Thar be Elephants — Phangan Safari

Elephant at Phangan Safari Chaloklum Koh Phangan Thailand

Coming towards Chaloklum from Thongsala your first introduction to Phangan Safari is an elephant crossing sign just after the mountain pass. Another hundred meters or so along the road a large sheltered area confirms the sign isn’t just a joke. Thar be elephants.

Phangan Safari is home to about 5 or six elephants, ranging from a skittish adolescent and a grandmotherly cow,  to a great tusked bull, all of which are willing to take you on a trip into the Chaloklum hills for a few hundred baht per person. The treks can last anywhere from 15 minutes for a quick trip around the elephant camp, to full-blown treks into the hills and even to Pheang waterfall. Obviously price depends upon the length of trek you choose.

Of course if you just want to see an elephant, that is ok too. Phangan Safari encourages those who are merely curious and for a few Baht, they have baskets of banana on had so you can hand feed the elephants as they relax between trips. If elephants aren’t your thing there are a few monkeys, some squirrels, a snake show and, a recent addition, a crocodile show featuring  about 10 freshwater crocodiles, the largest of which is just shy of 3 meters in length. There are also usually puppies and the requisite stray dog.

Phangan Safari Snake Show Chaloklum Koh Phangan Thailand

Phangan Safari Snake Show Chaloklum Koh Phangan Thailand

The elephant treks themselves are well worth the effort, if only to demonstrate the agility of these massive beasts.  An animal weighing easily more than a car or two can negotiate narrow steep and loosely packed tracks around Chaloklum that even the best 4 wheel drive vehicle would be at a loss to consider. There are a few caveats though — the ride is not a smooth one, so anyone with small children should be aware that  they will be well occupied keeping both themselves and their child in the seat, especially on the descent back to camp.

Also be aware that this is Thailand, and safety is left largely up to you. There are no seat belts.

Next, Koh Phangan is hot, and while an hour long trek may seem a great idea, it is a long time to spend swaying back and forth in direct sunlight.

Finally, remember these animals are intelligent sentient beings with their own sense of free will — they will stop to tear a particularly appetising tree out of the ground despite the fact that you are paying for a ride. Basically, neither you or that skinny Thai guy on the elephants back will deter them from whatever it is they get a mind to do.

Elephant trekking in Thailand can be a controversial issue (as can the way the way all animals are treated in general) and these elephants in particular seem well enough cared for. That said, if you are looking to find offense here, you will likely find it, but  bear in mind that many of Thailand’s working elephants end up walking the streets of Bangkok and other urban centers, often on bizarre concoctions or methamphetamine to keep them going . These beasts are not cheap to maintain, and often their owners struggle to keep them fed. Phangan Safari in Chaloklum seems to be  maintaining a good balance.

Adolescent Bull and Baby Elephants Chaloklum Koh Phangan Thailand

more elephants

One final caveat is that the animals at Phangan Safari, especially the monkeys, are wild animals. They can be unpredictable, mischievous or just plain vicious. This being Thailand, the is onus on you to protect yourself and your belongings. Don’t go to the operator if they make off with your camera, wallet or the end of your finger. They will help you get it back, but it will be your own fault. The monkeys have had their shots, and social responsibility ends there.  Believe me I know.

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