Hiking with the Elephants

Our guest photo blogger today is Tom who once worked in Northern Thailand for a month, volunteering with the NGO Global Vision International (GVI) to help with elephant conservation in the area. The pictures you can see in this post were all taken during one of his favorite things to do: hiking with the elephants through the tropical forests of the region.

To see more of Tom’s travel photos, see his wonderful collections in his Trover account


Here’s what he says about that memorable experience two summers ago.

Hiking with the Elephants in Chiang Mai

Mighty Thong Dee

During my stay, there were four elephants being monitored. Some of them had earned their owner’s money by performing either in tourist camps or on the streets. Thong Dee – the oldest of the group – spent a number of years working in a logging camp. They were all being rehabilitated, same for Song Kran (who turned 4 whilst I was there) who was born since the programme started. 
Hiking with the Elephants in Chiang Mai

Mother (Boon Jan) and Child (Song Kran).

On weekdays myself and the other volunteers would hike with the ele’s every day, following them wherever they went, came back for lunch, and then journeyed out again in the afternoon. We would record the ele’s behaviour towards each other and what they ate during hikes, that data was then passed on to the university in Chiang Mai.
Despite my short time in the village,  with the ele’s and other volunteers, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I cannot recommend the experience enough, and if you ever get the opportunity to do something similar, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.


A wanderer. A frustrated photographer. Hiker. Lover. Half extrovert, half introvert. Solo traveler.


  • First photo is beautiful. I’ve ridden an elephant when I was in Ayutthaya, going from one temple to another. It was a good experience.

  • Went to Changmai and paid to ride an elephant. But, when two friends and I saw a man beating the elephant hard twice just to make her kneel so we can ride, our hearts were suddenly furious! Wwe went back to the paying booth and took back our money. We explained to them why and they told us that it was necessary. Really? How many beatings do these animals receive in a day?

    • Will,
      I’ve witnessed an elephant being beaten, too–and I was shocked. They were baby elephants and they said they were “on training.” It was horrible. I saw scars and it was heartbreaking. I’ve fed an elephant but I’ve never ridden one. I didn’t want to—and I don’t want to. It’s NOT in my bucket list.

  • beautiful, beautiful! I saw a documentary once about these animals and it’s incredible how they remember people, things and events in their lives.

  • Leave a reply