Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat May 21 2016

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  • A Cruising Couple | May 21, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Elephant Hills: A Luxurious Pachyderm Sanctuary

    Elephant Hills: A Luxurious Pachyderm Sanctuary

    Elephant Hills, located in Southern Thailand’s famous Khao Sok National Park, is the country’s first luxury tented jungle camp. Fusing the experience of an adventurous safari with a luxurious getaway, Elephant Hills successfully creates a tropical Thai glamping getaway with a wildlife flair.

    Elephant Hills Elephant Camp

    Newbies to Thailand and luxury adventure lovers that we are, we weren’t quite sure if Elephant Hills would live up to all that it promised. We’re delighted to say we left with an experience that far exceeded our expectations. In fact, our three days at Elephant Hills became one of our absolute favorite experiences in Thailand.

    VIDEO: Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp 

    If you’re on the lookout for unforgettable things to do in Thailand, love to be out in nature, but don’t want to sacrifice comfort to do so, then read on. Whoever said you couldn’t have the best of luxury accommodation and jungle-camping experiences obviously hasn’t stayed at Elephant Hills.

    Khao Sok National Park

    Elephant Hills Khoa Sok National Park Cheow Larn Lake

    Elephant Hills is the ultimate way to explore the Khao Sok National Park, located in the Surat Thani province of Southern Thailand and conveniently close to the three most popular beaches in the area, Phuket, Krabi, & Koh Samui.

    Khao Sok is one of the most incredible national parks in all of Southeast Asia. Marked by breathtaking limestone cliffs that jut out from its characteristic crystal-blue water, stunning waterfalls, hidden caves, and plentiful wildlife, Khao Sok’s natural beauty will blow you away. Even more, perhaps the most incredible feature of this national park is that it’s covered by the world’s oldest evergreen forest.

    The Elephant Camp

    Elephant Hills Elephant Camp

    If you know anybody that’s ever been to Thailand, you’ve probably seen a picture of him or her wrapped up in the trunk of an Asian elephant, or trekking through the jungle atop its broad back. The unfortunate truth, however, is that while most tourists believe they are innocently shedding out a small chunk of cash in exchange for an unforgettable experience with an exotic animal, they are actually fueling an awful, unjust industry that exploits these highly intelligent animals.

    It’s true that not all Elephant Camps are created equal, and most Thai people are deeply respectful of pachyderms. However, as is true of all industries, corruption easily seeps its way in and tourists visiting Thailand must make every effort to seek out wildlife experiences that support the work of good-natured organizations committed to seeing to the wellbeing of their animals.

    We loved our experience at Elephant Hills’ Elephant Rescue Center for this exact reason. Elephant Hills created this safe haven in order to provide a holistic wildlife experience where guests could connect with beautiful Asian Elephants in a safe, respectful way. They rescued 12 elephants from the logging industry that was legal in Thailand until 1989. We were able have an unforgettable experience connecting with massive Asian elephants (one of which was 75 years old!) all the while taking phenomenal pictures and making memories we will never forget.

    Elephant Hills Elephant Camp A Cruising Couple

    Our time with the elephants started by learning about their incredible lifestyle and habits while we observed them happily mingling in the stunning terrain. The elephants were then led to a bathing area where we scrubbed them with coconut shells as they delighted in the nice scratch. Spraying them down with water, and in turn, being playfully sprayed by their trunks, turned bathtime into playtime as these gentle giants were in paradise.

    Bathtime was followed by a scrumptious fruity lunch. The spread of bananas, pineapple and bamboo was waiting for us to chop up in preparation for the elephants’ meals. They hungrily waited for us to finish, stretching their trunks out in an attempt to get a pre-meal snack when our backs were turned. We then hand-fed each of the elephants until their swollen bellies could hold no more. We were impressed with the staff’s knowledge of each individual elephant, showing which elephants could only eat softer food because of their age and pointing out the individual backstory and age of each friendly giant. The thought and care put into the program was evident at all points of time.

    Elephant Hills Elephant Camp Feeding

    The best part of this entire experience was knowing that our money was being used to support the long-term care and restoration of once abused elephants and making a small economical difference in the lives of the Thai tribal people working day in and day out to see to their care. With the exponentially increasing number of tourists coming to Thailand, it’s crucial we travel responsibly and respectfully at all times.

    The Rainforest Camp

    Elephant Hills Khao Sok National Park Rainforest Camp

    The second stint of our journey brought us deep within the Khao Sok National Park as we embarked on long-tail boats, mesmerized by the scenery that surrounded us. Our journey brought us to the heart of Khao Sok’s must-see Cheow Larn Lake where we would indulge in an evening’s stay at the incredible Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, one of the world’s only luxury floating tented camps. Consisting of a series of 20 luxury safari tents, complete with personal bathrooms, and a spacious floating bar and dining area in the center, the Rainforest Camp relies completely on solar and wind energy.

    An impressive spread of delicious Thai cuisine was served up buffet-style at every meal and guests with special dietary needs received individually prepared dishes. Each tent was separated from the rest on its own floating piece of the dock. We enjoyed lounging around enjoying the breathtaking nature encapsulating us and the convenience of being able to jump from our front porch into the water for a swim. Kayaks were readily at hand for exploring more of the national park and a guided hike was offered to those who were interested.

    READ MORE: Befriend an Elephant For a Day

    A Cruising Couple Kayaking in Khao Sok National Park Thailand

    Our time at Elephant Hills will surely go down as one of our favorite travel memories ever. The combination of luxury and adventure was just right and our experiences were made all the more sweeter knowing we were participating in sustainable forms of tourism that benefited the environment, the wildlife and the locals. The staff blew us away with their friendly professionalism and knowledgeable guidance. One thing’s for sure: we’ll be doing luxury camping again!

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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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