Mason Elephant Park | Is This Elephant Sanctuary In Bali Ethical?

Elephants are some of the most incredible and majestic animals in the world, with a cheeky sense of humour and a gentle nature. It’s no wonder that people keenly seek ways to interact with these gentle giants, but is it ethical?

We recently visited the Mason Elephant Park in Ubud, the only gold-standard accredited Elephant Sanctuary in Bali, to understand more about this sanctuary and to witness the cheeky behaviour of these beloved creatures ourselves.

Overall, our experience at the Mason Elephant Park was mostly positive. You can enjoy a fantastic interaction with these animals without the need to ride or bathe with them. We also had an enlightening chat with one of the staff members who gladly addressed our questions and concerns.

In this post, we will cover the ethical concerns of this Elephant Sanctuary in Bali, highlighting the positives and negatives of Mason Elephant Park. In addition, you’ll also find detailed information on the Ubud Elephant Park, including what’s included in your ticket and reviews on the various other activities and dining options throughout the sanctuary.

Feeding the elephants at Mason Elephant Park in Bali

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Essential Information About The Mason Elephant Park, Ubud

Is The Mason Elephant Park Ethical?

Defining whether an elephant sanctuary is ethical is not black and white. There are countless factors that are often left out and unfortunately, we have to remember that the world is far from perfect.

With that said, here is a little background information on the Sumatran elephants and the Mason Elephant Park.

Where Did The Elephants Come From?

Sumatran Elephant with ropes and chair attached to body at the Masons Elephant Sanctuary in Ubud

The Sumatran elephants are a sub-species of the Asian elephant and are critically endangered. This is mainly due to habitat loss (deforestation) and ivory poaching.

The elephants at Mason Elephant Park have all been rescued from ‘containment camps’ in Sumatra, where their average life expectancy was a mere 3 – 7 years – elephants generally live to 40 in captivity and 60 – 70 in the wild! Since then, 6 elephants have been born at the park and the oldest resident is now 51.

When you compare the elephants’ previous lives to their current ones, it’s clear that their situation has significantly improved.

However, training a wild animal to perform tricks and allow humans to ride them is never completely ethical. But who is going to support the cost of the sanctuary if you cut out tourism?

Our Experience Of Mason Elephant Park’s Ethics

Smiling with baby elephant at the Mason Elephant Park in Ubud, Bali

When we visited Mason Elephant Park, we chose only to participate in the general admission for our own personal ethical values. This involved feeding the elephants and interacting with them while they were untethered.

Based on our experience and discussions with the staff, we found that Mason Elephant Park is transparent in their handling of the elephants. The staff were happy to explain the reasons behind the use of the bullhook and intermittent tethering of the animals.

They explained that the elephants are chained while eating so they don’t steal one another’s food, while they’re sleeping to avoid conflict (not all get along), and when the bulls are mating as they can become aggressive.

Sumatran Elephant tethered while eating at the Mason Elephant Park
Elephant tethered while eating

The bullhook is used softly on the sides and top of their head to guide the elephants on the rides and when they’re misbehaving. This is essential for the safety of the tourists riding the animals, which is one of the reasons we opted out of this experience.

As for riding elephants, there is an endless amount of conflicting information about whether carrying humans is harmful to them. While the elephant sanctuary in Ubud explains the benefits and expresses that there is no harm, we found articles online from reputable sources that this isn’t the case. Therefore, we chose to avoid this activity.

Sumatran Elephant with one tusk walking with saddle and chair on its back for Bali elephant rides
Don’t worry, the missing tusk was from before this elephant was rescued from Sumatra

Overall, from what we could tell, the elephants seem to be relatively happy – constantly wagging their tails, which is a good sign – and they seem to get along with their Mahout (trainer). 

Below we’ve listed some positives and negatives that we observed from our time at Mason Elephant Park. This was our first visit to an Elephant Sanctuary (though we’ve visited various sanctuaries for other animals), so these observations are based on a single experience rather than comparisons.

