Have you ever dreamt of sleeping under the stars in the jungle? How about lounging over breakfast as you watch a group of elephants peacefully stroll by?
This may sound like something out of a dream, but a resort in Thailand is making it a reality.
The Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort in Northern Thailand is now offering guests the opportunity to stay in “Jungle Bubbles”: 263-square-foot transparent bubbles nestled in the jungle on the grounds of the resort.
Made of high-tech polyester fabric, these bubbles are air-conditioned, feature a king-sized bed, and have a living room with a seating area. Each bubble has an en-suite bathroom (which is not transparent), and a resort worker will bring your dinner right to you in a basket, so you can lounge around and watch the sunrise and set in your own jungle oasis.
And the best part? The bubbles are situated in an area that is highly trafficked by the local elephants, all of whom have been rescued from the streets of Thailand .
There are approximately sixty elephants who live on the grounds of the resort, all of whom have been rescued from the streets.
Despite the fact that it is illegal to have elephants walking the streets of Thailand, there are currently more than one hundred elephants used for begging in the country’s capital city. Every month, at least fifteen elephants are injured in a traffic incident, and yet they are often still forced to walk for hours despite their injuries. Often, these elephants were babies who were taken away from their mothers .
The majority of these elephant handlers are not properly trained on proper elephant care and control, and their keepers are more concerned with profit than the well-being of the animal. The baby elephants are forced to walk around the dusty streets for hours without adequate shade and are often underfed to keep them “small and cute” .
There are many negative health outcomes that elephants in this environment experience, including injured feet from walking all day before their feet are fully developed, skin damage from being out in the sun without adequate shade, trunk and lung damage from being exposed to smoke and exhaust for hours every day, hearing impairment from the noise of the city, and depression .
The Anantara Elephant Camp rescues elephants from that environment and gives them a space where they can live the rest of their lives in peace and tranquility.
Is The Anantara Resort Ethical?
The resort is doing excellent work with rescuing elephants from these hazardous environments, however, as with any form of animal tourism, it is important to be both critical and cautious. The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand advises all tourists against paying for any type of entertainment that comes in the form of elephant exploitation .
What Anantara is Doing Well
The resort offers a variety of experiences, some of which are done very well and are quite ethical. One such experience is called “Walking With the Giants”. The website description is as follows:
“Journey into the jungle with our elephants and their mahouts on their daily walk, and watch as these gentle giants splash in the river or play in the mud, snack on leaves from nearby branches, and socialize with one another.” 
During this experience, the resort’s vet introduces you to the elephants and teaches guests about the elephant as a species during the walk. The camp does not breed any elephants, and all the elephants that have been taken in are brought there along with their mahout and their family, providing an income for that family without them having to resort to other forms of elephant tourism.
The walk provides a mutual benefit for the tourists, who get to have an up-close experience with the animals, as well as for the elephants, who get to exercise, socialize, and eat as they would in the wild .
The Elephant Picnic
While this experience provides less obvious benefit for the elephants, it does give them an opportunity to play, and to sneak some food from unsuspecting tourists. The website description is as follows:
“Let the Anantara chefs prepare a personalized gourmet hamper. Savor a picnic in scenic seclusion, surrounded by the elephants as they, too, snack; breathtaking landscapes and incredible views of the fabled Golden Triangle.” 
Where Anantara Needs Work
There are two main areas where the resort’s ethics fall short. Firstly, during the “Dining by Design” experience, wherein guests can have a romantic dinner at a rustic lodge where they can feed the elephants and watch the sunset. The issue with this experience is that the resort uses an electric fence to keep the elephants from getting too close to the lodge. While it is understandable that they would not want the animals too close to the diners, putting them at risk of physical harm is not the solution .
Finally, the least ethical activity at the camp is elephant riding. The resort claims that they have riders sit on the elephant’s neck, as opposed to the center of its back, which is much more comfortable for the elephant, and that they choose the elephant based on the weight and size of the rider, however, there are still many problems with this activity.
The main issue here is that regardless of whether or not the resort offers “ethical elephant rides”, the main reason people do it is so that they can post a picture to their social media to show them “checking off an item on their bucket list”. Unfortunately, others will see these photos and want to do the same, however, not everyone is going to do their research and ensure that the resort they are going to is treating the elephants properly, thus perpetuating the exploitation of the animal for tourism .
Booking Your Stay
Despite a few shortcomings, the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort is doing great work rescuing mistreated elephants from the streets of Thailand and is one of the more ethical forms of elephant tourism in the country. It is important to do your own research to ensure that any activity you choose to do at the camp, or at any other resort, is safe for the elephant before booking, and we do not advise elephant riding here or at any other tourist establishment.
If you would like to book a stay at the resort, a Jungle Bubble Suit costs 585 dollars per night for two people.
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