Spend a Day Getting Personal With Elephants
Choosing the Right Elephant Park
A number of elephant parks are clustered around the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. They vary widely in activities and philosophies. After our research and discussion with a fellow traveling family, we chose Elephant Nature Park to spend the day getting personal with elephants.
This preserve is dedicated to injured elephants being rehabilitated and raised conscientiously. Their outreach has gone beyond elephants; they have rescued dogs, cats and water buffalo (you can adopt the dogs and cats).They also don’t let you ride the elephants. If you have done your due diligence, you know that riding elephants is not okay. It is cruel and harmful to the elephants’ well being.
What the Nature Park Offers
The Elephant Nature Park, has many different options to chose from when visiting their park. Short day visits, single day visits which includes bathing elephants, hiking with elephants and a two day stay with use of accommodations on-site. All of the visits include transportation from your hotel to the nature park, lunch and dinner (if you are staying overnight) and a snack. You are set up with a guide who will tell you all about the elephants, names, why they are at the park, how they have adapted and much more. There are some elephants that will allow visitors to touch them and some that you need to stay away from. Being in the park, watching and being so close to the elephants is an amazing experience.
Our Elephant Experience
We chose the single day visit as we wanted the kids to have the experience of bathing the elephants. We recommend you choose this over the short day visit. Our day started out early, with a pick-up from the hotel in Chaing Mai and about a one and a half hourf drive into the countryside of Thailand. Upon arrival, we immediately were taken in to feed the elephants. Large portions of fruit were handed to us and the elephants gathered up to rail post and happily took the fruit right out of our hands with their trunks.
It was surreal, watching my kids so close to these massive creatures, feeding them right from their hands. I loved it as I watched the kids’ smiles grow with each piece of fruit being handed out. They were actually having the trunks of elephants whisk food right out of their tiny hands. As the fruit ran out, we moved on as did the elephants.
Learning About the Elephants
As we wandered through the preserve, dogs joyfully playing without a care around our legs, we were told about the elephants. For some, it was the trauma they endured or the land mine they stepped on, and how their lives were now better that they were at the preserve. We were able to walk up to a couple of the elephants, pet them, take pictures with them and just marvel at their beauty. Their trunks reached around, sniffing at us, blowing their air on us as if they were petting us as well.
We continued our tour of the preserve, watched some more elephants graze, dogs play and the few cats slink around, then headed in for lunch. It was hot, so lunch was a nice break to cool off and get some energy back.
Watching the Elephants in Their Habitat
We wandered towards a fast flowing river after our break and watched as a handful of elephants bathed in the middle. The guide pointed out the baby in the river and showed us how all of the adult elephants surrounded the baby as if they wer all the parents of this one baby. The kids were mesmerized by this community of elephants and their behavior to care for one another.
They saw these animals for something more than just animals, but as thinking, caring beings. As we stood watching, a couple of elephants walked right in our path, so close that we had to jump out of the way in order to not be trampled. It was exciting for the kids as it reminded them they were in the elephants territory, not their own.
Taking Time for a Bath
This was probably the best part of the day for our kids and for us, the bathing of the elephants. The elephants stand in shallow river water as buckets of water are thrown onto their bodies. A large bucket of food keeps each elephant occupied and happy among the screaming kids.
Our three kids were given their own elephant to bathe. They happily ran into the water and proceeded to throw bucket after bucket of water on the elephant while the elephant seemed to just stand there patiently enjoying the cool down.
After a while the buckets of water were no longer thrown on the elephant, but on each other, The laughter and delight from the water fight while standing next to a patient elephant was worth the watch. Our kids will always remember that moment, as will we.
Ending Our Time
We dried off, packed up and returned to our transport, but not before one last wave, one last glance, and one last moment to take in our time spent with this herd of elephants. The kids wanted one last pet and one last feed, but it was time to go. They tried to convince us to adopt the hundreds of adoptable dogs and cats, we pushed them along and into the van for our drive back to the hotel. Our day felt short even though it was long. Our memories will be forever.
Learn about more about ethical treatment and elephant sanctuaries by reading Wanderlust Wookies post on Elephant care.