Positives Of The Mason Elephant Park

  • The grounds of the sanctuary are open and accessible, emphasising the fact they’re not trying to hide anything.
  • Mason Elephant Park claims that all their training is done using their own unique system of patience, repetition and reward. They have a no-punishment policy and it is a dismissable offence to strike or abuse an elephant for any reason.
  • We observed a good bond between the elephants and their Mahouts (trainers).
  • Overall, the elephants were constantly wagging their tails and didn’t seem to be in any distress.
  • Without this sanctuary, these animals would most likely have not survived long in their camp in Sumatra.
  • The park is actively working towards saving these endangered elephants and has birthed 6 calves so far.
  • Mason Elephant Park has a gold accreditation for the Asian Captive Elephant Standards.

Negatives Of The Mason Elephant Park

  • The elephants undergo thorough training to ensure it is safe for visitors to interact with and ride them.
  • They are forced to perform tricks for visitors.
  • The necessary use of the bullhook when they misbehave or while riding them doesn’t seem very ethical, although it is controversial as to whether the bullhook hurts them or not. I found conflicting results when I researched this, with one article saying it is the same as a horse’s bit and others saying it is harmful.
  • The elephants are on show every day, but if their Mahout isn’t present (unless they have more than one) they’re tethered.
  • Mason Elephant Park seems to have no plans to attempt a return for any of the elephants to the wild.
  • It’s questionable that the Mason Elephant Park can truly call itself a sanctuary – a sanctuary is meant to be a place where elephants can ‘retire’ and stop performing for food.

With all that said, is the Mason Elephant Park ethical?

In our opinion – and from what we witnessed, learnt and researched – we believe this elephant sanctuary in Bali is more ethical than not. We believe the unethical practices all stem from tourism and are a result of the significant training that these wild animals must endure.

However, if we remove tourism from Mason Elephant Park, we don’t believe that the sanctuary would exist. Therefore, the poor elephants would most likely have suffered and lived far shorter lives in Sumatra.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the ethics of tourist-based elephant sanctuaries, we’ve listed several of the sources that we found through our research.

Where Is The Mason Elephant Park?

Scooter parking across the road from Mason Elephant Park
Scooter parking across the road from Mason Elephant Park

The Mason Elephant Park is located in the forested village of Taro, a 40-minute drive north of Ubud. The 4.5-hectare sanctuary offers a lush and cool environment that mimics their natural habitat in Sumatra.

There is free parking for scooters next to the elephant park, on the opposite side of the road.

How To Get To The Mason Elephant Park

Directions from Ubud to Masons Elephant Park

The best way to reach Mason Elephant Park is to hire a scooter from your hotel and make the drive through Ubud to the park. However, if you’re not confident about riding a scooter in Bali, then you can hire a private driver through your hotel or use the island’s two taxi servicesGojek or Grab.

Click here for directions from Ubud to Mason Elephant Park

If you pre-book any of the combo packages on the Mason Elephant Park Website – such as the bathe and breakfast or the elephant ride – then you will have a transfer from the centre of Ubud included. The elephant park doesn’t offer transfer options for general admission tickets.

How Much Does It Cost To Go To The Elephant Sanctuary In Ubud?

Mason Elephant Sanctuary in Bali entry

The prices for Mason Elephant Park vary depending on which activities you’d like to do. We chose to go with the general admission, which cost 395,000 IDR (roughly $39 AUD or $25 USD) each for an adult.

Below is a list of the current prices for the Mason Elephant Parks activities (not including any package deals) as of February 2024:

  • General Admission: 395,000 IDR per adult, 240,000 IDR per child, 120,000 IDR per infant, 1,150,000 IDR per family
  • Lake Bathe (includes general admission): 1,065,000 IDR per adult, 810,000 IDR per child, 3,285,000 IDR per family
  • Jumbo Wash (includes general admission): 915,000 IDR per adult, 690 IDR per child, 2,805,000 IDR per family
  • Safari Ride (includes general admission): 1,115,000 IDR per adult, 860,000 IDR per child, 340,000 IDR per infant, 3,340,000 IDR per family
  • Safari Under The Stars (includes general admission and dinner): 1,460,000 IDR per adult, 1,025,000 IDR per child, 425,000 per infant

*These are the base rate prices for these activities and do not include lunch or transfers. These tickets can be difficult to find online, use this link if you want to pre-book.

