The remarkable transformation of the Mae Sa Elephant Camp
In 2019, just before the pandemic struck, the owners of the Maesa Elephant Camp rebranded this elephant venue as the Maesa Elephant Conservation Park. Many people though still associate this home of many elephants in captivity with an old-fashioned tourist attraction offering elephant shows and elephant riding. It is hard to imagine this not happening anymore when you step inside the Maesa Elephant Conservation Park grounds. There are no big tour buses but only minivans. The entrance is 100THB per person, for which you get a tray of food to feed the elephants.
The history of the Maesa Elephant Camp/Conservation Park
In 1976 Mr.Choochart Kalmapijit founded the Maesa Elephant Camp. With the growth of tourist arrivals, the camp expanded and offered elephant rides and shows. In the 1995 edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook Thailand, a Travel Survival Kit, author Joe Cummings wrote about the Mae Sa Valley loop. “There are at least four places along the loop that call themselves elephant ‘camp,’ ‘farm’ or ‘village.’ Best of the bunch is the Mae Sa Elephant Camp near Mae Sa Falls, where it costs 40B per person for a one-hour elephant show at 0930 am daily, or 40B per person to ride an elephant any time throughout the day.”
In 2019 Anchalee Kalmapijit, daughter of the founder, took over the camp’s management and decided to retire all elephants from work. Now the camp doesn’t offer elephant rides and shows anymore and just takes care of their residential elephants. Of those 68 elephants, 17 are elderly elephants that live at The Chang.
The Chang, the former Thai Elephant Care Center
About ten years ago the owners of the Mae Sa Elephant Camp established the Thai Elephant Care Center next door. The new venue was to take care of their elderly, retired elephants. The Thai Elephant Care Center offered an elephant-friendly and educational experience. There was limited interaction with elephants and no bathing and no riding. It became reasonably popular but was marred by the presence next door of the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, that offered shows and riding.
As said, this all changed in 2019. In the same year the owners of both venues rebranded the Thai Elephant Care Center so The Chang (Thai for “The Elephant”) was born. The Chang offers a half-day educational elephant experience which doesn’t include bathing. The Chang also has an elephant cemetery, which is very touching. It is an excellent place with a good heart.
The Maesa Elephant Conservation Park
Why do we like the Maesa Elephant Conservation Park? First of all we admire the brave decision of the owners to retire all elephants. The park offers photo opportunities and harmless elephant encounters for a small fee.There is no entrance fee but we include elephant food for 200THB per person on our tours. If guests are interested, they can join the elephants taking a bath, for which you have to pay an extra 300THB. It is a great alternative for visitors who don’t want to spend hours on an elephant experience.
The Chang/Mae Sa Elephant Conservation Park covers an area of 300 ha so there is enough space for the 68 elephants. What once was old-style elephant entertainment center is now a genuine elephant-friendly care center. It is the most educational elephant venue in Chiang Mai. Its 78 elephants deserve our support. It is the best place for people who want to spend an hour with elephants and learn about them.
The location of the Mae Sa Elephant Conservation Park
The Mae Sa Elephant Conservation Park is about 30km northwest of Chiang Mai in the Mae Sa Valley. Unfortunately, Google Maps and the Google for Business listing of the venue still mention that they are offering elephant shows and riding. I notified them of this months ago, but they haven’t changed it.
Green Trails tours that include a visit to the Mae Sa Elephant Conservation Park
The Park only features in two tours up to now but there will be more. This elephant venue is ideal for people who want to spend an hour with elephants on a drive-by visit.