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At the age of 7, some 30 years ago, Maew Suriya, the founder of Samui Elephant Haven’s parents moved from Surin Province to run a circus. Even from this young age, it was Maew’s dream to create a sanctuary for elephants – a real haven for them to live out their lives happily and roaming free.
“For many generations, my family has worked with elephants and it was always my dream to give elephants a happy life. I trained as an accountant but always felt that something was missing. I was fortunate enough to visit Lek Chailert at Elephant Nature Park: this is where I realised that my dream was possible. It was this visit that was the inspiration behind Samui Elephant Haven.
I chose love over money”.
Visitors to the sanctuary are provided with a meaningful encounter with these magnificent animals in an environment where they are respected and admired.
Are you related to Samui Elephant Sanctuary?
Samui Elephant Sanctuary and Samui Elephant Haven are the only ethical sanctuaries on the island of Koh Samui. There are many trekking camps and places that offer bathing with elephants. We neither provide elephant riding or bathing; not only is this practise cruel, but it doesn’t allow the elephants to play freely as they would in nature.
What happens on a daily basis at the Haven?
Elephants eat for up to 18 hours a day, so a lot of food has to be provided! As herbivores, elephants consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily not to mention bananas, juicy watermelon and coconuts. Elephants drink almost 200 litres of water – that is like a bathtub full of water! With this amount of food, you can imagine the amount of cleaning that goes with it.
The mahouts spend their days with their elephants ensuring that they are safe and cared for. Restaurant staff prepare delicious vegetarian lunches and dinners for our hungry guests. Drivers provide transfers to and from the hotels and other lodging facilities.
Rescues are planned, enclosures are built, elephant behaviours are studied, and footage for social media is taken. All of this plus the usual running of a busy office.
What can visitors expect?
At the Haven we offer two tours a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I try to welcome all of the guests personally. Refreshments are served and there is a little talk about the safety aspects that guests need to be aware of and a short video which gives an insight into the unethical trekking and why we rescue many gentle giants. This film is always educational for our visitors.
Then we feed the elephants from the viewing deck. We give guests goodie bags filled with bananas for the elephants and hats to protect them from the sun and set off walking around our protected haven. The guides give detailed explanations to elephant behavior and chat with the guests; they are always available to answer any questions.
How can people get involved and help?
By merely visiting Samui Elephant Haven is helping.
Visitors enable us to continue running the sanctuary and rescuing more elephants. We have a gift shop where guests can purchase items that have been ethically sourced and produced on the island.
Our local community is always supporting us with various projects. You’ll notice the beautiful bins that were donated by Samui Trash Bins; a volunteer group that makes disposing of trash fun!
What are the plans for the future?
The plans and dreams are to buy land so that we have complete security for our ever-growing herds; to continue to educate people about ethical tourism and to say no to trekking and bathing. And to continue to rescue poorly treated elephants.
And leave us with the Elephant Haven philosophy…
We are motivated by a desire to free elephants from a hard life working in traditional forms of elephant tourism and provide a caring home where the elephants can recover from the trauma of their past and live in nature with peace and dignity.
The inspiration for this project comes from the work of renowned elephant rights advocate, Sangduean ‘Lek’ Chailert. Guided by Lek’s ‘Saddle Off’ model, promoted by Save Elephant Foundation and Asian Elephant Projects, we have embraced this evolution in elephant tourism.
Guests to Samui Elephant Haven have the unforgettable experience of learning about elephants while feeding them and observing their spontaneous behaviour – playing together in their custom-built pool and mud pit, communicating with each other using vocalisations and their trunks, as well as foraging while roaming the tropical grounds. Our goal is simple – to provide a happy, loving home for our herd of rescued elephants where visitors can come and experience the majesty of these remarkable animals in nature.
Contact them on their Facebook Page.