If yesterday was the best day of my life, then today I have died and gone to heaven! I woke up super early at 6am, got ready and headed straight to the Elephant Nature Park office. Once there, I checked-in, paid my balance, and waited until our tour was ready to begin. After picking up the rest of our group, we drove an hour and a half north of Chiang Mai and finally arrived at the park.
Elephant Nature Park is a 300 acre elephant sanctuary dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of elephants, dogs, and even water buffalo. Elephants used for entertainment, i.e. riding elephants, elephant parks, circuses, street begging, etc are taken from the wild and broken into submission in a process referred to as “The Crush.” These elephants are starved, beaten, restrained and gouged with metal hooks to break their spirit and to teach them to obey humans. Every single day, elephants are used in the tourism industry to carry humans along treks through the jungle.
Elephant Nature Park rescues elephants that have previously been abused and brings them to a place where their freedom is returned to them. You will not see any elephant riding in this park. Instead, the activities are focused on caring for these gentle animals. Visitors are encouraged to feed the elephants, walk with them, bathe them, and help prepare food for them. We did the program called Pamper a Pachyderm, which was focused on providing total care for three special elephants for our group of seven.
One of our elephants was around 40-years-old. She had a broken leg and a bad hip from previously working in the logging industry. She was later sold for elephant riding and used for forced breeding. She has since been purchased and transferred to ENP free to live out the rest of her life as she pleases.
We started by taking our elephants on a walk through the jungle, feeding them pumpkins and bananas along the way, to our rest stop. We ate our lunch along the hillside then made sticky rice balls for the elephants to help them digest their food. We cut up more squash, watermelons, and cucumbers and fed our elephants their lunch followed by a bath in the river. Interacting with the elephants was such an amazing and humbling experience. They are such huge animals, yet so friendly and peaceful. Their trunks are powerful and extremely dexterous. (Ha, they were able to pick up a single fallen banana off the floor with the tip of their trunk!) After we washed our elephants in the river, we fed them the sticky rice balls that we made and rafted across the river and headed to the main camp area.
At the main camp, we saw a herd of elephants encircling their baby and enjoying a special “birthday cake” for one of the elephants that turned 8-years-old today. We met Lek, the owner of ENP and the founder of the Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand. The elephants would bring her in close to their bodies and wrap their trunks around her waist as she gave them “kisses.” She was so nice and kept thanking us for our support. The park is such a beautiful place to see. I would definitely recommend visiting the Elephant Nature Park if you’re ever in Thailand! The money from your visit goes towards maintaining the park, buying food for the elephants, rescuing other elephants, etc.
We ended our day with some sangrias and dinner followed by an hour long foot massage. Ah, a perfect way to finish off our time in Chiang Mai! Had to say goodbye to Kara and Sammy, they’re flying to Phuket tomorrow and I’m headed to Surat Thani and Koh Tao. The past few days have been awesome having a travel buddy, but for now it’s back to the solo backpacker game.
Thanks for an awesome time, Kara! We shared a 16-hr flight over Alaska together, so much delicious food, an unforgettable day with elephants and lots of laughs! I miss you already and can’t wait to see you back home!