Spent 4days at BEES at the beginning of August. Emily, Burm and the rest of the team are fantastic, super knowledgeable and passionate about giving elephants a good life and educating and informing people about the wider issues that elephants face.
So lovely to see elephants roaming chain free!
We had an amazing time meeting the team and other volunteers, bathing and feeding the elephants and trekking with the elephants in the jungle.
Huge thanks to Emily, Burm and the rest of the team for having us!
Rowan. H, August 31st 2017
We just spent a magical week at Bees. My daughter and I spent a lot of time researching to find just the right ethical place to visit and work with elephants. We were not disappointed! It was a perfect combination of fun, learning and some work with the elephants. We loved the staff. They made such an effort to make the experience fun and meaningful. At the end of the week they felt like family. The food was delicious. Learning about and interacting with the elephants was enlightening. We loved meeting new volunteers and having some new friends. Burm and Emily were fantastic. They did everything they could to take care of the elephants and us! We would highly recommend!
I spent a week at BEES and I wish I’d spent longer! It was the best week of my life so far and was so rewarding. At the sanctuary it’s not just about the elephants, there are loads of cats and dogs as well. The programme provides a very well rounded experience, not only did we help look after the elephants, we also made Thai desserts, went to the local school to help with the English lessons and went to many temples in the local village of Mae Chaem. Everyone at the sanctuary is so nice and you straight away feel at home. I have a nut allergy and they were amazing with tailoring meals to my specific needs. I cannot put into words how much I recommend this programme and how amazing it. I am definitely going to go back to the sanctuary and spend more time there!
THIS IS THE BEST ELEPHANT SANCTUARY YOU COULD EVER VISIT.
This is such an amazing sanctuary. Many places call themselves “sanctuaries” or “care homes” but make the elephants pick up the tourists or make them go through the same activities and spend the WHOLE day with humans for our entertainment… disgusting. BEES is such a breath of fresh air from all of that. I spent hours on the internet looking for a place like this and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed from my experience there. Located 3 hours outside of Chiang Mai, they keep their sanctuary intimate and small (maximum 8 volunteers) to keep from overwhelming the staff and elephants. All of the elephants are rescued from the tourism industry and are living out their golden years living like an elephant should (they are 60-70 years old).
Your interactions with the elephants include observing them grazing with their mahouts in their natural habitats deep in the jungle on the elephant walk, bathing and feedings each day, preparing their food, and cleaning their night areas. That said, it’s not all day with them, but you spend more than enough time hanging around them. They are going about their lives and you are just there to provide for them along side the staff. You are at the sanctuary to provide an extra set of hands to help out with all of the work (and caring for elephants is A LOT of work) and you are always busy doing something. The sanctuary grounds are filled with dogs and cats and trust me, I was not a cat person going into this but I fell in love with the cats there.
I stayed for four days and that was most definitely not enough (a common theme from volunteers). We worked alongside Got, one of the guys that led our daily adventures. Everyone that worked there was so much fun! Everyday was hard work but they always made it fun and told lots of jokes and stories. Burm has such a contagious laugh and is such a happy guy. Beware, he likes to pick water fights when you bathe the elephants!
They have a schedule up in the volunteer area that has the daily tasks (see photo attached) but it is very flexible and can switch around. The day starts at 8 with breakfast, then the day’s activity. There’s a break until the elephant feed/bathing time around 2-4 (it’s Thai time…. it just happens when it happens) and then theres a short break before dinner (usually when everyone showers) before dinner at 6. Downtime after, which is usually spent around the table talking and hanging out and telling stories with the volunteers and staff. You are also in charge of feeding the dogs every morning and night (one of my favorite times).
Oh and they always feed you… oh man do they feed you. There is always an overfilling supply of exotic fruits up in the volunteer area and every meal is made just minutes before its served by the staff. Breakfast is more western style (eggs, toast, etc) but lunch and dinner is thai style that varies so you never get tired of it. IT IS SO GOOD.
The rooms are simple, just a room really, but it’s just like the houses that the staff and mahouts lives in down the road. Not that it even matters, the only time you spend in your room is when you are sleeping. They provide an electric fan and mattress and bedding and a mosquito net for you! There’s also a lightbulb and outlets in the room. The toilets and shower area is WAAAY nice – nicer than anything you’d expect with two sinks, western toilets and a shower hose with running water (only cold water, but trust me, you don’t even want hot water at the end of the day)(ALSO don’t throw the toilet paper in the toilet!). You spend most of your down time up in the volunteer area, a raised and roofed area that is absolutely beautiful (it’s also where the cats hang out) and decked out with a hammock and games and books. It overlooks the passionfruit farm next to the sanctuary housing and has SUCH a GORGEOUS view. It has electricity and outlets to charge your devices, but no wifi (and trust me, you don’t even want wifi) and provides a nice break from busy life. You’re asleep by 10 and up by 6 or 7 (depending when the dogs start barking but you come to like the natural alarm).
When you go, make an effort to get to know the people there, maybe try to pick up some Thai! It’s a beautiful place and a once in a lifetime experience to be here. You are deep in the jungle living a simple life being around so many great people an animals. Also pro-tip: pack lots of bug spray! The tiny little flies in the jungle are worse than the mosquitos.
I could not recommend this place more and I feel so disgusted when I hear about any other claimed “elephant sanctuary” that isn’t as respectful of the animals as BEES. What Emily and Burm are doing here are amazing, and getting to talk to them about it was an honor. I can’t wait to see what they do next!
I am so grateful to Burm, Emily, Got, Shin, and Tan for their welcoming hospitality. This was such an amazing experience. I fell in love with Thailand and Chiang Mai, and BEES and I can’t wait to come back.