the highlight of our trip to thailand was going to the elephant nature park located about an hour outside of chiang mai.
okay, maybe it is even a highlight of my life.
b and i are very much animal people. we knew there would be many opportunities to interact with animals when traveling to thailand and we were very excited by this. but we also wanted to be cautious of what kind of interactions to have. we wanted to make sure that all the animals we were around were treated humanely.
there are many companies in thailand that use elephants just for the sake of tourism. the elephants are often beaten and taken away from their families in order to break the elephant’s spirit. these tactics help the owner to show the elephant who is boss.
this treatment of elephants breaks my heart and i knew i didn’t want anything to do with those type of companies. i didn’t want to ride an elephant. i wanted to love and nurture an elephant.
after much research, we came across elephant nature park.
elephant nature park rescues abused elephants from tourism and provides them with a sanctuary inside their camp. all the elephants are treated with care and given free rein to roam the entirety of the estate. the elephant nature park has rescued baby elephants when they were stripped away from their mothers in tourism and provided them with adoptive parents and loving aunts. it is a wonderful oasis for these elephants who have lived rough lives. elephant nature park hopes to one day release these animals back into the wild.
we signed up for “pamper a pachyderm” program through elephant nature park. i will be honest, it is a bit more expensive to have an experience like this. we paid about $185/person but it is a full day and after visiting the camp, i knew my money was completely well spent. the money was going to feeding the elephants (did you know an elephant eats about 3 tons of food a day?), employing nurturing guides/care takers and running a business.
the tour included transportation to the park (approx. 1 hour outside of chiang mai), lunch (one of the best meals i had in thailand mind you) in a hut overlooking the river, white water rafting and loving on these gentle giants.
b and i were able to feed, bathe, walk with and love on 4 adult female asian elephants and 1 four year old male asian elephant. it was a dream come true. not to mention the landscape surrounding the park was completely breath taking.
this is one day i will treasure for many years to come.
tip! you do have to walk a lot with this tour so be prepared. i would also advise you to bring water shoes for crossing the river, bug spray and sunscreen.