Mandalao Elephant Conservation – A Guide
Mandalao Elephant Conservation is an elephant sanctuary that’s one of a kind. Located just outside of Luang Prabang, Mandalao is home to a small herd of elephants that have been rescued from the tourist and logging industries. Unlike other institutions that masquerade as sanctuaries, the welfare of the elephants here is paramount. Therefore their range of tours all focus on the connection between humans and elephants, and interacting with them in a respectful way.
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Why should you visit Mandalao over other elephant sanctuaries?
Unlike some other elephant sanctuaries in Laos, Mandalao put the elephants’ welfare first. The elephants aren’t there for you, like some kind of attraction, you are there for them. This means they’re also a strictly non-riding elephant sanctuary and don’t offer any other activities that can cause harm or distress to the elephants. Furthermore, the elephants are only managed through positive enforcement from the mahouts (guides), so they aren’t subject to hooks, sticks or chains that you might see at other places.
What kind of experience does Mandalao Elephant Conservation offer?
Mandalao Elephant Conservation offers 5 different elephant tours to choose from. Although they follow slightly different itineraries, they all have one goal in common – to be an intimate and educational experience. Each tour involves a jungle trek with the elephants where you can interact with and experience them in their natural environment. Most tours also include feeding the elephants, whilst some of the longer tours also include trips to nearby waterfalls and other activities.
Where can you book a tour?
You can book an elephant experience with Mandalao on their website or in their office in Luang Prabang. It doesn’t matter which way you book as the price of the tours is the same either way. However, if you’re visiting in high season I would recommend booking in advance online to avoid disappointment as the conservation is becoming increasingly popular and tour groups are small.
We had the most amazing day at Mandalao Elephant Conservation! We decided to go for the New Beginnings Morning Half Day tour which included a trek with baby Kit, his mother and grandmother. A proper family, how cute is that!
We got picked up from our hostel in the morning and driven there, which was included in the tour cost. On arriving at the centre we were given a talk by Prasop Tipprasert, the project director. He gave us lots of really interesting information about the elephants, the conservation’s efforts and their wider work in Laos.
After the talk, we started by feeding the elephants and then trekked through the jungle with them. The best part was just witnessing elephants being elephants. Watching them pull down branches, feed themselves, and in baby Kit’s case be quite naughty. After we finished our trek we went back to the centre for lunch before heading back to Luang Prabang.
Verdict: Overall I would really recommend Mandalao for anyone wanting a Laos elephant tour that puts the elephants first. Although their tours are slightly more pricey than other ones in Luang Prabang, to know that you are supporting a conversation where they properly care for the elephants makes it worth every penny.