Elephant Nature Park is a highly respected rescue and rehabilitation centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand. If you’re a regular reader of Travelust you’ll know I already made the post Elephant Nature Park – Getting There speaking about the disaster my sister and I had, well, getting to the park . This post is a continuation of that one, so if you haven’t already read it, I suggest starting there.
Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park provides a variety of single day and overnight visits to the sanctuary. My sister and I wanted to do the Single Day Visit. The days that we were in Chiang Mai were fully booked for that package; even with booking 6 weeks in advance. The biggest reason we wanted that package during our February 2017 trip was because you could actually go in the water and play with the elephants! However, a quick read on their website states that SDV do not include this activity anymore. Boo! Although, it’s probably safe to assume this removal was for the elephants sake.
Anyways, we ended up purchasing the Short Park Visit which includes transportation to and from the park, elephant feeding, hanging out with the elephants and FOOD! It was a pleasant surprise to find out all the food Elephant Nature Park provides is completely vegetarian! As a vegetarian traveller, it’s always a concern of mine about whether or not veg options will be available. And they had SO many. The food was subpar compared to what else you’ll eat in Thailand, but considering the organization that’s providing it, it’s not a big deal.
We started the day with an elephant feeding! Fruit was supplied and I had the opportunity to not only feed adults but a baby elephant too. I could already tell this was already going to be a highlight of my trip. The baby to adult ratio is not in ones favour but nonetheless it was cool being able to feed an elephant.
Next we had lunch which was buffet style and long picnic tables for seating. It’s a good way to meet the other people there. We had about 12 people and 1 guide in our group. Regretfully, I forget our guides name but he was very knowledgeable and personable.
After lunch we had got to go on the park grounds. It started by a quick run down of rules and expectations. Following that were stories about some of the elephants horrific pasts and how they got to Elephant Nature Park. Many elephants come from the logging and tourism industry. Baby elephants are often taken from their herds and then tortured psychologically and physically to become submissive to their owner.
I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING. Eventually they end up doing street ‘performances’ or at ‘sanctuaries’ that disguise as being ethical.
Please do your research before going to any elephant (or really any animal) sanctuary or attraction. If you come across a ‘sanctuary’ that allows elephant rides, run. Elephant backs aren’t designed to carry more than ~150lbs. After including a saddle, most adults surpass this weight. Our guide told us most of the elephants come to their sanctuary by voluntary surrender from the owner or by purchase. I asked our guide what the cost of one elephant was and he said, the most sick, most weak, eldest elephant will cost around 100 000$ US. A HUNDRED THOUSAND AMERICAN DOLLARS. If they wanted to rescue a relatively young and healthy elephant, could you image the cost?! I was beginning to understand why admission for the short park visit was 100$ CDN.
This elephant had a hole in her ear so the staff put a flower in it to make her prettier :’)
After our group recuperated from seeing before (and after) photos of the elephants, it was time to meet them. Elephants are very social animals and thus most of them have created little elephant families (cue tears again) within the park. Our guide said some of the groups don’t get along with each other (typically if there’s a male or a younging in one or both of the groups). The sanctuary also provides refuge for dogs, cats and buffaloes. Our guide said the elephants typically get along well with the dogs. Side note – all the cats and dogs are available for adoption there! Yay adoption!
I have two top highlights from my time in Thailand. One of them was watching a baby elephant run towards a dirt pile. It was the sweetest, most innocent thing you could witness. He ran with his trunk up, ears flying in the wind and quick but short steps. You could tell he was truly happy. Which was so heartwarming to see after hearing the tragic histories of most of the elephants there.
After visiting, petting and photographing the elephants, our time at Elephant Nature Park came to an end. We climbed into the minibus and started our hour journey to the office in Chiang Mai centre. I highly suggest visiting and support this sanctuary if you’re thinking of going to one. A quick online search confirms that they are well respected, well known and have many reputable supporters.
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