Sleeping in the Thai Jungle with Elephant Hills
Featured destinations: Thailand
Published 25 August 2016
In the heart of the jungle, Thailand's Elephant Hills camp has become a new ecotourism playground for the responsible animal lover. Like many tour companies in the country, Elephant Hills has listened to the growing concerns of visitors, reshaping their game plan and putting the environment and native creatures' welfare at the top of the priority list. This was why I chose to spend three days exploring the jungle and wildlife here, not as a destructive tourist, but as a welcomed guest.
The Elephant Hills camp is found in the heart of Southern Thailand’s largest stretch of primary rainforest in the Khao Sok National Park. After travelling from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok I checked into one of the luxury tents at the Elephant Hills Tented Camp.
Kitted out with a double bed, a hot water shower and even your own tea and coffee stash, it is a world away from the traditional camping experience, giving you a taste of luxury whilst still allowing you to feel close to the natural wonders of the jungle.
Waking to the sounds of wild monkeys swinging overhead, it was time to meet the celebrated residents, the Asian elephant. Most of us will probably have seen an elephant in real life, but there’s nothing like being able to stand close enough to give them a bath, and feed them their sugar cane, bamboo and fruit for dinner. My heart was well and truly stolen by Haha, the baby of the group who had a cheeky habit of stepping on the hose to soak her trainer while he was trying to give her a shower.
Although many visitors are attracted to the camp for the elephants, by no means is that where the adventure ends. Our first day was completed with canoeing down the Sok river with some amazing views and in the evenings, we were kept busy with authentic Thai cooking classes and performances from local schools, which gave me a real flavour of traditional Thai culture.
Day two brought a trip to the rainforest camp, with a stop on the way at a local market in Takhun. A far cry from the tourist laden markets of Bangkok, Takhun is filled with local produce being selected frantically by locals rounding up ingredients for that night’s meal.
Rows of tents floating peacefully on Cheow Lan lake greeted me as I arrived at the rainforest camp. I was one of the only ones who was not staying overnight, so while the rest of the group headed off on a jungle trek, I revelled in a peaceful swim in the lake and spent the afternoon spotting wildlife in the dense jungle. My journey back to Elephant camp was in a long tail boat, and sitting up front by myself I was honoured with the most incredible view the orange hues of sunset reflecting in the calm river. A moment that truly reminded me of why I choose to travel.
My memorable trip was finished off with an early morning jungle trek. After splitting into groups we headed out with our guide to learn a bit more about the intricacies of the jungle we had been staying in. After an hour or so we headed up to Elephant Hills very own treehouse, where we used fresh coconuts to make soup and barbecued our own meats for lunch - an amazing end to a whirlwind but magnificent few days.