Hands down one of the best experiences of my life has to be spending an entire day taking care and pampering these gentle giants. I think it’s pretty obvious that I love Elephants. I think they are among the most beautiful and smart creatures in the planet. When people say “An Elephant Never Forgets” it’s because they have above average memories and they can easily remember who has loved them and who has hurt them. This includes humans.
We mostly see elephants when they are in the zoo or circus, or on elephant rides. A lot of people don’t realize that these seemingly happy elephants are actually not. To be a part of “shows,” Elephants are made to undergo a process called CRUSH, where they are brutally tortured until there is no more life in them. They are tied up for weeks, underfed, and wounded with sharp knives and blades until they learn to fear their Mahouts or humans. If you were thinking of heading to Thailand to ride an elephant, I beg you to reconsider. Instead, head to one of the many Elephant Sanctuaries (make sure they are legit before you book!) and spend a day taking care and getting to know rescued elephants.
The sanctuary I chose is called Elephant Nature Park. You can choose among their different packages that allow you to spend a day, 2 days, or even a week inside the park. Slater and I went for the Pamper a Pachyderm package, which gave us a more intimate encounter with the Elephants. For this particular type of visit, you don’t actually stay inside the park. Instead, you are taken to a neighboring elephant camp that used to be for tourists and elephant rides. The elephants here have all been freed from their trekking seats and mahout hooks. Now, they are allowed to roam free and eat as much fruits as they want!
We took care of 4 lovely female elephants: Happy, Bandian, Sa-ac and Tiam Sai. It’s so interesting to see that each elephant has her own particular individuality and personality! For instance, they had a queen bee elephant who bullied another! They also had a patay gutom elephant and others who were so picky with which fruits they ate.
We started the day feeding the elephants and introducing ourselves to them. Then we started our 3 hour trek around the camp. We were exhausted by the time it was over, but the Elephants didn’t even break a sweat! We watched them in their natural habitat, pulling food from the trees, bathing themselves in mud, leading the trek and just being themselves. After that, we arrived at the river and gave them a water bath (and more food!) These Elly’s can eat!
After bathing the elephants, we took a water raft all the way to Elephant Nature Park, where we ended our visit. There, we got to freshen up, grab some coffee, and meet the rest of the herd- including this cute little baby Elly above!
As you can clearly see, he was the apple of everyone’s eyes. All the bigger Elephants surrounded and protected him the entire time.
I can’t put into words just exactly how this experience has touched me. I am greatly humbled just seeing these giant creatures and knowing that once, they were prisoners and held captives by one of us. What did they do to deserve being pulled away from their homes? Why did they need to work for humans? Who made us king? Everything just seems to be put into it’s proper perspective, and that’s a realization that money can’t buy. I can’t fully encapsulate the whole experience in a single blog post, but I would definitely recommend making the trip to Chiang Mai, if only to see and meet these beautiful, strong and resilient creatures. ‘Til next time, Elly’s! Wait for me!