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Elephant etiquette that will allow you the best experience

“No one can fail to be enchanted by elephants; they’re one of nature’s most majestic creatures. But what is the best way to interact with them in a manner that doesn’t compromise their well-being?” ~ Trafalgar Tours


The Five Freedoms is a compact of rights for animals under human control. It asserts that animals under human control should have freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear & distress. 

Trafalgar, through The Travel Corporation’s TreadRight Foundation, are committed to Elephant-friendly interactions and joined World Animal Protection in 2016. By signing the Animal Welfare Policy, which is based on the Five Freedoms, Trafalgar is committed to offer only the responsible viewing of elephants in wild or semi-wild habitats. Trafalgar takes a look at five practical ways to have an ethical elephant interaction whilst on your holiday.

When travelling to places like Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, there are many opportunities to get up close and personal with elephants, though it’s important to see them in a happy and humane environment. Here are the five ways to have an ethical elephant experience abroad, so you can appreciate the beauty of these wonderful animals, knowing their wellbeing is paramount.

Elephant Etiquette:

1) Know what to look out for 

Elephants are wild creatures and should be seen as such. Ones that have been born into captivity have tell-tale signs of mistreatment. Does the elephant look well fed? Are its footpads in a good condition? Is it in a clean environment? Does it have company? Is it able to move around freely? Be observant of its surroundings and make sure the elephant is healthy and contented.

2) Only visit them at a responsible centre

Make sure you visit elephants at a place you know has their welfare at heart, whether it’s a conservation centre, sanctuary or national park. For instance, somewhere like Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. Udawalawe was created as a sanctuary for displaced animals and focuses on conservation of the area and its animal inhabitants. Its Elephant Transit Home cares for orphaned calves, and lovingly looks after them until they’re old enough to be released into the wild.

In Thailand, Friends of the Asian Elephant is the world’s first elephant hospital that tends to sick or weak creatures that would otherwise not survive. Visiting a place like this supports the conservation of this captivating species.

3) Sign up for Wildlife SOS to find out how you can help

Wildlife SOS is an India-based non-profit foundation that protects and conserves wildlife in distress. They have two elephant centres to prevent trafficking and rehabilitate them from tourist attractions. Signing up to their newsletter will help you stay connected and inform you how you can help save India’s elephants.

Elephant etiquette

4) Watch, don’t ride

It may seem like a fun, authentic wildlife experience when travelling, but do not ride elephants – they’re not built to carry the weight of humans. Make sure you only support elephant foundations where their wellbeing is of paramount importance, rather than supporting those that have captured or bred elephants in captivity.

5) Sponsor or volunteer

If you’d really like to get involved with elephant conservation, sponsor an elephant or better still, volunteer at a centre or sanctuary. Visit the WWF or Wildlife SOS to find out more about how you can do this. 

Book an Trafalgar Holiday

If you’d like to experience the majesty of elephants responsibly, click here to discover a Trafalgar tour or call them on (011) 280 8400. 

Trafalgar Tours currently has a 4.6 star rating on Feefo from over 8000 reviews. Feefo helps companies and brands listen and connect to their customers; giving them the tools to create better experiences, improve their products and grow their brand.

Trafalgar Tours has also collected 46 major travel awards over the last five years. Some of which are:

Telegraph Travel Awards 2015-16 Best escorted tour operator 2016
Flight Centre Awards Guided Vacations, Mainstream Operator of the Year 2015
Feefo Feefo Gold Trusted Merchant Award 2015

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Tracy Burrows142 Posts

If there is one thing that I have learnt, it is the more I see, the more there is to see! My name is Tracy Burrows and I am the managing editor of Out There Global, a community driven travel platform for both cost effective and luxury travel ideas around the world. From Jan 2014 - Dec 2016 I managed the LatestSightings.com blog (a United Nations World Summit Award Winner: Culture & Tourism 2016 & National Geographic partner). I was also consulting editor at MOZambique Magazine, and contributor at Sawubona. Prior to my career I obtained a tourism marketing degree, and graduated from a 2 year 'Hospitality Management in Development Program' in California. Following this I acquired a journalism diploma and since it's been all about travel and writing! And my nourishment from all those who have impacted me: family; friends; and strangers alike. Thank you for joining our journey!


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