Searching for Wild Elephants in Thailand

 When a lot of people visit Thailand they often go on an elephant ride. As an animal lover I do not feel right about riding elephants. However, it is no doubt that elephants are one of the amazing things that Thailand has to offer. That’s why, I was ecstatic when I heard that I could go and see them in the wild at Khoa Yai National Park.

Khoa Yai National Park is absolutely stunning! Among elephants the park is also home to gibbons, tropical birds, snakes, crocodiles, insects and tigers. As this is wildlife, don’t expect to see all of these on one trip.

To get to Koa Yai National park I took the local train from Ayutthaya. It was dirt cheap but very hot and sticky with no air-conditioning. It was also very loud with people walking up and down the train trying to sell things- such as bags of bugs. This is all part of the adventure though! However, if this is not for you, you can also reach the national Park by booking tours from Bangkok.

When we arrived at the train station, we were literally dropped off in the middle of the train tracks. Outside of the train station we were picked up by our hostel/tour company, Greenleaf Guesthouse. We spent the rest of the day settling into the hostel, eating dinner and meeting fellow travellers. There wasn’t much else around the hostel to do.

The next morning we woke up early, put on our hiking gear and jumped into the back of the truck. The back of the truck had benches for us to sit on and safety bars to keep us in. There were five of us on the tour.

The park fee is 400 baht- this fee is included in the tour price with Greenleaf Hostel (1,300 baht for the tour). We began by going on a 2-3 hour jungle trek that was absolutely beautiful. It was a mucky hike with lots of mud. We were given ‘leech socks’ to put over our shoes to protect us from leeches.  The leeches weren’t the big black leeches that usually come to mind- they were more like tiny worms and you could easily hit them away with a stick.

One of the first things that we saw was a viper! I never would have spotted it if our guide hadn’t pointed it out because it camouflaged so well.

Searching for Wild Elephants in Thailand

We continued trekking through the forest taking in the amazing scenery while our guide pointed out gibbons jumping through the trees and spiders spinning webs. Then our guide suddenly pulled out a telescope and set it up. When we looked through it we saw a beautiful tropical bird! It was a Hornbill. Once again, we wouldn’t have been able to spot it without our guide-he made all the difference.

Searching for Wild Elephants in Thailand
After the trek we were taken to Hew Suwat waterfall, where we ate lunch. While eating  lunch, a monkey snuck into the truck and stole a bag of food! There were monkeys everywhere around the

falls so we had some entertainment while we ate. The cutest were the baby monkeys- it was tempting to want to take them home with you.


After filling our bellies and taking in the scenic falls, we continued with our tour. Now was the part that I was waiting for- we were going to look for wild elephants! We jumped into the back of the truck and headed on our way.

Searching for Wild Elephants in ThailandWhile driving, our truck stopped in the middle of the road and our guide told us to get out. He had spotted a scorpion. Next thing I knew, our guide picked up the scorpion with his bare hands! Then, he asked who wanted to touch it. Thankfully, we had one guy crazy enough to sacrifice himself. The guide told him to close his eyes
and relax (after telling him that the nearest hospital was about 2 hours away). Then he put the scorpion on the guys face!

Luckily, this stunt didn’t involve taking anyone to the hospital and we could continue looking for wild elephants. We jumped back into the truck and continued on our way. The warm Thai air was blowing through our hair, and the crazy guy on our trip was hanging off the back of the truck. It looked pretty fun so I joined him, feeling this exhilaration of freedom.

Suddenly we saw two elephants! They were in the trees but right next to the road. It was majestic. I was blown away by their force and grace. There was something so inspiring yet frightening about seeing an elephant in the wild.

Then, one elephant started walking onto the road towards us. Our guide yelled at us to stay in the truck. Elephants, as beautiful as they are, are still wild animals and can be very dangerous. The elephant was slowly coming towards us and seemed angry. There were cars in front of us so we couldn’t drive away- we were stuck. The elephant was getting closer and closer, trumpeting its horn. I was terrified. I knew the elephant had the power to destroy me if it wanted to.

Finally, the cars in front of us started to move and we quickly drove away. I felt a huge sense of relief. We kept our distance and watched as the elephant stood in the middle of the road eating the leaves off of the trees. I appreciated its beauty more from a safe distance.

We continued driving around and saw one more- I couldn’t believe our luck! Once again, it was right beside the road. I looked the elephant directly in the eye. I felt very small in that moment.

I was so high on life after this trip and I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to see elephants in the wild. Truly amazing.

I usually enjoy trying to do things on my own but this is one of the places that I would definitely recommend getting a guide. Greenleaf Guesthouse was great because they are a local company and know where to look for everything. They drive you around to different hikes and areas where you can find all of the cool animals. The guide also spotted things, such as vipers and scorpions, that I never would have seen on my own.

Above all else, I probably never would have seen wild elephants if is wasn’t for them. It is a huge national park and they know where to go to look for them. From what I have read about this national park, the people who go on their own seem to be a lot less likely to see elephants and other wild animals.

Greenleaf Guesthouse also offers another tour. I would have loved to do it but I didn’t have time since I only had two days off from volunteering in Ayutthaya.  The other tour is a half day tour, and shows the creepy crawly side of the national park. The tour doesn’t start until the afternoon and begins in a cave.

Your guide will teach you about Buddhist practices and you can take a dip in the natural spring. The tour gets a bit more interesting when you learn about all the different cave dwelling insects and creatures. The most exciting event takes place at sunset when you watch literally millions of bats leave the cave in a swarm for their nighttime hunt.

So whether you are into creepy crawlies or wild elephants, Koh Yai National park will have what you are looking for.

Years later I saw wild elephants again in Sri Lanka!

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Searching for Wild Elephants in Thailand

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