*Add 250,000 IDR per adult, 195,000 IDR per child and 830,000 IDR per family to include an elephant ride to the bathing or washing activities.

Note: There are several other combos, that give you access to both lunch and transfers, which are listed on the park’s website. Be sure to check the description of the combo to see what is included before purchasing. More on this below in the how to book section.

What Does The Mason Elephant Park General Admission Include?

Feeding the elephants at Masons Elephant Park on the general admission ticket

The general admission ticket for this elephant sanctuary in Bali is the best deal in our opinion, and allows you to observe and interact with the elephants with a minimal amount of work on their part.

Here is a list of what is included in your general admission ticket for Mason Elephant Park:

  • Hand-feeding the elephants
  • The Elephant Museum and Information Centre
  • Elephant Education Program (the movie called ‘Operation Jumbo’)
  • Treetop observation walk
  • Art Gallery

Basically, you have access to all the park features and restaurants. However, the buffet lunch isn’t included in the general admission ticket.


How To Book Your Bali Elephant Sanctuary Experience

You can purchase your general admission ticket from the front counter once you arrive at Mason Elephant Park. They don’t generally sell out and there is no discount for early bird tickets, so there is really no benefit to purchasing a general admission ticket online in advance.

However, if you’re planning to include one of the activities, it’s best to book online so you can take advantage of the free transfer from the centre of Ubud. Click here for a schedule of the pick-up times for the transfer.

If you’re not sure whether you want to include any activities, you have the opportunity to add these on after you arrive at Mason Elephant Park.

Wandering through the grounds at Mason Elephant Park

Mason Elephant Park Opening Hours

The Mason Elephant Park operates every day from 8 am to 6 pm. After 6 pm, you can enter the park if you have purchased the Night Safari experience or if you’re staying at the Mason Elephant Lodge (more on this below).

Is The Elephant Sanctuary In Bali Worth It?

Being hugged by an elephant in Bali at the Mason Elephant Sanctuary

We ummed and ahhed about visiting the Elephant Sanctuary in Ubud for quite a while. Unsure whether it was worth the $39 AUD each and whether we felt comfortable filtering money into the organisation.

Eventually, we decided that we wanted to see for ourselves whether this elephant sanctuary in Bali was as ethical as they claimed and of course, we also wanted to meet the majestic Sumatran elephants.

In all honesty, we believe that the general admission ticket for Mason Elephant Park is worth it. You get unlimited time to spend feeding the elephants and can wander freely around the grounds for as long as you like. We also gained some great insight into the organisation by having in-depth conversations with the staff.

What To Expect From Your Visit To Mason Elephant Park, The Only Elephant Sanctuary In Bali

As we mentioned above, there are various activities that you can choose to add to your Mason Elephant Park experience or you can simply purchase a general admission ticket and explore the grounds.

While we chose the general admission ticket with no additional activities – mostly due to ethical reasons, we witnessed each activity and will give a brief overview of what you can expect below.

Mason Elephant Park General Admission

Walking through the beautiful jungle at Masons Elephant Sanctuary
Elephant statue in the jungle in Bali's best elephant sanctuary

The best value for money is easily the general admission ticket. For $39 AUD, you can freely explore the grounds for as long as you like and spend an unlimited amount of time interacting with the elephants at the feeding zone.

We listed the inclusions for the general admission ticket above, but here we will go into a little more detail about our favourite things to see and do.

Feeding The Elephants

Feeding the elephants at the feeding area in Mason Elephant Park Bali

Of course, the main reason to visit the elephant sanctuary in Bali is to meet the elephants and have the chance to feed them.

When you arrive at the feeding zone, the staff will offer you a bunch of palm stems to feed the elephants. They get very excited about this and will jostle each other to ensure their trunks extend the closest to you.

You can also pay 50,000 IDR to treat the elephants with a bunch of fresh fruit and vegetables. Though this is not necessary as you can continuously feed the elephants the free palm stems for as long as you desire.

Baskets of fruit to feed the elephants a treat
Optional elephant treats available for purchase

The Mahouts of the elephants present at the feeding zone will also help you take photos with the elephants. Their presence there also allows the elephants to stay untethered which was really nice to see. It was also cool to witness the interactions between the elephants and the Mahouts – especially the young ones who were very cheeky!

