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Home to 70 million people Thailand is famous for its beaches, palaces, food, Buddhist history, and wildlife – with none more iconic than it’s elephants. From tip-to-top Thailand is approximately 1600 kms long (1020 miles) and is 780 km (485 miles) wide.
The most common form of transport for those visiting Thailand, is by way of budget airlines, however, if seeing the country by on ground seems like a better fit, there are over 2500 km of rail lines to service you.
Thailand offers travelers a rare mix of pristine beach getaways, rich jungle experiences, contemporary urban sightseeing, ancient ruins, and unique wildlife tours – all accessible quickly, conveniently and affordably.
Perhaps no other animal is more closely linked to both Thailand and neighboring Cambodia’s international brand than the wild elephant. Named to the endangered species list in 1985, elephant populations have plummeted to approximately 1000 members left in the wild, making for a 99% drop in 100 years.
Best places to visit to see Elephants:
There will be opportunities to see captive elephants throughout most of Thailand, but to see them in the wild, or in an ethical elephant camp or wildlife sanctuary, we suggest heading to Chiang Mai.
Consider supporting a rescue center or sanctuary during your visit. You choose to join a 24-wk career-enhancing internship, and short-term conservation program or drop-in for a day tour with admission costs supporting their long-term prospects.
Thailand is home to Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley sea turtles, and was at one time home to Leatherback populations, although there hasn’t been sighting since 2017. Of the 3 sea turtles that nest on Thailand’s beaches, the Green sea turtle returns in the most abundant numbers. However, it remains a ‘threatened’ species on the IUCN list of at-risk animals and is protected under international law.
Best places to visit to see Sea Turtles:
The Andaman Sea is an ideal nesting ground for sea turtles in Thailand, with particular concentration in and around the Phang Nga province and northwest of Phuket. Of note is the seasonally around nesting with January-March as the peak nesting time.
Consider a 6wk career-boosting internship with GVI in Ban Nam Khem, a town on the Andaman Sea in Southern Thailand. Also, please do not buy jewelry made from turtle shells, and make sure you leave plastic no-waste on any beach visit.
The critically endangered pangolin has the infamous distinction of being the most trafficked animal on the planet – serving a market for traditional medicine, bushmeat, and with their scales being used for an ornamental application.
Best places to visit to see Pangolins:
Pangolins can accommodate a wide array of natural habitats, however, we recommend Khao Sok National Park (north of Phuket) as the ideal location to encounter a pangolin. Under the guidance and strict supervision of a Park Ranger, you will reduce or negate your potential impacts on the ground while learning how to spot burrowed pangolins in tree trunks or under a hollowed rock mass’.
Consider contacting Khao Sok National Park to book your nature tour, and please do not support the commercial pangolin trade in purchasing tourist products such as wind-chimes made from their scales.
When looking for a wildlife tour in Thailand, there are are no shortage of places and no shortage of considerations. Choose a tour that offers purpose in its operations, and considers wildlife as essential to healthy eco-systems and not a tourist commodity.
Thailand has a controversial history with animal mistreatment, and perhaps nothing as drastic as the claims of drugging and abuse at the Tiger Temple in the Kanchanaburi Province. It was here in 2016, that the Thailand Wildlife Conservation Office confiscated 137 Indochinese tigers, and found the corpses of 40 cubs frozen on site. They have since relocated many of the tigers on site. As a whole, local tiger populations in Thailand continue to decline with estimates now putting the domestic wild population of the species at approximately 200 members.
Best places to visit to see Tigers:
With such minuscule numbers remaining in the wild, we recommend you do not look for a tiger experience in the wild, nor are we aware of any ethical sanctuaries where tigers are rehabilitate for release.
Consider India as a destination for you next tiger wildlife adventure.
These gentle giant make their way to the warm waters of Thailand during the first half of every calendar year, with peak season being February to April. Whale sharks can reach up to 40 ft in length and live up to 70 years and are one of only 3 species that are filter-feeders. Globally, whale shark populations are in decline and as they feed on plankton, and are particularly susceptible to changes in ocean climate.
Best places to visit to see Whale Sharks:
If looking to Thailand for a whale shark tour, we suggest you look for options near Koh Tao, Phi Phi and the reefs nearest to the Similan Islands.
Consider a reputable operator that limits their engine operated proximity to the whale sharks and ensures that no camera flashes are used. Essentially, be sure to look for a operator that is unwavering with its operational impacts on local marine life.