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Ruth’s Blog: My first visit to The Bush Camp Chiang Mai in Thailand

My love affair with the spectacular Elephant Hills is well documented.

Having now visited twice and organised many memorable visits for happy clients, I was very excited to have the opportunity to check out its sister resort, nestled in the lush landscapes of Northern Thailand close to the city of Chiang Mai.

The Bush Camp Chiang Mai is located on the Ping River and opened as an addition to the Elephant Hills family at the end of 2022.

The pinnacle of sustainable and ethical travel experiences and providing integral support to the local community, it consists of 10 tailormade, luxury tents, resembling African safari accommodation – all built by highly skilled local artisans.

Guests are invited to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Thai wilderness, engage in authentic elephant encounters and embrace the tranquillity of nature, all while upholding the highest ethical standards and respectful of the natural world and its inhabitants.

To maximise my limited time, I took the short 70-minute flight from Bangkok and headed out of the city with the complimentary transfer provided as part of your package.

The Bush Camp is about a two-hour journey with a pit stop included in both directions. As you head north, the lush green hills and fields soon prepare you for the peaceful surroundings that lie ahead.

The unique area around the camp is a prime habitat for a myriad of exotic birds, including the green peafowl. The stunning mountain scenery and views of the Wat temples provide a perfect authentic backdrop to the region.

Upon arrival, I was welcomed with a refreshing cold towel and drink before going straight to lunch.

With only one other couple there, it didn’t make sense to have the usual full buffet, so we were treated to several local dishes à la carte. The food was delicious, and beautifully presented, and dietary requirements were extremely well catered for.

The first activity after lunch was visiting and feeding the elephants. The experience includes getting to prepare their food, whilst learning about what they like to eat and a little about their respective personalities.

Chopping sugar cane and preparing their vitamins is a vital part of ensuring these immense creatures get their required daily food intake of 160kg! Humans consume a mere 1.5 - 2kg a day.

Each elephant has a dedicated mahout who is with them every day and night. The bond and trust that this creates cannot be broken.

The camp is home to just nine elephants, offering plenty of opportunities to marvel at them in their natural surroundings. You can watch them splashing in the water, using their trunks as snorkels, or observe the impressive amount of food they consume.

Here are some interesting elephant facts I learned:

  • You cannot breed Asian and African elephants together as their chromosomes are not compatible.

  • They have six sets of teeth in their lifetime.

  • Asian female elephants do not have tusks.

After spending time, feeding and watching the amazing elephants, we were introduced to the local Karon tribe.

They live today as they did centuries ago, growing their own rice, making coconut cream from scratch, and weaving their own clothes.

They build their houses from wood with the help of the community, so it only takes a few days. Each home has a drawbridge at the entrance to protect against wild animals at night. Once they finish work, they go home and stay there, not venturing out after dark.

While you’re engaged in the afternoon's activities, your luggage is delivered to your tent. Having been to the Elephant Hills camp in Khao Sok, I knew what to expect.

There are 15 tents at Bush Camp that come with air conditioning, plenty of fans, a mini-bar (at extra cost) and a telephone, making them cool and comfortable.

With panoramic views over the plains, you can watch cows roaming in the distance, eagles flying overhead and listen to the birdsong and peacocks. The beautiful ambience of these surroundings allows you to slow down, take it all in and simply breathe.

After some relaxation and an opportunity to freshen up, it's time for a flavoursome and plentiful dinner. It's nice to chat with fellow guests over a couple of drinks, and there are plenty of board games available for some quality time together. Generally, it's an early night as the days are busy.

The Bush Camp restaurant

I also had the opportunity to catch up with members of the team at Bush Camp, including the wonderful Kwang, whom I last met in London and was visiting from the head office team.

On Day Two, following a tasty breakfast, there is more time with the elephants. This time, their food is prepped and ready for you, so you can focus on feeding them and spending time observing them in their natural habitat.

We also had the chance to make their vitamins, essential for keeping them healthy. Since they don't like tamarind, we disguised it by mixing it with boiled squash, bananas, spring onions, rice and pellets!

There’s also the unique opportunity to make paper from elephant dung, which isn’t as yucky as it sounds! Truly, not much goes to waste at the camps; everything that can be reused is.

Locally made coffee and tea are served with a sweet treat, Kanom Krok (coconut pancake). We spent some final moments with the elephants before heading back to the main camp for lunch (yes, more food!) and preparing for the return to Chiang Mai.

I loved my first visit to the new Bush Camp. The Elephant Hills vibe and guest service have undoubtedly been recreated in the lush green tranquillity and beauty of northern Thailand.

Spending time with these incredible animals and escaping into this unforgettable experience was once again a total privilege.

Please get in touch for further details and to plan your Bush Camp or Elephant Hills adventure.


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