There is always a staff member present at the feeding zone who can share information about the sanctuary and answer any concerns or queries that you have.

Mason Elephant Park Museum & Art Gallery

Mason Elephant Park Museum
Masons Elephant Park Art Gallery
Art Gallery

At the entrance to the Ubud elephant sanctuary, you’ll wander past the museum which showcases a skeleton of a Sumatran elephant and various other relics and artefacts. It’s fascinating to wander around and see some of the ancient tusks from extinct mammoths and read the detailed information about the elephants that are hung on the walls.

Further into the grounds of Mason Elephant Park, you’ll also find the Elephant Art Gallery. This gallery is filled with beautiful artwork of elephants, plus several paintings by elephants!

Other Places Not To Miss At The Mason Elephant Park

Galapagos Turtle at Masons Elephant Park in Ubud

The majority of your time at Mason Elephant Park will likely be spent watching the elephants at the pools and feeding them. But we highly recommend taking a walk around the grounds – following the treetop observation walk – and visiting the Galapagos turtles

There are three Galapagos turtles just behind the movie theatre and if you’re lucky, the staff will allow you to enter the gate to get up close to the turtles.

Lastly, if the timing of your visit coincides with the showing of the movie ‘Operation Jumbo’ it’s well worth stopping in to learn about how the park brought the elephants to Bali.

Bathing With The Elephants

Being showere by an elephant spraying water from trunk

For the bathing experience, you will have the chance to ride bareback on the elephants while they splash around in their bathing pool. This is a morning activity and can be combined with a breakfast buffet in the restaurant overlooking the pool.

The elephants follow a routine that has them walk around the pool and duck under the water, partially submerging you. For the bathing experience, you will be riding on the elephant’s back while the Mahout sits on its head.

If we had to compare the value between the elephant ride and the bathing, we would have to say that the bathing looked more worthwhile.

Bali Elephant Ride

Bali Elephant ride at Masons Elephant Park

The elephant ride at Mason Elephant Park takes you through the grounds before entering the jungle nearby for a quick wander. You’ll be sitting atop a chair that can fit two people while the Mahout steers the elephant from its head.

Honestly, the walk doesn’t seem to be very worthwhile for the price. We weren’t timing the walk but we saw the same group leave and come back in the time it took us to drink a coffee at the Treetops Cafe.

We would really only recommend this activity for families with children seeking extra excitement during their visit.

Elephant Washing

Washing the elephants at Masons Elephant Park in Bali

The Jumbo Wash activity offers a one-on-one experience with an elephant, allowing you to hose them down and scrub the dirt off their leathery skin. They are not tethered while you wash them, instead, the Mahout is present and they have a stack of palm leaves and stems to keep them happy.

If you’re searching for a deeper interaction with the elephants but prefer not to ride them, then this seems to be the most ethical additional activity. However, it is quite expensive!

Dining Options At The Mason Elephant Park

Elephant Park Restaurant

Gado Gado from a la carte menu at Mason Elephant Restaurant
Cakes from the buffet at Mason Elephant restaurant

The Elephant Park Restaurant overlooks the elephant’s bathing pool and is the main dining option at this Bali elephant sanctuary. This is where you’ll receive your buffet lunch or breakfast if you choose to add it to your activity. You can also pay 250,000 IDR for the buffet if you go with the general admission ticket.

We ate from the a la carte menu and ordered a sandwich and the gado-gado. The food was nice, but not worth the hiked-up prices. We recommend waiting until you return to Ubud, where there are countless incredible restaurants to choose from.

Treetops Coffee & Cocktail Bar

Treetop coffee and cocktail bar in Mason Elephant Park

The Treetops Coffee & Cocktail Bar is set within the fronds of the surrounding palm trees and offers a tranquil spot to relax and watch the elephants getting their jumbo wash.

The cocktails were quite expensive but the coffee was average-priced and to our surprise quite nice. You can also find some little cakes and light snacks to go with your coffee. 

If you’re feeling a bit peckish, then we suggest coming here instead of the restaurant.

