Sunshine, sea, sand and elephant rides

Angsana's Lucky the elephant splashing in the Andaman Sea, Phuket, Thailand.
Angsana's Lucky the elephant splashing in the Andaman Sea, Phuket, Thailand.

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It’s mid afternoon and children and adults alike are scrambling from their sun loungers in search of a 
famous hotel resident.

Lucky the elephant mascot is plodding through the grounds on his daily visit, emphatically waving his trunk with a line of fans in his wake.

His star status is affirmed as guests queue up to take pictures and stroke his fuzzy head – some even get a surprise sloppy kiss as he wraps his trunk around their neck, planting it onto cheeks like a plunger.

I’m enraptured at the first encounter – the sight of a three-year-old elephant tumbling around in the Andaman Sea waves, spraying water at hysterical adults, and carrying kids aboard his wrinkly back.

This snapshot-worthy family scene is becoming more common in Thailand, as the south-east Asian country shakes off its backpacker-on-a-budget image.

A tourism boom has led to a number of new child-friendly hotels and resorts opening, mainly in Phuket, the largest island of Thailand dubbed ‘The Pearl of the Andaman’.

It may not be the obvious choice for a family break, but adventurous parents can find plenty to entertain their little ones.

Besides the endless white sandy beaches, there are tree-top thrills at Xtrem Adventures, animal exploration at Phuket Zoo, mini eco safaris at Siam Safari, and a Las Vegas-style theme park at Phuket FantaSea.

Children squeal with delight at FantaSea, feeding buckets of bamboo sticks to a parade of statuesque elephants decked out in rainbow finery.

The animals are an enduring symbol of Thailand. These incredible trunk-swinging beasts always feature top of activity lists.

The Asian elephant is classed as officially endangered. Having such close interaction with these gentle giants, therefore, is bittersweet.

While there is a nagging feeling that they should be roaming freely, it’s incredible to see them so close up that you can marvel at their tumbling eyelashes.

As mascot of Angsana Laguna Phuket, Lucky the elephant is certainly worth trumpeting on about.

But besides petting elephants, Angsana’s recently-refurbished Tree House Kids Club, Mother & Kids Yoga and Tuesday’s Pirate of Andaman fancy dress has plenty to keep children occupied.

Situated in scenic Bang Tao Bay, the hotel makes for a convenient spot for airport runs and the bustle of Phuket Town.

Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, it’s the perfect pitch to explore neighbouring isolated islands, paradise-style beaches and snorkelling hotspots.

Laguna’s speedboat day tour is the most glamorous way to go island hopping, with a knowledgeable guide to steer you away from the tourist hubbub.

High season for tourism is December to March when the north-east monsoon draws cool, dry air from the Asian continent, resulting in a slight drop in temperature.

Rain storms aren’t uncommon but it’s the perfect opportunity to sup on fresh coconut water and read a book under a giant umbrella.

On our last day the rain is beating down.

There’s only one thing for it, one final visit to see Lucky for a fond farewell.

Lisa Haynes stayed at Angsana Laguna Phuket. Visit www.angsana.com/en/phuket.

Travelbag offers seven nights B&B at Angsana Laguna Phuket from £859 pp, including return flights with Etihad Airways.

Kids under 12 stay free, return flights from £666.

For more information, visit travelbag.co.uk or call 0871 703 4240