On my Chiang Mai ‘must do’ list was to visit the Elephant Nature Park. I had read a few things about the park online prior, but it wasn’t until I really did a bit of research into the treatment of elephants in the tourist trade that it cinched it for me, and I knew the nature park would be the only way I would want to see elephants. Back on the island (Samui) I avoided the elephant trek, but did catch a glimpse of the poor working elephants, including a baby who looked in such distress.
(Steve took a couple of photos and compare the photo on the right with the ones of the elephants in the nature park – night and day difference) It made me so sad, and I hope more people will educate themselves before blindly following the tourist list of things to do and continuing to support these trades by riding elephants and such. Please do your own research if seeing elephants is on your own bucket list.
Anyhow, all that aside, it was an amazing day and I want to do it again already! We chose the single day visit (for 2,500 baht each) and they picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel.
On the ride to the park (it was about an hour and a half drive), they showed us a video of how to approach the elephants, and what to do, and not do. The video used a cartoon to show the dangers of things like being behind the elephant and startling it and getting kicked, so it was kind of funny, but it freaked me out too. I realize now that having a bit of fear is a good thing because even though the park does everything to keep visitors safe, it’s important to have a healthy respect for the fact that they are still wild animals in their own natural habitat, and things aren’t always predictable.
At the park they told us that there are 42 rescued elephants, as well as hundreds of dogs, 75 or so cats, and about 150 workers.
Throughout the day we heard stories of how the elephants came to be living at the park – each of these amazing animals has such a unique backstory, and personalities to match. We got to feed them a few times and bathe them in the river. We also walked around the grounds and visited the places where the elephants receive care. At times we just stood with them, or watched them play. After lunch we saw a documentary on the abuse that is happening in the tourist industries. It was horrifying, and it made me cry – especially after spending so much time with them. Overall, it was a great learning experience, and it was interesting to see for myself how unique and individual each elephant is. Again my memory is poor, so please learn more facts about elephants here.
I just can’t say enough about what an incredible day it was. Since I find it hard to put into words just how special the experience was, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words, here are our photos and videos from the day. Enjoy!