but here are the highlights:

- choose the easy route. Sophie provided us with a choice of easy and hard route. We chose easy because of the two 70 years old and the baby. Even without them the trekking was physically demanding when you take the swelling heat, humidity and hilly terrain into account.

- lunch in the forest was delicious. We enjoyed a fulfilling portion of authentic Karen cooked meal on bamboo crafted table and chairs. This was capped off with a nice serving of green tea in a bamboo cup and a planting of tree saplings in the forest.

- swimming with the elephants. This is the climax of the journey as we were able to get up close and personal with these magnificent beasts. We got on top of them and some of us were able to ride them for a good amount of time in the water.

Our trip was cut short due to the weather as it was raining pretty hard near the end. This was good in a way that it made the hike back cooler.

Great time was had by all! One regret was that the baby did not go on the elephant when we went swimming but other than that everyone enjoyed it.

Thank Adam S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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