PLAYTIME WITH ELEPHANTS
The activity I was looking forward to the most during my time in Chiang Mai was my overnight visit to Elephant Nature Park and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The two days I spent observing and interacting with the elephants were the highlight of my time in Thailand.
One woman whose goal was to save mistreated and exploited domestic elephants in her home country of Thailand set up the park. In a short time, the organization has grown to neighboring Cambodia, started an education program for locals, and has hopes of releasing a few recovered elephants back into the wild.
Watching these magnificent animals and hearing about their troubled past would leave a significant impression on most people, and I was no exception. To see them play and splash around like children, but knowing they have the power to trample you left me in awe of these creatures.
All of the guides and workers genuinely loved their jobs, and you could sense the bond between the elephants and their mahouts (trainers/caretaker). Each elephant chooses their mahout, and they build a relationship and trust during their life at the park.
In addition to the elephants, the park is home to over 400 dogs, buffalo, cows, and cats. The dogs were taken on after the 2004 tsunami , and the number of rescues continue to increase.
I was also very surprised at the quality of the lodgings at the park. Since I was a single traveler, I was expecting to share a room outfitted with an outdoor toilet and overhead fan. I was so surprised and pleased to find a charming building and room all to myself. My back balcony overlooked the area where the elephant’s slept, and there was even a resident cat on my balcony that would try to sneak into my room.
I couldn’t get enough of the young elephants, and I just wish I could have spent more time there. The volunteer positions fill up quickly, and there was only availability for two days. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit, even if it’s just for a day.
It’s beautiful to see these creatures thriving and at peace, and I sincerely hope many more domestic elephants find a safe refuge in Elephant Nature Park.