Last year I ventured to Thailand with two friends. Part of our Thailand bucket-list included a trek in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, every trek we found included riding elephants. Elephants used in “entertainment” are typically stolen from their mothers at birth, beaten into submission, and are constantly chained when not giving rides. Essentially, they are stripped of everything that is natural to them.

After weeks of searching, we finally came across a blog post on this topic and found Barking Gecko Adventures. We could not have been happier with this tour company. Not only was the adventure cruelty-free, but the experience was amazing.

For around $225 per person, the three of us got a 3-day, 2-night private tour with two guides, all-inclusive. On day one, we trekked into a true local village where we experienced a home stay with a local family. I have to admit that it was not the most comfortable night of my life, but it was a real experience. We slept on mats in what would be considered their living room.

On the second day, we hiked to another local town and stayed at a neat hotel in the forest with amazing views. Our guide cooked us amazing vegan food, much of which was cooked in bamboo stalks or leaves. It was fun and unique.

On the last day, the staff from the tour company met us with bikes and we headed off into the countryside to see rice fields and templates. It was beautiful.

I encourage you to NEVER support a tour company using elephants or any wild animals as part of the experience. Even if you opt-out of that portion of the trip, you are giving your money to a company that abuses animals. Vote with your dollars and support cruelty-free tour companies.