Our favorite part of the trip to Thailand was spending a day visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. The Asian elephant is the national animal of Thailand. When visiting this country, you will see elephant statues, elephants on temples, elephant souvenirs, and even real live elephants. Unfortunately, many elephants are abused and forced to perform shows and give rides to tourists. Most people who visit Thailand don’t realize the cruelty that these animals face.
Having read a lot about elephants before visiting, we knew that we wanted to see some, but we didn’t want to attend a show or ride them. I had read a lot about Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for rescued elephants and other animals. Here, elephants are able to live in open spaces, receive daily medical care, food, and love. They also get to spend their days with other rescues. Instead of offering elephant shows and rides, they give visitors the amazing opportunity of helping to care for these creatures.
There are laws in Thailand that protect against animal abuse, but the laws are very tricky and are constantly changing, so abuse to elephants still happens. The team at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai work to find elephants that need rescued. They travel to elephant camps where abuse is happening and purchase the elephants so they can take them home to get them back to a healthy life. Hearing the stories of the abuse that many of these elephants have suffered was very depressing, but seeing them have a happy life again is amazing.
We started our day around 8:15 in the morning, where we were picked up at our hotel. We spent the day with our tour guide and 10 other people. During the hour-long ride to the park, we watched a video on how to act around the elephants in order to stay safe. We also watched a video that detailed the past lives of the elephants.
Once at the park, we were given a tour. It was neat to see that not only does Elephant Nature Park support the rehabilitation and everyday care of elephants, but many other animals too. We saw many dogs, cats, and buffalo. We learned about elephants, including more about their anatomy, their eating habits, and how they create their own families once they arrive at the park. After taking a tour, we were able to help feed the elephants.
The elephants eat watermelon, bananas, pumpkins, and other plants. We learned that some elephants are actually quite picky and they won’t eat certain foods! It was a fun experience feeding the elephants. You scoop the food under their trunk and they grab it and taste it this way. They then put the food into their mouth to eat. You have to be careful when feeding them because their trunks are very strong.
After feeding the elephants, we were able to walk around more and explore the park. Nick took many pictures of the other animals that were there, as well as more elephant pictures. We then ate lunch. After lunch, we got to help bathe an elephant in the river. It was awesome that everyone got to help pour water all over the elephant. She seemed to enjoy it, too.
We also got to spend some of the day watching the elephants interact with one another. There are two babies, so it was fun to see how playful they were. The one baby was nicknamed “Troublemaker” and any time he was coming near, the guides would make everyone get out of the way! We were also able to pose for pictures with some of the elephants, which was a neat experience. I never thought we’d get so close to an elephant! In the late afternoon, we were taken back to our hotels.
Because this was such a unique experience, it was our favorite part of our trip to Thailand. We learned a lot and got to see the cool things that Elephant Nature Park is doing to help animals. If ever given the chance, I would love to do the week-long volunteer program in the future.
If you ever get the chance to visit Thailand, we highly recommend a visit to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. You can visit and interact with the elephants for a day or can even volunteer for several weeks! While most places in Chiang Mai treat elephants poorly by over-working them and abusing them, it’s good to know that there are some great organizations out there doing the right thing to protect these animals.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We hope you enjoyed learning about the Elephant Nature Park and that you enjoyed the pictures of the elephants! We will leave you with a few more pictures from our elephant adventure. Talk soon! 🙂