Ivory Cafe Garden

The Ivory Cafe Garden is located just beyond the entrance and offers a small menu, mainly consisting of pizzas and sandwiches. The prices range from 70,000 – 85,000 IDR and the seating is set in a lovely garden.

If you need a quick bite to eat then this is a good option, but don’t expect anything flash.

Staying At The Mason Elephant Lodge

Private deck under Mason Elephant Park accommodation
Private deck under Mason Elephant Park accommodation

For a once in a lifetime experience, you can stay within the sanctuary at the Mason Elephant Lodge. The spacious villas overlook the park or the rice paddies and some even have views of the bathing pool and the elephants’ free time areas.

While it’s not cheap to stay at the Mason Elephant Lodge, this boutique luxury lodge offers all the comforts you’d expect for $250 AUD plus a night – including air conditioning, bathrobes, a hairdryer, a bar fridge and a TV.

On the premises, you’ll also have access to an outdoor pool, a spa and wellness centre, a gym and a private bar.

If this sounds appealing, we recommend booking just one night as there is nothing else to do near the sanctuary. However, you’ll find some incredible places to stay in Ubud that are much cheaper and closer to various other things to do in Ubud.

Other Information About The Elephant Sanctuary In Bali

Best Time To Visit The Elephant Sanctuary In Bali

The Mason Elephant Park is a popular attraction in Ubud and as you’d expect, the grounds fill up quickly with visitors as the day goes on.

We highly recommend visiting early so that you can enjoy the grounds in peace before the crowds arrive. We got to the Mason Elephant Park at 9:30 am and enjoyed roughly an hour of exploring the grounds before it got busy. However, this was during the low season, so if you’re visiting during school holidays or from July to September, we recommend arriving at 8:30 am when they open.

What Is The Best Elephant Sanctuary In Bali?

There are several other elephant parks in Bali, but Mason Elephant Park is the only accredited sanctuary. Therefore, this is the only elephant sanctuary in Bali that we recommend visiting.

Where To Stay Near The Mason Elephant Park

Kubu Tropis accommodation in Ubud, Bali
Kubu Tropis

While the transfers that are available for the activity packages will pick up from Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Sanur and Ubud, we recommend staying in Ubud as it is the closest and a thriving place to explore.

We spent two weeks in Ubud and during that time, we stayed at three different places. The first – and the one we recommend the most – was Kubu Tropis. This small hotel is centrally located and ridiculously cheap – especially considering the level of the room and the inclusion of breakfast and a pool.

Below we’ve listed our top suggested places to stay based on various budget options. 

  • In Da Garden Homestay – This super budget-friendly homestay is very centrally located and offers air conditioning and an exceptional complimentary breakfast. The only downside is it’s not travel sustainable, but we loved our lunch here and the staff were incredibly friendly.
  • Nyoman Sandi Guest House – A budget-friendly guest house that features a pool, air conditioning and spacious rooms. This accommodation option is located 1 km north of the main street in Ubud, near the rice fields.
  • Villa Magica – If you’re looking for an affordable private villa with a pool, you can’t beat Villa Magica. We stayed at Villa Magica 2, which was slightly smaller than the original. However, it was cheaper and a lovely stay only a short scooter ride from the centre of Ubud. Again, the only downside is it’s not travel-sustainable.
  • Goya Boutique Resort – For the ultimate luxury experience, you will love this resort. Located in a centrally located but quiet street, this resort has everything you need and want, including a sensational view from the infinity pool.

Final Thoughts

Visiting the Mason Elephant Park provided us with an intriguing and enlightening experience. It offered valuable insights into what to expect from an accredited elephant sanctuary in Ubud. We gained a lot of knowledge from the staff members and the park’s transparency made us feel more comfortable in our decision to visit. 

This is not to say that we wholeheartedly agree with all of Mason Elephant Park’s practices, but we understand that these particular elephants have a much better life here than they did in Sumatra. We also understand the need to raise money to continue breeding these critically endangered animals. So in our opinion, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

We hope that this guide to Mason Elephant Park has helped you decide whether a visit aligns with your morals and that you’ve gained all the information you need to make the most of a trip to this elephant sanctuary in Ubud.

If you have any further questions about Mason Elephant Park, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via Instagram or email.