This is absolutely the most important blog entry that I have ever crafted and it is absolutely the one that is the dearest to my heart…
I really want to share my experience and everything that I learned at the Elephant Nature Park. I can honestly say that this place has forever changed my views, my opinions, my mindset when it comes to animals and my life.
Elephants have been one of my favorite animals for as long as I can remember and I have always been fascinated by the gentle giant. Everything about them is just so pure and breathtaking. They are so kind, so loving and so brilliantly smart.
When I finally made my decision to travel to Asia I knew that my trip had to include meeting them. After many hours of research on the hundreds of places around the country that allow tourist to interact with them, I knew my only choice was the Elephant Nature Park.
The Elephant Nature Park is a non profit organization that rescues elephants, and other animals from all over the globe. The founder started her journey and this foundation in the 1990’s and as of this day the park is home to over 70 elephants and hundreds of dogs, cats and cows.
2 days 1 night experience
You have two options on how you will be driven to the park. You can go yourself to the main office or you can ask to be picked up from your hotel. I lived really close to the office therefore I decided to just walk there. I had to be there by 7:40 AM and upon arrival I had to pay the remaining balance. Around 8:00 AM we departed the office to go pick up the other members of the group. The email they send you says there is a baggage limit…there isn’t. You also do not have to pay in cash like the email says…you can pay with a card. The actual drive took about an hour and my group consisted of 7 other members. When we first arrived at the park, which is around 11 AM, we were walked to a table where we set out stuff down and around 11:30 AM we walked over to the feeding area and fed a few elephants some watermelon and corn.
12:00 PM was lunch time and around 1:30 PM we embarked on our first adventure. We walked the grounds with our tour guide who introduced us to a couple of the elephants and gave us ample amounts of information on the land, the animals and so fourth. During this day we were able to touch the elephants, kiss them, hug them and take as many pictures as we wanted. This day we also participated in helping the elephants bathe by dumping buckets of water on them. Around 3PM we were finally allowed to check into the rooms. The email stated that since I was a solo traveler, they would bunk me wit someone else which did not happen. I was given a hut all to myself. These are really basic and generally clean. There were a lot of cobwebs and spiders around but the beds do have nets that prevent anything from reaching you during night time. Each hut does have wifi, which I had no luck using butt I didn’t mind much. It was nice to disconnect.
Before dinner time we were happily surprised by a visit from the founder. She does stop in once a week, but no one knows when because she is constantly traveling around the globe and sharing her love and knowledge with new generations. Everyone left at the camp for that night gathered in a conference room where she met with everyone and did her presentation and Q and A. During this presentation she showed us a video that I must admit I couldn’t even watch half of. She wanted to show us what really happens to elephants to this day. It was a video that really dove deep into the suffering that elephants go through on a daily basis all over the globe. They are beat, they are chained up, they are forced to work, they are forced to beg, they are used and abused. Everyone loves to sugar coat things and to pretend like disgusting things aren’t happening all over the world but she is not the type. This is exactly why she started this foundation and why it still exists. Her love and her knowledge flows through her and out with her words and it was really empowering to see someone who started with nothing get to such a monumental place. It really shows that if you have the drive, you can achieve anything.
During dinner which was around 6:30 PM, we were blessed with children performing Chinese dancing and after dinner we had the option to get massages and had some free time to do whatever we wanted. Breakfast the next day was at 7:00 AM and immediately afterwards we left to go roam around the grounds with our new tour guide. (Apple was seriously amazing). On this day you do everything just with your group. No one else was around and in the mornings, the elephants are very active and do roam around all over the place. We were told “if I say run, you better run” because they really are all over the place and the babies are pretty naughty and like to play, but since they really do not understand their own strength, they can really hurt you. As we walked around the park, the elephants were eating, swimming, walking around, playing, and just being wild and free and that was so amazing to see and be a part of. The second day is much more of an intimate setting and you really get to see what a day in an elephants life is like. As we walked around we were able to interact with the elephants, and to feed them when we were provided with bananas. I had a lot of elephants sniff me and see if I had anything on me that they wanted. Around 10 AM they let us go back to our rooms to pack up and check out. Lunch this day was around 11:30 AM and afterwards we actually got to bathe the elephants in the river and be really personable with them. I even got to snug on one while feeding it bananas. After this we helped unload some bananas and then made soft foods food the older and toothless elephants which we also then had the chance to feed. This basically wrapped up day two and we left to go back to Chiang Mai around 3:00 PM.
I will start out by saying that the property is so beautiful! It is pretty high up the mountains and you are surrounded by the jungle. I can honestly say that in the beginning Day 1 didn’t entirely excite me. It was amazing to walk around and to be able to learn about the land and the animals but observing only took me so far. I think what really turned my mindset around was the founders presentation and being able to see and feel how passionate she is about what she does. Day 2 revolved around personal time with the animals without other people being around. I loved how close we got to the elephants and how we were so much more hands on. I am utterly obsessed with this park and what it does and what it stands behind. Almost all of the elephants on this property are handicapped, whether it’s mental or physical. All of them were rescued from lodging camps, riding camps, the circus, begging on the street for their owners, testing grounds for bombs and so forth. These animals were abused for most of their lives. So many of them are blind, have broken bones, deformities, anxiety issues, have lost babies, were raped for profit and so forth. The more information I received, the more I understood that this place is a safe heaven for these animals. They are free to roam the property and to actually live their lives. There are no chains, no beating, and no ridding (yes even without a saddle, this hurts the elephants bones, is very unnatural and requires a lot of training which generally means beatings), only love and help. Another amazing part of this park is how involved it is within the surrounding villages. It provides natural fertilizers to the farmers around and buys all of their crops. It provides shelter and jobs to many refugees, it provides scholarships and send many of the girls from the surrounding villages to schools, and it provides jobs to retirees if they want to continue working. At the end of the day I leave this place at peace knowing that the animals there will live our their lives in happiness and surrounded by people who truly love them and care for them.
Below is a video of everything that I experienced. I hope you love it as much I! <3
If you ever do have the chance of visiting Thailand, Chiang Mai specifically, I would ONLY recommend this park. They do have locations in other cities in Thailand as well including Phuket. If you are in other countries and want to interact with elephants, please do your due diligence and do your research. Elephants are meant to be observed and loved, not used, abused or ridden.