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“Overpriced and Unprofessional....”

Elephant Conservation Center
Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Sayaboury
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Elephant Conservation Center marks a new era for conservation of the Asian elephant within the Lao PDR and offers a unique experience to visitors wishing to contribute towards the preservation of an endangered species. The first of its kind in Laos, the Center is not another elephant camp but an innovative approach that combines conservation of an endangered species with eco-tourism. Minimum stay is overnight, however we recommend our 2 nights package to experience all the activities and truly enjoy this tranquil part of the world. Volunteer experiences, 6 nights/7 days are also available. Now we have our own minivan departing Luang Prabang daily at 8am and it takes you back the following day or days arriving Luang Prabang 4.30pm. It is only a 2 hour journey from Luang Prabang, Laos' UNESCO World Heritage listed town.
Reviewed 26 March 2014

I arrived Sayaboury a day before my 2-night/3 day visit to the Elephant Conservation Centre. I had advised the Centre of my hotel name for pickup. I waited for an hour after my scheduled pick-up time and contacted the Centre. They had forgotten to pick me up....so I spent another night in the hotel with the promise of pick-up the following day.

They did remember me the following day; I arrived at the Centre and was welcomed by my guide who took my information and gave me a rushed tour of the facility - the highlight of which was going to be a visit with 2 female elephants in the training compound. Two visitors from the UK has just finished their 'mahout' lesson when one of the employees outside of the compound decided to ride his motorcycle.

The employee and the bike were on a hill overlooking the compound. He could not get the bike started so a couple of the workers decided to push-start it - down the hill and onto a path right beside the elephant training compound. They were all cheering and laughing when the bike started down the slope - soon to be laid down on its' side, throttle wide open, wheels spinning next to the elephants compound.

All the employees, including the 'mahouts' were laughing and carrying on like children. In the mean time, the two female elephants were terrified! One was chained so she couldn't back away far enough and the other, larger elephant backed tightly into the fence surrounding her. They trumpeted in terror and relieved themselves in fear. No one tried to comfort and calm them as the workers were too busy laughing. We three (visitors) were disgusted at the employees behaviour - all of them.

The mahouts are not experienced (except the mahout at the nursery) or empathetic to the elephants needs. In training, they yell their commands at the animals and are very rough with them. I have worked with animals during my lifetime and visited other elephant sanctuaries and these actions are totally unproductive as they are trying to intimidate the elephants - which is contrary to the animals natural learning processes. I am not an expert but do believe there are far better methods of training.

The two women from the UK arrived at the centre at lunch time (rice and vegetables). No lunch was offered to them but they were told they could purchase lunch for $10.00!! Unbelievable as a meal in Sayaboury restaurants were a third that price. They had each just spent over $200.00 to be there and the least the Centre could do was offer them lunch as the location is very remote and no other food is available until dinner.

There is no one 'in charge' of this centre - no one to speak with regarding the shortcomings of the Conservation Centre. The idea of elephant conservation is admirable; however, I believe this centre has a long way to go to become a credible conservation program open to tourism.

If you have the opportunity to experience elephants at another location, I would suggest you do just that and, chances are, you'll have a more rewarding and valuable experience than you would here.

On the positive side of things, we did have the opportunity to spend some time with the vet which was enlightening and interesting. She is providing medical assistance to elephants in the area which is a very worthwhile program.

Overall, I was very disappointed with the Elephant Conservation Centre....but, as with everything in this world, it's 'beauty' is in the eye of the beholder.

15  Thank 176Travelbag53
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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110 - 114 of 259 reviews

Reviewed 21 February 2014

This was a magical and peaceful way to see this part of the country and learn about the elephants. Our kids loved it and our host, mr. Lay, was extremely warm and helpful. We would absolutely return. However, we would recommend perhaps a new family bungalow for our family of five as a bit tight in the bungalows built for two. Also our first night the staff had a party and had speakers blaring music until ten...but they apologetic.

Thank Paisley A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 December 2013

Right from the start we could tell this was a well run and organised operation, before we had even got off the bus from Luang Prabang the tuk tuk driver was aboard to meet us. A short trip to the boat jetty and an even shorter trip on a small long boat and we were at the centre. The staff were there to great us and take our luggage up to the bungalow, where they left us to get settled before checking in.

We booked the two night three day trip well in advance before we left the UK, which was just as well as it's very popular.

The accommodation is a little basic in the bamboo huts but the beds were comfy and warm and we had mosquito nets (not that there were many about during December). Bathrooms are shared and again a little basic but for us this was all part of the experience. The food was great and always plenty of it.

The staff were all very friendly and the three guides were extremely knowledgeable and all spoke very good English. During our stay we never felt ignored and were looked after very well. We got the impression that everyone really cares about the elephants. We learnt that by staying there we were helping to fund the great work they do all over Laos, their vets will travel all over the country providing free treatment and training for anyone with an elephant that needs their help. They also provide a service that a mahout with a pregnant elephant can bring her to the centre and they will provide food and accommodation for both elephant and mahout until both mother and baby elephant are ready to travel back home.

This is not some tourist elephant park where the elephants walk a continuous circuit with a never ending stream of tourists on their backs, they really are doing some great work here to ensure the Asian elephant in Laos doesn't end up on the endangered list.

This was the highlight of our trip so far and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys spending time with theses animals in as close as possible to their natural habitat.

6  Thank Chrispypancake
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 December 2013

This was one of my highlights if living in Southeast Asia. Despite being a remote place, everything is so well organized that it puts a solo travels at ease. The journey to get there from the city is long but worth it! It's very authentic and lots if fun. I learned so much and conquered my fears of sleeping in a remote bungalow by myself in the middle of the jungle! Emile and the staff are lovely. Warm, friendly and accommodating. The food was wonderful. Accommodations basic, but clean with a porch where I watched the sunset. My favorite part about ECC was watching the elephants take their bath. Second favourite- seeing the baby elephants interact with their mothers. I also loved riding an elephant through the jungle-mahout style! I even learned how to command an elephant myself! I recommended some friends to go there and they also loved it. Loved Laos, loved ECC. Best part about it- supporting a wonderful cause!

3  Thank Alicia23_13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 November 2013 via mobile

We wanted to see some elephants and figured Lao, the land of a million elephants, was a good place for that.
However, we wanted to be sure that our money would go to people who took good care of the elephants and who would use it FOR the elephants. After a few research, we got confirmation that most of tours proposed in the area of Luang Pranang are not considering the elephants in terms of work hours, number of tourists sitting on their backs or food needs.

I believe these are important things to consider and you'll definitely realise that you spend good money at the right place in Sayaboury.
Excellent location, friendly staff, interesting mahout courses, nice cruise (we had so much fun with our group on that boat!) And, let's admit it, it is a deep pleasure to see such animals well treated and evolving in a natural environment!
Really unforgotable!

4  Thank diofisis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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