Category Archives: Wildlife in Asia

Ethical Elephants Thailand

Hopefully you found this Thailand blog post because you know that riding elephants is cruel and instead, you are looking for a way of helping elephants in Thailand. Please note this post is written in 2022, post covid pandemic and I visited the animal sanctuary recently.

To help elephants in Thailand, you have two options:

  • Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary Thailand
  • Head to a National Park to see wild elephants

Both are amazing experiences and I fully recommend seeing these incredible creatures. For a more intimate and upclose experience then consider a Thailand elephant sanctuary or for a real jungle trip and to see elephants where they truly belong then visit Khao Yai National Park, the best place in Thailand to see wild elephants.

For information about how to experience wild elephants in Thailand, click here.

This post will focus on one of the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and where you can actually experience a lot of Thailand’s wildlife. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand has established an elephant sanctuary near Bangkok called I Love Phants Lodge.

I have visited this amazing rescue sanctuary multiple times and friends and I always recommend this Thailand animal sanctuary to visitors and fellow expats.

The elephant enclosure at I Love Phants, a humane elephant sanctuary near Bangkok

Where to stay to see elephants in Thailand?

Stay at the I Love Phants Lodge and wake up to the sounds of the elephants trumpeting and the gibbons calling. I feel this is the best jungle experience with a luxury twist (and that’s how I sold it to my Mum!). It has a swimming pool, various bungalow options and villas to choose from and offers frequent wildlife tours to see the rescue animals in Thailand. The accommodation on offer is fairly limited so be sure to book this humane elephant sanctuary in advance so you don’t miss out.

swim and watch the rescue elephants in Thailand
Sitting on the edge of the swimming pool and elephant spotting

Rescue Wildlife Thailand: Where do the rescued wildlife come from?

All the animals at the I Love Phants Lodge are rescue animals. The elephants you see here have been rescued from the entertainment industry and from poorly-run zoos. Many of the other rescue animals were rescued from Thailand’s dark pet trade, including gibbons, apes and primates. Many of their stories are incredibly sad but by supporting ethical animal experiences in Thailand we can all help to counteract the awful lives these animals have led before. This is therefore, the best  animal sanctuary in Thailand and, if you love animals, you’ll love your stay at the I Love Phants Lodge.

other rescue animals like gibbons at the rescue sanctuary
Gibbons (my favourite) at the animal rescue centre in Thailand

Ethical animal tourism Thailand

Unfortunately, during my years of living and travelling around Thailand, there is not much ethical animal tourism here. It was only 10-15 years ago where tourists could see elephants in Bangkok, a place where no jungle wildlife should be, let alone an animal that can feel vibrations through its feet. Luckily, along with ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, more and more tourists are calling for no riding elephant sanctuaries and I have seen first hand the impact this has had. When I first visited Thailand 10 years ago, there was ONE elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai that refused to give tourists rides. Now, almost every Thailand elephant sanctuary offers no-riding experiences which is definitely a win for these amazing creatures.

Elephant Reserve Thailand

The I Love Phants lodge feels more like an elephant reserve in Thailand. It has a huge, spacious central enclosure where elephants can roam freely, with the exception of the more aggressive bull elephants who have their own enclosures. You can view the elephants from the outdoor restaurant, from the swimming pool and from your hotel room window! There are many enclosures and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand are constantly expanding as they rescue more and more animals from a life in the pet trade or entertainment industry.

Elephant Viewing Platform aka swimming pool

Elephants near Bangkok

This is the best Bangkok elephant sanctuary as it is found about 2-3 hours drive from central Bangkok. On my last trip, I combined it with a visit to the beach in Hua Hin, which was just a 1 hour drive from the elephant sanctuary.

Food at I love Phants: The humane elephant sanctuary

There is one restaurant and it is very reasonably priced, as well as a bar so you can enjoy your beer and watch the elephants. The buffet breakfast was included but I was disappointed not to see more vegetarian options for a rescue sanctuary! I hope this will improve over time.

Thailand Wildlife Tour

Several times a week, the foundation run a wildlife tour. You go in a small vehicle (like a long golf cart) and are shown all the enclosures in the sanctuary and told the stories about the different animals and how they were rescued and came to be at the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

This is the best place to see wildlife in Thailand because, in the jungle, you never know what you might see (or what you might not) and this is the best wildlife sanctuary to visit that means you experience the animals and support a much needed rescue centre in Thailand.

To book your stay, follow this link to see room options. Alternatively you can book on the website but I found they charged additional fees on my debit card (despite having a Thai bank account!) so I recommend going through Agoda to avoid this, click on the elephants below to compare room prices on Agoda!

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Manta Rays in the Maldives

Disclaimer: The post may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Where to see manta rays in Asia – Indonesia and the Maldives

Manta rays are on every divers and snorkellers’ bucket list to see. They are incredible, curious, gentle giants of the ocean and I have experienced scuba diving and snorkelling with manta rays in Indonesia – Komodo National Park and Nusa Lembongan off of Bali. Scuba diving with mantas here was an amazing experience and nothing beats the first time you see the sheer size of a manta underwater! Since relocating to the Maldives in 2018, I have been swimming with manta rays in Baa Atoll and scuba diving with mantas in Fuvahmulah island.

