A holiday destination, cultural treat and scenic delight all rolled into one - Thailand is a country that never ceases to amaze.
From the hill country in the north to the azure seas of the southern beaches, the people are renowned for their warmth and charm.
Combine ornate temples and ancient pagodas with glorious beaches, tropical rainforests and stunning mountain scenery. Add bustling cities and buzzing nightlife with markets and bazaars where it is possible to have a tailored outfit made at a fraction of what you would pay in the UK.
Tapping into the sheer beauty of Thailand, the film industry has been using this magnificent backdrop to create movies for many years, including The Beach, Bridget Jones and The Man With The Golden Gun. Interestingly, the one film you may think was filmed in Thailand, The Bridge On The River Kwai, was not. Bonus points if you know where it was filmed...
Most of my clients choose to do a stopover or two when travelling to Thailand. This may include Bangkok, moving up to the north for additional nights and then choosing to end with some R&R on the beach.
In addition to all of this, there is one experience that should be on every Thailand visitor’s bucket list: Elephant Hills – a sustainable camp located in Khao Sok National Park, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Phuket and one of the most incredible sanctuaries for clients looking for inspiring adventures.
Khao Sok was established as a national park in 1980 and stretches for 250 square miles. It is one of Asia’s premier natural wonders and while much of it is carpeted in rainforest, you’ll also see vast limestone mountains that dominate the view at every turn, deep valleys, tumbling waterfalls and beautiful lakes.
Elephant Hills combines the idea of an African safari with the Thai tropical rainforest and offers a luxury camping experience in the jungle or floating on a lake within the rainforest.
If like me, you are horrified at the mere thought of camping, then this is most definitely for you.
Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp made up of 66 luxurious tents. No sleeping bags are required, each tent has comfy beds, a full en-suite shower room which even comes with a hairdryer, a hammock and is fully stocked with all amenities.
If you simply cannot wait to upload your pictures to social media, you can keep in touch with the outside world with Wi-Fi at Elephant Camp. The remote location of the Rainforest Camp means no phone signal and a limited power supply. A perfect way to enjoy being completely cut off from the outside world and fully immersed in nature.
Tours are fully inclusive of accommodation, activities, meals and guides so it really is a fully immersive experience and one you will never forget.
Experiences start from one-night stays and go up to three-night adventures. I recommend the two-night jungle lake safari, a very popular choice with my clients as it gives you the best opportunity to get the maximum from your visit.
On arrival at the camp, you will be served a delicious Thai buffet lunch to tantalise the taste buds, after which kick back and relax on a journey along the Sok River in a canoe to experience and embrace the last remaining areas of Thailand’s primary rainforest, a world which has seen little change in thousands of years.
Arriving at the elephant park, you will have the privilege of getting up close to one of my favourite animals and learn about the Elephant Hills project. Animal welfare and conservation are at its heart for which numerous awards and accolades have been received.
Guides will advise about the elephant caretakers officially known as ‘Mahout’ and the incredible skills employed in looking after one of the world’s largest land mammals.
You will meet the elephants and have an opportunity to interact, observe and feed them in their natural environment - a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Back at camp, relax and absorb the surrounding jungle-covered mountains and enjoy the spectacular panoramic views with a drink at the bar before dinner is served.
There are options for the evening entertainment too, either enjoying a cooking demonstration, watching a movie or, for something more traditional, a Thai dance performed by local school children.
No need for an alarm clock here. After a restful sleep, wake up to a symphony of birds and animals who live in the rainforest surrounding the camp. Breakfast is at a leisurely pace before setting out for your second day of activities.
Start with exploring Cheow-Lan-Lake, a little-known wonder of Thailand’s southern rainforest, the traditional way in a long-tail boat. This is the prime habitat for wild elephants, the rare Asian ox, hornbill, monkeys, tropical birds, amphibians and reptiles - nature at its best and all visible from the comfort of your boat.
The lake contains over one hundred individual islands within its small 71 square miles. Your journey to the floating rainforest camp starts here, where you will check-in for the night into your very own luxury tent with all mod cons. Take in the splendour of the magnificent scenery whilst enjoying a delicious buffet lunch.
The Rainforest Camp power is provided by solar and wind, plus a unique waste management system has been developed to ensure the camp is sustainable.
Complimentary fill-up stations for drinking water have been installed at tour locations to help conserve the beautiful nature and wildlife for future generations and to reduce plastic waste.
Take the opportunity to explore the jungle on foot with your guide who will be able to point out the inhabitants and highlights of the exotic environment as you listen to the cacophony of bird calls and gibbons howling from the trees.
Back at camp, there will be time to have a swim in the water and watch the sunset behind the mountains from your deckchair in front of your tent.
Feel the change in the atmosphere as the night animals wake up and the day wildlife takes a rest. Enjoy a flavoursome dinner before spending time watching the stars and enjoying the surrounding tranquillity.
The last journey of your sojourn is the chance to take out a kayak for a beautiful morning’s adventure spotting the wildlife and enjoying the serene beauty of the rainforest as you drift along.
After a final farewell over lunch, you will be transferred to the next stop on your Thai adventure. The transfers to and from Elephant Hills are included in the final package price and it is possible to arrange them from Phuket, Krabi or Khao Lak, offering the option to include Elephant Hills in conjunction with a stay on a west coast beach.
I can arrange likewise from Surat Thani and Ko Samui as well as additional pick-up points from the east side.
It is said that an elephant never forgets. However you will never forget your unique adventure and the lifetime memories that await at Elephant Hills.