Ecotourism is a kind of “responsible tourism” which aims at bringing people to enjoy various nature activities while also educating them on how to protect the environment. However, this term somewhat contradicts itself because most “ecotours” are not always eco-friendly. In theory, ecotourism is a great idea, but in practice it is not always possible to do so. In this article, we’ll be discussing about some Pattaya tours which are considered ecotours. But if you look closely, some of them may not exactly comply with the good-for-environment concept.
Thai people call this botanical garden “Suan-Nong-Noot”. Although this garden is man made and technically not an ecotourism spot, but Suan Nong Noot is celebrated as being a conservation site for rare and endangered plant species. According to Suan Nong Noot’s official website, this garden was originally created to be used as a fruit plantation but was later turned into a botanical garden. One of the founders, Mrs. Nongnooch, was inspired by the beautiful gardens she saw during her trip oversea and decided to turn her fruit plantation into a tourist attraction. Together with her husband, they purchased 600-acres of land, made it into a giant botanical garden, and then decorated the place with exotic plants and flowers from all over the world. The garden also has assorted animal sections in which replicas of rare and endangered animals such as the clouded leopard and dinosaurs are on display for visitors to take pictures. Adults and children will get to appreciate the careful arrangement of the flowerbeds while also learning about different species of plants and animals.
Apart from taking fun pictures with flowers and animals, this garden also has restaurants, visitor’s accommodation, swimming pool, Internet café, and animal shows. Ok, this is where the controversy begins — the animal shows. More specifically, the elephant show. There have been mixed reviews because some visitors who went there stated that in recent years Suan Nong Noot has taken serious measures to improve the animal welfare . The animals are seen to be in good condition and they’ve also improved the elephant enclosure. Even though the elephants are chained up during photo session with visitors, but elephants are still wild animals and for safety reason they have to be chained up. However, there are people who disagreed and felt that the elephants are being abused behind closed doors. Elephants are made to performed tricks for human’s entertainment and some of these tricks involved holding unnatural position (riding a bike, kneeling) which cause joint problems for the animals. Furthermore, in order to control and train the elephants, the elephant keeper (mahout) would use a bullhook to poke and drag the animal’s sensitive skin areas like behind the ears and around the eyes.
For centuries, elephants have been an important part of the Thai culture. According to the Buddhist tradition, Buddha’s mother Queen Maya, dreamed of a white elephant entering her womb on the night before Buddha was conceived. The elephant is a symbol of purity and power and it is considered a sacred animal in Thailand. In ancient times, Thai kings would ride the elephant into battle, making this animal an important weapon during wartime. Elephants were honored and even given a special burial ceremony upon their death.
But as time changes, the treatment of elephants changes as well. Elephants are no longer charging in battle or given an honorable title. In many of Thailand tourist locations, elephants are used to perform tricks and entertain visitors ranging from playing with hula hoops and balancing on hind legs. There are people who refused to go see elephant shows because they feel that the animals are being mistreated even in the so-called “elephant sanctuary”. Although there are places to ride an elephant and see elephants shows, many Pattaya tours usually would take you to beaches and the walking street. However, if you really want to see the “natural” side of Pattaya aside from the beach, then you might want to try Elephant Village. The Elephant Village is a sanctuary for the elephants that can no longer perform heavy duty in the jungle. This place is a non-profit private business aimed to provide a better life for the elephants. The Elephant Village works under the Kingdom of Thailand Animal Rights Law and with a certificate to prove it. The main activity at this sanctuary is the 45-minute elephant ride that will take you to the jungle and river. Although there are still some people who do not like seeing this majestic animal being forced to serve humans, but many visitors complimented that the elephants are well cared for and seem to enjoy themselves when taking a bath in the river.