FAQs

Answers to Most Frequently Asked Questions

ECC elephant welfare policy

Our Policy at ECC is based on best practices and rely heavily on the  “Five Animal Freedoms” (Source: OIE International)

1. Freedom from malnutrition

  • by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from thermal and physical discomfort

  • by providing an appropriate environment including shelter, shade, access to bathing facilities and social interaction with other elephants.

3. Freedom from injury or disease

by providing :

  • Experienced mahouts or keepers who can handle the elephants without causing injury.
  • Preventative health care.
  • Access to veterinary care.

4. Freedom from fear and stress

  • by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
  • Limited use of bull hook (ankus), and efforts made to phase out its use by adopting positive reinforcement training techniques.
  • Minimize public contact.
  • Elephants free to move at will, escape and find refuge.
  • Maintain elephants in social groups when at rest.
  • Elephants should not be tethered except for welfare reasons.

5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior 

  • By providing sufficient space and areas where elephants are able and encouraged to dig, bathe, dive, forage, dust bathe etc and company of other elephants ideally in a social structure of mixed sex and age.

How is ECC different from other Elephant camps?

At the Elephant Conservation Center, rather than taking elephants from their natural home (Nam Tien protected area) into urban tourist areas, we take YOU to THEM, in their undisturbed natural environment.

Elephants at the Center are here to rest, either waiting to give birth or recovering from an exhausting life in logging or mass tourism industries. Do NOT expect to see package tours riding our elephants all day long! The money you pay not only sustains the center and its residents; it is also supporting reproduction through our breeding program, thus working towards elephant conservation throughout Laos.

Our elephants inhabit 6000 ha of protected forest, which provides sufficient quantity and variety of natural fodder. The elephant hospital & nursery are staffed by our professional health care team, comprising of our mahouts, biologists and vet.

Our facilities are ecologically friendly: our infrastructure uses old traditional Lao houses relocated to the Center and we use solar power. We don’t provide plastic water bottles or aluminum cans, but you can refill your bottles in our restaurants.

Overall the Center is a place of learning and observation.

Responsible Asian elephant tourism?

We define ‘responsible Asian elephant tourism’ as an activity through which tourists can observe and interact (if the opportunity should present itself) with Asian elephants in a safe environment, and which promotes elephant physical and cognitive health, as well as social and reproductive opportunities.

We believe in this kind of approach because in Asia, the alternatives are normally either:

  • Physical toil for elephants and individuals engaged in the (often illegal) logging industry, where:
    • The treatment of elephants is closed to public scrutiny
    • Reproductive opportunities are usually limited
    • Overwork, mistreatment, and (sometimes) resultant death occurs

In 2019, we have received the “Conservation Gold” Award by ACES (Asian Captive Elephants Standards)

Where do elephants at ECC come from?

Elephants at ECC are typically rescued from the logging industry or are brought into our sanctuary by owners who are unable to support or care for their animal, or simply want to breed their elephant.

Why do our elephants have chains?

Chains: This is a very common question amongst visitors. The ECC is set in a secondary forest bordering a lake. It is also bordering villagers’ fields, and the town of Sayaboury is not too distant. Our elephants are kept chained with a 45m long chain at night to let them feed at will and to prevent:

  • Them escaping our land and wandering in to farmers’ fields where they could be wounded by owners and where they could destroy crops and goods;
  • Them being stolen;
  • Them being killed for their ivory and/or body parts;
  • Them wounding visitors at the center or other elephants.

While most elephants at the ECC are of the more ‘docile’ female gender (males are significantly more aggressive), all elephants have the potential to cause sudden and serious damage to people and property. At night, when chaining is used, it allows for roaming and feeding in their natural habitat. Their mahouts always make sure that there is plenty of food for them in the area where they are chained that night for their own safety, the safety of our neighbours, staff and, of course, our guests. For the rest of the day, elephants at ECC are not chained.

What is our riding policy?

We are not a riding camp. There are many ways to spend time with elephants:

  • Staying at the observation tower to contemplate them as they socialize in the afternoons
  • During their bath, when you pick up the elephants in the morning at their resting place and take them back in the evening.
  • Observe babies at the nursery …

You can actually choose to spend as much time observing them as you want to – you are where they live! And our guides and mahouts will never turn you down.

Can I come to the Center as a volunteer?

