***GUEST BLOG BY Whitley Lane***
During February this year, I took an unforgettable trip to Thailand with my family to celebrate my Mum's 50th birthday. Jenny helped us arrange a 3 centre holiday including Phuket, Elephant Hills and Khao Lak. This is my blog on the experience. After a long flight (we took a direct Thai Airways flight to Bangkok plus an internal Thai Airways flight to Phuket), we were grateful to have 2 nights in the amazing Mövenpick Hotel in Karon Beach, to relax.
By far the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in, its tranquil settings and luxurious accommodation makes it perfect for honeymooners, couples and adult families wanting a relaxing break. Even with its calming atmosphere, its good for kids, particularly with its extensive kids club – we travelled with a 6 and 9 year old who loved it. Its designated ‘Chocolate Hour’ everyday was definitely a highlight!
The second and most loved part of our trip was our 4 day visit to Elephant Hills. A unique experience for all ages to enjoy, we thought it would be a perfect choice for this celebratory holiday. Elephant Hills have really got it all covered: they provide their own transfer from wherever you had previously stayed, in air-conditioned, plush minivans, even when our hotel was 4 hours away! Additionally, the staff are so friendly and the welcome upon arrival makes you feel well looked after from start to finish. We became great friends with our tour guide, who was with us every activity throughout, and really made the trip special for us, getting to know the kids especially.
Elephant Hills do a variety of packages ranging from 2-4 days. All including similar activities, we went for the longest 4-day safari, experiencing all the unique activities they offer. Situated in Khao Sok National Park, you get a true jungle experience – the ‘tents’ provided have en suites with large double beds and a nice outdoor area to relax in the evenings in your hammock or chairs.
Our adventures began immediately, with day 1 including canoeing down a beautiful river with breath-taking mountainous views on either side, and of course, meeting their elephants. As an animal lover, I was personally concerned about the ethics behind keeping elephants, and did my research before going (as I’m sure many people would do). Compared to most other elephant “sanctuaries” (as they like to call them) in Thailand, I saw with my own eyes that Elephant Hills truly prioritise elephant welfare above anything else. They’ve received awards for excellent animal welfare and sustainable tourism, and are one of the only chain-free elephant parks on the planet. In fact, these 12 majestic elephants have been rescued from tourist attractions that could never been called Ethical. During our visit, we interacted with, washed, prepared their food and fed them, a truly unique experience I’ll never forget.
Whether you are a fan of authentic Thai food or not, the meals were consistently high-quality with a big range of choice in the buffet-style restaurant. If you do love Thai food, you will not be disappointed – their curries are AMAZING. We travelled with a fussy 9 year old eater, and even she was able to eat well– Elephant Hills have got it all covered! During special occasions (we happened to be there on Valentines Day), Elephant Hills make a big event, with a luxurious dessert table and various decorations, giving a lovely atmosphere to the communal dining.
Evenings consisted of relaxing with a drink, watching traditional Thai dances, and taking part in their cooking demonstrations.
Day 2 was my personal favourite day, the day I really felt we got to see Thai culture and natural beauty. Our group (typically around 12 people) travelled into a local market, exploring the variety of foods and goods on offer. After this, we took an hour trip in a traditional Thai boat on Cheow Larn Lake – one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. We left the boat at Elephant Hill’s second camp: Rainforest Camp. There are options to stay one night here, with private swimming areas in the lake among exquisite settings.
Many honeymooners (which made up a large number of our group) did this as a way of having some alone time. During our time at Rainforest Camp we were free to explore as we wished: my siblings and I kayaked around the area, spotting wild monkeys in their natural jungle habits, and swam in the lake’s crystal waters, before enjoying another incredible Thai meal, then making our way back by boat.
By the third day, we didn’t think it could get much better and so were completely taken by surprise at how unique and fun our day was. We were taken for a trip on a speedboat through screen-saver like settings – it didn’t seem real! We came to a floating Burmese Junk Boat in the middle of nowhere, to experience a traditional lunch and relaxing on board. We then canoed from the boat into mangrove channels, exploring the peaceful nature around us and having loads of fun. On our way back, we sailed through the jungle with all its natural vines and greenery, spotting crocodiles and snakes, watching wild monkey families playing a mere metre away - this was an experience we reminisce on as being truly once-in-a-lifetime and one of the highlights of the trip.
Day four was the travel home day, but they still managed to fit in another exciting activity. We did a trek through the jungle terrain, hearing and seeing loads of wild animals and nature that reminded us how authentic our trip had been. In a random jungle clearing, we were taught how to cook some Thai dishes which included cooking Thai-style pork on bamboo with fire, and extracting coconut milk from fresh coconuts. SO fun!
After a full lunch, Elephant Hills transferred us to our last stop: The Sands by Katathani, for a seven day all-inclusive relaxation - just what we needed after the non-stop excitement from Elephant Hills. Boasting a large water park area and variety of different accommodation, it would be most suitable for families – we had two rooms, one of which was a unique ‘Teen Suite’ with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Situated on the beachfront, it was the perfect chill setting to watch sunsets.
Our trip was perfect for all ages, and something we will all treasure forever. If you are thinking of going to Elephant Hills, DO IT! You won’t regret it, we experienced so many once in a lifetime moments which we all unanimously agreed made it our favourite holiday ever.