Bathing, feeding and playing with elephants in Thailand

by - 10:32

Elephants are such amazing animals - they form emotional bonds, hold friendships and never forget any of their memories. Oh, and lets not forget how beautiful their faces are and their ability to smile - sort of. On my trip to Thailand nearly two months ago now, we put Elephant Nature Park at the top of our bucket lists and booked our trip to Chaing Mai last, so that it was something to look forward to the entire trip. You know, just in case turquoise seas, golden beaches and busting nightlife wasn't enough. 

Elephant Nature Park is known as one of the most ethical elephant spots in the entire of Asia. Hundreds of tourists and volunteers come down each day to witness what a great job everyone is doing. ENP is a sanctuary that rescues and takes care of elephants that had been forced to work in tourism industries throughout Cambodia, Myanmar and of-course, Thailand. Elephants were also forced to work in the logging industries too, as elephants look bigger and stronger than they actually are. This is now a permanent home for elephants who have been saved, to enjoy the rest of their lives with each other, but unfortunately 'an elephant never forgets' is true, so a lot of them are terrified. The Elephant Nature Park is also a campaigning and advocacy organisation helping to raise awareness of the way elephants are mistreated in Asia, including giving tourists elephant rides, pulling heavy things up hills and being used in the main tourism streets for photos, where they often shake from their nerves. Not only is it home to elephants, but also water buffalo, cats and rescued dogs mainly from Bangkok.

At ENP, there is a strictly no riding policy. If that is something that you are looking for when in Thailand, then you are basically causing harm and distress to elephants. They are taken away from their mothers at a very young age, forced to carry people on their back despite their backs being one of their weakest parts of their body and are kept in small areas chained up. ENP rescues elephants from horrible tourism places such as that by offering them a fee to buy the elephants back from them, which is where the money goes when you donate. 

Once we were picked up, we met our guide on the bus and a short film played to give us some helpful hints and tips on how to stay safe around the elephants and how to behave. I have left these hints and tips just at the bottom of this page. 

Whilst we just visited as a day trip, and they even picked us up from our hostel, there are even options to stay for several days with overnight options. By doing this you can volunteer with them over a number of days, gaining knowledge and helping out. We dump our bags on our table and head over to the feeding platform where we pick up watermelons, pumpkins, bananas and feed them to the elephants. We hold them to their trunks and they snatch it from us. SO CUTE. We were asked to stay behind the red line because they go a bit nuts with their trunks. Classic.

From here, we were taken on a guided walk around the park where our guide gives us some handy facts and information. Elephants sleep for 4 hours of the day and they eat for the remaining 20. THEY EAT FOR 20 HOURS. If that isn't an ideal day, I don't know what is. Unfortunately, the guide gives us the stories behind each elephants reason for being there. Not unfortunately that I didn't want to know, but it was unfortunate that these elephants had gone through such horrible events.

One of the elephants was blind in two eyes. She used to work in the logging industry, forced to pull logs up and down hills each day despite the hot climates. She was pregnant at one point, and she was still forced to work. One day, she was pulling the logs up the hill and she went into labour and gave birth to what was probably the cutest baby elephant, but it ended up just rolling down the hill and dying. The mother elephant never saw the beautiful baby that she had developed a bond with from inside of her which honestly breaks my heart.

We are given photo opportunities around the park with all of the elephants, and you can see how much the guides love what they do, the feeling of helping so many elephants must be amazing. At lunchtime, there was a full buffet lunch (all vegetarian of course) and the amount of food was endless - noodles, curries, rice, fruits, chips, potatoes, fruits, salads etc - I went up about five times with the girls because it was all amazing!

The afternoon was all about bathing the elephants. A great experience. What really bothered me was that the borderline between ENP and the park next door. The park just next door was being used for elephant tourism; there were literally elephant rides being taken place a few feet away. The elephants from ENP would run over to the heaps of mud and throw mud all over themselves, roll around in it etc as it was a cooling mechanism. Clever.

We were all given buckets and told to take our shoes and socks off and off we went, throwing buckets and buckets of water over the elephants to help cool them down. They actually smile - look at this photo below and look how happy the little phant is! 

Unfortunately that was the end of the day, and it was well worth waiting all that time to do it because it was such an incredible experience to end our travels on. I highly recommend Elephant Nature Park to anyone that is visiting Thailand, although there is often a very long wait. 

Useful Tips Before Visiting

  • Book as soon  as possible - we had to wait over four weeks for the next available slot.
  • Take some cash but not too much, just fr some souvenirs and coffee.
  • Wear trainers but pack flip flops - flip flops are great to throw on after bathing the elephants in the stream.
  • Don't forget insect repellent - the heat and the elephants attract bugs, so fight them off as much as you can.

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  1. I love the idea of visiting this elephant park. The ethical philosophy behind the park is part of the attraction.


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