My name is: Geoff Manchester.
I’m known for being: Co-founder of Intrepid Travel, the world’s largest B Corp, adventure travel company (meaning we uphold the social and environmental standard for that certification).
I'm talking about: Promoting animal welfare travel experiences, creating tours that help animals thrive in their natural habitats—the alternative to elephant rides.
You can find it at: Intrepidtravel.com/be-kind.
How it works is: As the first global tour operator to ban elephant rides five years ago, we funded research through our not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation with World Animal Protection, to shed light on the horrific treatment of elephants for tourists’ entertainment.
When we made the decision to ban elephant rides, we knew it was commercially risky for our business, as most of our customers were booking our Southeast Asia tours for that experience. However, what we found was that, as we educated our travelers around the unethical treatment of elephants, and instead offered an alternative experience that helped elephants thrive, our bookings increased. Not only have we continued to educate travelers on finding alternatives to elephant rides, but, since we banned them, more than 200 businesses have followed suit.
Now partnering with local NGOs and businesses, Intrepid Travel focuses its offerings on businesses that rehabilitate elephants into the wild, keeping our travelers far from animals on our safaris and ensuring we’re giving back to ethical businesses and people who work toward animal welfare.
What makes it special is: Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals on this planet; they’re often likened to humans. There’s a surreal connection when you gaze into an elephant’s eyes, especially one who’s been rescued from captivity. I encourage travelers to visit ethical animal sanctuaries or safari through the wilderness. Watching the majestic elephant in its natural habitat is unlike any experiences I’ve had in the world. It’s during these moments that you realize how special elephants are, how using your tourism dollars towards supporting ethical businesses can truly help the elephant that you’re watching roam free.
Having led tours that included elephant rides, and now having visited elephant sanctuaries as an alternative, I’ve seen firsthand the power of connecting with a rehabilitated elephant from afar, looking into their eyes and feeling immense joy that they’ll get to live as they should—in the wild.
One thing you can’t miss is: Seeing elephants roam freely is a very humbling and beautiful experience. It opens your eyes to nature’s beauty and intention. In a time when climate change is manifesting in habitat loss and destroyed ecosystems, it’s wonderful to witness animals living as nature intended.
I highly recommend Intrepid Travel’s Thailand and Laos Adventure and Highlights of Thailand. Both these tours allow you to witness elephants roaming in their natural habitat. Additionally, on Intrepid’s Sri Lanka Expedition: Wilderness & Wildlife, you can visit Project Orange Elephant, an organization run by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. With support from The Intrepid Foundation, SLWCS encourages more sustainable farming practices—particularly of crops like oranges that elephants do not eat—to help wildlife and humans coexist peacefully.
My favorite secret detail is: Visiting Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai on Intrepid Travel’s Thailand tour was one of my favorite travel experiences; it became really apparent that every elephant had a story to tell. They all have names and personalities, so you really get to know each elephant in the ENP community.