The core volunteer programme is generally 7 days/6 night’s duration with the opportunity to extend your stay. You will start by following our 3 days ‘Exploration’ programme. Then you will be asked to assist us in the Center’s development by participating in projects on site that are happening at the time. By experiencing this package, you will help the Elephant Conservation Center to develop. Our programme is all-inclusive and participants are accompanied or guided by our team members.

You will feel like part of the Elephant Conservation Center team and get to know our staff better.
Your activities may include things like:

  • Maintenance work (painting, construction, cleaning, gardening)
  • Elephant dung paper making
  • Development of the socialization area (cleaning, cut grasses around the electric fence, protect the trees etc.)
  • Photography and artwork
  • Observing and recording of elephant behaviour

Find our complete volunteer programme here

Is there any special requirement to participate?

For our activities, a normal physical condition is required. We welcome guests from all ages and our activities can fit everybody. If you know you have a certain allergy or medical condition we should know of. Thus, please bring your medication and inform us in advance.

Could the activity time schedule vary from time to time?

Yes, elephants have their routine: every night they have to stay in a different location in order to have access to enough natural fodder to eat. In the morning, the walking time to reach the elephants in the forest can then vary from 30 min to 1 hour so this may shift the schedule of our program. Please consider our schedule as being flexible. All activities presented on our website will occur, but times may vary.

What should I bring for the stay?

Hat, swimwear, light walking shoes, sandals, waterproof shoes (from June to October), trekking trousers and shorts. Head torch and batteries, sunglasses, sunscreen, mosquito repellent (long-sleeved shirt is also recommended for avoiding bites and stings), water bottle, your first aid kit and your camera!

Environmentally friendly products for shower and clean towels are provided by the Center.

What is the accommodation like?

The Center is more akin to an eco-resort. Our environment is precious and our philosophy is to be low impact. We are set up in a remote location, thus our service has its restrictions. You will get an exceptional view of the lake from your private balcony, friendly staff and natural outdoor conditions.

Currently we have 13 bungalows with 6 twin beds and 7 double beds. For families, we have one bungalow with a thin bamboo wall separating the two rooms, and we try and accommodate families here if possible.
Bathrooms and toilets are built separately to the bungalows and operate on a shared basis. We do have several locations, as well as toilets outside the dining room, so facilities are convenient and suitably available when needed.

We also have a traditional Lao rosewood stilt house dormitory with 13 bunk beds (26 people) and shared washing facilities. This dormitory is for volunteers.

Finally, we have a brand-new rosewood Lodge of 4 large rooms and private facilities. Three rooms have a double bed and one have a double bed with one single bed which is perfect for a family with children.

Everyone eats together in the dining room, this has a great atmosphere, and you can purchase drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, as well as snacks and it is also one of the places you can relax between activities.

What kind of food can I expect?

We offer only set menus as food is purchased in town every morning for a given day. Food is local, tasty, and cooked on site with fresh ingredients from either our vegetable gardens or the market. For vegetarians and vegans, or anyone with food restrictions, we can adapt meals on request. However, Sayaboury is quite a traditional rural town and ingredients for vegetarians and vegans are quite limited, so you may wish to bring some breakfast spreads (if you don´t enjoy eggs or jam baguettes for breakfast) or extra snacks. During your booking process, please inform us about your requirements.

Is tap water drinkable at ECC?

The tap water is not drinkable. Drinking water is provided on site free of charge.

Where do you get your electricity from?

The Center is powered with solar energy. On a typical day, electricity in main communal facilities is available until 9 pm. The candles will take over for night chat time! On some occasions, we may resort to using our electric generator for a limited amount of time. You will be able to charge your electronic devices during the day. Ask our Hospitality manager for charging times while on site.

Do we have wifi / internet?

We do not offer WIFI connection on site. However, for emergencies, you can request our hospitality staff to help you get online or use a telephone line. Without WIFI, you will see that it is really pleasant to share your experiences with others.

Is there a special price for kids?

Yes

  • 5 – 10 years old: 50% discount with no supplement single
  • Over 10 years: full charge.

How may I pay?

After making your reservation at the ECC, we would have to receive a deposit of 50% of the total amount. You can provide us with your credit card details through a link that you will receive automatically. When the payment has gone through, you will receive another message to confirm your reservation.

The second option would be an international transfer using the details below. Please note that the transaction costs for transfers can be very high. Afterward you would need to send us a transcript, we will then notify you of the amount we have received.

