For the ultimate feel-good retreat that will revive not only your body but your spirit, head to northern Thailand’s Anantara resort. Tucked between 160 acres of native bamboo forest along the Mekong River, this luxurious mountain hideaway created an entire elephant sanctuary that is home to 16 adult and 13 baby elephants and their mahouts (elephant caretakers). The camp provides the ideal environment for retired elephants who were rescued from a life of begging on the tourist routes in Bangkok and Pattaya.
Sadly, the elephant population in Thailand has dwindled from an estimated 100,000 elephants at the beginning of the 20th century, to just over 4,000. Anantara hired British wildlife expert John Roberts to create the camp and recruit the resident pachyderms. At the elephant camp, the elephants, their mahouts and their families live closely in a traditional mahout village setting. Guests at the hotel are encouraged to get involved and even help bathe the animals. For the adventurous, sign up for the resort’s mahout training course. By the end of three days, you will be able to ‘drive’ one of these three-ton pachyderms by learning the mahout commands and even some log rolling skills.
Back at the resort, the hotel continues it focus on sustainability using only recycled teak wood for its Thai style interiors. But there are still plenty of posh, modern amenities, including an infinity pool, fitness center, two restaurants and the Opium Terrace bar, as well as a spa with five treatment rooms. Designed in a modern-Eastern style, the rooms offer the latest in contemporary design and amenities. All 77 rooms also feature expansive balconies and an elephantine, two-person tub with breathtaking views where you can soak in the sights and sounds of the Mekong.
Hot tip: Book 50 days in advance and receive a special ‘stay for 3, pay for 2’ offer as well as other exclusive discounts.