Written by Justin Mewse
Responsible travellers visiting Thailand can experience a wealth of enriching and sustainable activities. Explore the country’s stunning natural landscapes through eco-friendly adventures such as hiking, kayaking, or wildlife conservation programs. Immerse yourself in local communities by participating in community-based tourism initiatives, where you can learn about traditional crafts, agricultural practices, and culinary traditions. Support ethical elephant sanctuaries and animal rescue centres, where you can interact with these magnificent creatures in a responsible and cruelty-free manner. Additionally, engage in mindful and sustainable shopping by visiting local markets, supporting fair trade initiatives, and purchasing eco-friendly products. Thailand offers a wide array of experiences that not only create unforgettable memories but also contribute positively to the local communities and environment.
If you’re seeking an authentic elephant experience, there are now a wider choice of ethical sanctuaries than ever to frequent. One of the best-known elephant conservation projects in Thailand is Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. Established in the 1990’s by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a passionate advocate for elephant welfare, the park is a testament to her dedication and commitment to the conservation and rehabilitation of these majestic creatures.
The primary mission of Elephant Nature Park is to rescue and rehabilitate elephants that have been subjected to various forms of abuse and exploitation. Many of the elephants at the park have been rescued from the logging, trekking, and entertainment industries, where they endured grueling work conditions and were often subjected to physical and emotional mistreatment.
At the park, these magnificent animals are given the opportunity to live in a natural and stress-free environment. They are no longer forced to perform tricks or carry tourists on their backs, and instead, they are allowed to roam freely, socialise, and engage in their natural behaviours. The well-being and happiness of the elephants are of utmost importance at Elephant Nature Park.
Besides Chiang Mai, other recommended elephant sanctuaries to be found in Thailand include The Surin Project in Baan Tha Klang, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, Elephants World in Kanchanaburi and Samui Elephant Sanctuary on Koh Samui.
You can even combine your love of elephants with a glamping stay full of activities such as kayaking, mangrove forest trekking and visiting local markets at Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park.
Cycling in Thailand
Thailand offers an array of captivating cycling routes that cater to both casual riders and experienced cyclists alike. From bustling cities to serene countryside, there’s something for everyone. In Bangkok, the capital, cyclists can explore the city’s vibrant streets and iconic landmarks such as the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Cycling in the city’s Lumphini Park is a fantastic experience. For those seeking natural beauty, the northern region boasts scenic routes through mist-shrouded mountains and charming rural villages, with Chiang Mai being a popular starting point. The landscape around the city of Chiang Rai is a popular cycling destination, and one of the most well known attractions is Wat Rong Khun (otherwise known as the White Temple), famous for its sparkling appearance – the result of tiny pieces of glass embedded in the bright white plaster. In the south, the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui offer picturesque coastal paths, allowing riders to soak up breathtaking ocean views.
Agro-Tourism in Thailand
Thailand has embraced the concept of agro-tourism, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore and engage in agricultural experiences across the country. From traditional farming practices to modern agricultural techniques, agro-tourism projects showcase Thailand’s rich agricultural heritage and sustainable farming practices. In the northern region, Chiang Mai is a hub for agro-tourism, with organic farms and homestays offering visitors a chance to participate in activities like rice planting, fruit picking, and learning about herbal medicine. In the central region, the fertile plains around Bangkok provide opportunities for visitors to discover rice farming and vegetable cultivation. Additionally, Thailand’s tropical climate supports fruit orchards, where visitors can witness the cultivation of exotic fruits like durian and mangosteen. The southern region boasts tea plantations and rubber tree farms, allowing tourists to learn about the production processes of these commodities. Agro-tourism projects in Thailand not only offer educational experiences but also provide income opportunities for local communities, promoting sustainable development and cultural exchange.
Examples of Eco-Friendly Stays
This green hotel and organic restaurant offers a unique stay in Bang Krachao which is known as the ‘green lung of Bangkok’. Enjoy the best of both worlds as you relax amidst the natural surroundings, but are still only a short journey away from downtown. The Bangkok Treehouse is built with bamboo and recycled metal and hires local people who live within walking or cycling distance.
Tucked away in the forests of the western part of the island, when staying at Keemala you’ll forget the hectic lifestyle that Phuket is known for. The hotel’s slogan is ‘Beyond Enchanting’ for a reason: everything here feels like it’s been lifted from a fairy tale, from the bird’s nest villas to the magical gardens. The inspiration for the hotel was taken from four fictional tribes of Phuket people, creating different styles of villas – cottages, tents, treehouses, and nests – that have been given the luxury touch to create a breathtaking resort.
A lot of thought has gone into Keemala’s design to ensure its impact of the natural area is low. Many of the villas sit among the trees to limit deforestation, and were designed to let in as much natural light as possible to reduce the need for electric lights. The organic gardens on-site also allow for further blending in with the natural environment, and produce – from ginger and lemongrass, to coconuts and bananas – are grown here.
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a dream at Soneva Kiri. This beautiful hotel is comprised of a collection of villas, each with their own infinity pools and private butlers, with leafy surroundings and views of the pristine beach. Located on Koh Kood, a stay here feels like a break on a deserted island, and touches like an open air cinema, ice cream parlour, and treetop dining pods give it a unique twist.
Keen to protect the environment surrounding the hotel, Soneva Kiri have worked hard to reduce its carbon footprint and develop the natural beauty in the area. The hotel has banned imported bottled water, launched coral restoration projects to help local marine life flourish, and raised $5.5million through a carbon levy to help thousands of people in need.
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