For the last five years the 12th of August has been celebrated as World Elephant Day. Set up by Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, World Elephant Day helps spread awareness of the plights elephants face, encouraging individuals and organisations to embrace elephant conservation initiatives.
If an elephant adventure has always appealed to you, find some inspiration with our House of Coco round-up of ethical destinations where you can spend time with them, from safaris in Namibia to elephant parks in India.
Etosha National Park Safari | Namibia
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution and is a great destination for those looking to find a more authentic and ethical African safari experience. Wild Dog Safaris provides a great selection of tours around Namibia that are sensitive to the environment and wild animals. For practically guaranteed elephant spotting, choose a trip that includes a visit to Etosha National Park. There are roughly 2,500 elephants living in Etosha, with single male groups found in the open planes and breeding herds preferring the acacia, sandveld and mopane woodlands.
Baanchang Elephant Park | Thailand
The Baanchang Elephant Park adopts and rescues elephants from illegal and unsuitable living environments. The founder of the park, Pom, used to work as an elephant trekking guide, but after seeing the long hours and amount of work the elephants were forced to do, Pom started up his own park. In his park Pom wanted to focus on a kinder activity for visitors to experience with elephants, ‘Mahout Training’. A Mahout is the name given to an elephant trainer; in past times boys trained as mahouts at an early age, taking responsibility for a baby elephant and growing up together in their trade. However, many parks and camps offer mahout training as a gentler way to spend time with elephants.
The Baanchang Elephant Park offers day camps and breaks where visitors learn to feed, wash and exercise their elephants, even learning how to safely ride elephants in the natural way behind their ears (rather than using trekking chairs).
Dubare Elephant Camp | India
This forest camp on the banks of the river Kayeri is home to retired elephants who once worked for the Karnataka Forest Department. The department has 150 elephants in various camps, but Dubare Elephant Camp has worked with the Jungle Lodges & Resorts Ltd (JLR) to create a unique place for tourists to spend time with the elephants. To spread awareness of the protection of elephants JLR educate their visitors about the history and nature of elephants, as well as hosting participatory events such as elephant baths, feeding, grooming and learning basic Mahout commands.
Family Volunteer Experience | Sri Lanka
Encourage your whole family to be passionate about the survival of elephants with a family volunteering experience in Sri Lanka. Responsible Travel offers families with children over the age of 10 to take part in local charity projects in central Sri Lanka, near the city of Kandy. Families can work alongside conservationists and scientists to track wild elephants, identify them, monitor their behaviour and meet the native communities who have are affected by the presence of elephants.
Elephant Conservation Holiday | Cambodia
Help reintroduce rescued Asian elephants to the wild with a Cambodian conservation break. Responsible Travel offers a seven day experience where volunteers can spend every day observing elephants or helping carry out health checks. Other activities will depend on the requirements of the project or community at the time you travel, but could typically include harvesting pineapples and bananas for elephants to eat, small construction jobs such as fixing and maintaining handrails or roads around the conservation, or helping on the farm.
Find out more about the critical threats elephants are facing and watch the ‘When Elephants were Young’ documentary on the campaign’s website: /worldelephantday.org/