Types of Manta Rays Maldives

There are two types of rays in the Maldives when we are talking about manta rays, reef mantas and oceanic mantas. It is possible to see both types of rays in the Maldives.Reef mantas are found near coral reefs and are often around 3-5 metres in length. Oceanic mantas we do not know as much about but they can reach a length of 7 metres!

Manta Snorkeling Maldives – Baa atoll Manta Rays

In Baa Atoll, you can swim and snorkel with manta rays in Hanifaru Bay during manta ray season. You can experience swimming with reef mantas and you have a high chance of seeing mantas as this is a very popular area for mantas feeding. The Maldives boasts the highest population of reef mantas that we know about which makes it one of the top manta viewing countries in the world.

Diving with manta rays Maldives – Oceanic Mantas in Fuvahmulah Island

I have also scuba dived with oceanic mantas in the South of the Maldives. For more information about diving with oceanic mantas in Fuvahmulah read my post here.

Where is the best place to see manta rays in the Maldives?

Hanifaru Bay is the best site in the Maldives, possibly one of the best places in the world to see mantas. The mantas come to this area in manta ray season to feed on the plankton that becomes trapped in the bay. Researchers have recorded up to 200 mantas in the bay at any one time making this one of the best places to visit in the Maldives for manta ray snorkelling.

Gopro picture of snorkel with mantas in the Maldives
Snorkelling with mantas in Hanifaru Bay

Where can I snorkel with mantas in the Maldives?

You can go swimming with manta rays Maldives in Hanifaru Bay. Hanifaru Bay is a marine protected area and there are strict rules about how many boats can enter the bay at any one time. To go manta ray snorkeling in Maldives, tourists are permitted 45 minutes of snorkelling time inside the bay which you must access by boat with a qualified guide.

When is the best time to see manta rays in Maldives?

In Baa Atoll, the Maldives manta season is between May-November. July, August and September are the best months to visit the Maldives in order to view mantas and whale sharks in Hanifaru Bay. You can go manta snorkeling in Maldives during these 6 months with an extremely high chance of seeing the mantas.

Manta Rays Maldives: Are mantas dangerous?

No. They do not have sharp teeth and nor are they sting rays so they have no sting or barb in their tail. They are completely harmless and therefore it is safe to snorkel and swim with them.

Manta belly snorkelling in the Maldives
Showing off her spot pattern in Hanifaru Bay – this is how the Manta Trust team ID each manta – using their spots!

Maldives Manta Trust – NGO protecting the mantas

Manta Trust are a UK non-profit organisation founded by Guy Stevens, which works to protect the mantas, research their behaviour and educate others about these animals. Their motto is research, education and collaboration. In Baa Atoll, they have a base in Four Seasons resort Landaa Giraavaru and they also have staff in various other resorts across the Maldives. They collect manta IDs for their database by taking photos of the underside of the manta, they can ID each manta individually. So far there are over 4700 mantas in the Manta Trust database. If you take a photo of a manta’s spot pattern you can send it in to Manta Trust for IDing. If it is a new manta to the database then you are given the privilege of naming the manta! For more information about the amazing work that Manta Trust do in the Maldives, check out their website.


Diving with Manta Rays in the Maldives

While it is possible to go scuba diving with manta rays in Maldives, the best way is to go snorkeling with mantas instead. This is because in Baa Atoll, Hanifaru Bay is a protected area and therefore no scuba diving is allowed inside the bay. The best place to go scuba diving with manta rays in the Maldives, in my experience, is Fuvahmulah island in the south of the Maldives. Read more about how to visit Fuvahulah here.

Where to stay to see mantas in the Maldives – Baa Atoll
For luxury accommodation near Hanifaru Bay

You should consider Four Seasons Maldives, it is one of the top resorts in the Maldives and I actually used to work there. Manta Trust in Baa Atoll has a base within Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru and therefore you will have a manta marine biologist (who are awesome!) with you during your manta trip.

For affordable resorts in Baa Atoll to view the mantas

You could consider Kihaa Resort or Reethi beach resort as both are affordable Maldives resorts. They are also both ones I have visited and/or stayed at. They are near Hanifaru Bay and are a much more reasonable price. Work permit discounts are available for those who work in the Maldives for both these resorts. Look at prices and availability for Reethi beach resort here.

For guesthouses on local islands to see the mantas

You could consider Dharavandhoo island. This island has a domestic airport which means when you fly here from Male you will save on the cost of a speedboat. Compare prices here for budget accommodation in Dharavandhoo for manta viewing.

How to get to Hanifaru Bay from Male

The cheapest way to get to Hanifaru Bay from Male is to fly from Male to Dharavandhoo airport. There are a few airlines that do this such as Manta Air, Maldivian airlines and FlyMe.


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