Name:               BANQUE POUR LE COMMERCE EXTERIEUR LAO PUBLIC

SWIFT Code:     COEBLALA

Account No:      121110100359357001

Name:               LAO ELEPHANT SANCTUARY CO

Details:             RUE PANGKHAM, BAN HAISOK, VIENTIANE, TEL: 55521447

Funds in USD

We kindly ask you to settle the remaining amount when you check-in at our office in Luang Prabang the day(s) prior to your departure. Our office is located on the Mekong Road. You can easily find it when you go down the street next to the tourist office and turn right when you reach the Mekong. You should see a warning sign with an elephant after walking 50m. We are open from 9:00 am to 12 noon, and from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

When you go to the office make sure you bring your passport and insurance details.

We accept the following currencies on site: Lao Kip, Dollars, Euros and Baht.

Should I book in advance?

The earlier you book, the better your chance of securing your visit, especially during the high season (ranging from November until May) when we can get fully booked two weeks in advance.

Do you offer tailor made stays?

No we do not offer tailor made stays. Our elephants have their routines. However we offer different possibilities in terms of time spent here: 2 days & 1 night, 3 days & 2 nights or 7 days & 6 nights eco experience. All these programmes can be found on our website by going to the ‘book your stay’ section. Stays can always be extended if there is availability. Check with our Hospitality manager on site if you would like to spend a little more time.

How do I get to the Elephant Conservation Center?

It is easy to get to the the Elephant Conservation Center:

  • From Luang Prabang

Our minivan departs daily at 8am, from outside the Luang Prabang post office, main street. When you book your stay with us, the van driver will be expecting you at the pick-up point (post office) and will take you directly to the ECC wharf in Sayaboury where our boat takes you to the Center. This transfer takes approximately 2.5 hours and is included in your accommodation package, and returns around 2pm of the day of your departure, arriving at Luang Prabang by 4.30pm.

  • From Vientiane

The fastest and most comfortable way is to fly to Luang Prabang (check www.laoairlines.com, or www.laoskyway.com, or a travel agent) and take our minivan from there (see details above).

If you are traveling overland these are your options:

The private company called Sakura runs an air con minibus service from Vientiane (Sikhai minibus station opposite to the Sikhai market on Suphannuvong street, past the Wattay airport in the direction of RD13 North). The minibus usually leaves in the morning with departures from 9 to 11 am. It takes approximately 6 to 7 hours to get to Sayaboury. We can pick you up from the bus station or a guest house in Sayaboury.

If you need to come by your own means drive north along the Mekong river (turn left past Wattay airport in Ban Sikhay) to the crossroads just before Sanakham. There, turn right to Paklay. Board the ferry boat to Paklay. Getting to Paklay takes approximately 3 to 4 hours depending on road conditions. Once in Paklay, continue north to Sayaboury (another 2 hours drive).

Another option is to drive north to VangVieng (2.5 hours) and then onto Kasi. In Kasi, turn left across the mountains to Muang Nan. In Muang Nan, turn left to Sayaboury. The whole journey, excluding stops, lasts about 5-6 hours.

  • From Sayaboury

Our minivan can pick you up from your guesthouse in Sayaboury, on its way from Luang Prabang. You need to be ready by 10am.  And if you are booking buses out of Sayaboury to your next destination, the van can get you to Sayaboury bus station in time for departures after 3pm.

  • From Vang Vieng

If you wish to come from Vang Vieng, you would have to check with the local bus station. There is a bus that goes from Vientiane to Sayaboury, and it passes by Vang Vieng. But if the bus driver is not told before, he won’t stop. You would arrive in Sayaboury in the afternoon, so you won’t be in time to start the program the same day. The price for the transport is about 120 000 LAK.

Is there a good guesthouse to stay at in Sayaboury?

There are plenty of acceptable guesthouses with prices ranging from 100 000 Kip (Bounvong, Santhipath, Mekky….) to 300 000 kip per night (Saianan Hotel…)

What are your guides’ qualifications?

Our guides have knowledge in national and cultural history in Laos. They have a good command of the English language and care a lot about the elephants and their guests. They are always at your service. However, they are not elephant experts per se. For in-depth information about pachyderms, our vet and biologist will be there to answer your questions.

What are the working conditions of your staff?

Our staff have proper working contracts, a work insurance, regular holidays, 3 meals a day and free accommodation. Staff get a monthly salary, and annual bonus. Their revenue is higher than average Lao. There are many people working behind the scenes at the center. That is why we ask you to leave your tips in the designated box at the bar. We share them evenly among the staff.

MEDIA

They Featured the ECC