An Elephant Engagement that is Actually Enjoyable for the Elephants!

It was our last day in Thailand, our flight wasn’t leaving until 11pm, and we wanted a day that would make our already amazing trip just completely over the top! What to do, what to do? Well, spend the day with elephants of course. So, I love elephants. They are my absolute favorite animal. I’ve always thought it would be amazing to have an up close and personal encounter with them but I refuse to take part in any experience that is harmful to them. We all have our own opinions about what is harmful, but I won’t go to a place that has elephant performances and I won’t ride them. In Thailand there all sorts of elephant adventure tours where you can ride elephants through the jungle and I mean that sounds amazing, but amazing for us, not amazing for them. So if you love elephants and really want to see them, there is a better way. The Elephant Nature Park offers incredible opportunities for elephant lovers to interact with elephants in a way that is actually enjoyable for the elephants. If you’re headed to Chiang Mai and want an Elephant encounter please check out their site here.  We had Travel Hub Chiang Mai set up our tour at Elephant Nature park and drive us to the park.  There are packages that you can arrange where a driver from the park will come and pick you up from your hotel but we already had one other stop that we were doing in the afternoon with Travel Hub so this worked out the best for us.  And because we had an afternoon tour we only spent half the day with the elephants.  We still had to pay the full day price, but nobody in our group cared about that, we just wanted to pet elephants.  Our driver picked us up around 7am and about an hour later we pulled up to an absolutely beautiful sanctuary.  As we drove into the park we could see elephants grazing in large open fields.  In addition to elephants, Elephant Nature Park is also home to rescued water buffalo, dogs, and cats.

dsc_1593dsc_1594  We hopped out of the van and our driver helped us to find our guide for the morning.  Once everyone was assembled the guide gave us a brief run down of the morning’s events.  First things first we were going to feed an elephant.  We fed the elephant from behind the fence, this gave gave us the opportunity to touch one and get a little bit comfortable with it before we actually walked out in the field with them.  We fed the elephant a large basket of food allowing everyone in the group to give the elephant five or six pieces of fruit each.  I think this is so smart on the part of the park because I’m not going to lie, as much as I love elephants and wanted to get my hands on them, the idea of just walking out into the field with them was a bit nerve wracking.   dsc_1573After this pretty lady had polished off her basket of fruit it was time for us to meet the herd.  We followed our guide to the gate and entered the field with the elephants and water buffalo.  It was at this point that I was expecting some sort of safety brief.  You know being American it’s all about safety safety safety.  I expected to hear something along the lines of, Don’t worry, you’re perfectly safe, if this happens then this will happen, etc.  But no, our entire safety brief consisted of “If the elephants start running it’s dangerous.”  And also “You can be near the baby elephant, but do not touch the baby elephant.”  For a brief moment I may have questioned what in the world I was doing, getting trampled by an elephant was not in the game plan, but then my excitement quieted my anxiety, and I was able to fully enjoy this amazing experience.  Our first stop was a quick visit to the male elephant enclosure.  While the females are generally friendly, the males can be aggressive and visitors aren’t allowed in with them.  As we strolled our guide told us some of the elephants heartbreaking stories, which you can read here, making it all the more special to see them now in a caring environment enjoying their lives.

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To actually stand next to these beautiful creatures and pet them, it was incredible, something I’ll never forget.dsc_1731

After we were done hanging out with and petting the elephants, it was time for lunch.  A huge buffet with delicious food was waiting for us.  We ate and cooled off in the shade for about an hour.  We looked around the facility a little bit and shopped in the gift shop.dsc_1764

Some of the food for the elephants.dsc_1802

A tribes woman who worked at the park.dsc_1803

Our final event of the day was bathing an elephant.  Even this is done with the elephant’s well being in mind.  There was no scrubbing or anything like that which could be harmful to the elephant’s skin.  We basically took buckets and splashed them while they munched on a snack.  When the basket of food was empty, the elephant was done, and she strolled off to do whatever it was she was going to do next.

Heading to the stream for a bath.dsc_1760dsc_1771dsc_1772dsc_1782

After the bath we really had to be on our way.  We gathered up our belongings and went to find our driver.  On our way out we saw others scooping elephant poop and I’ve got to say that I wasn’t too heartbroken to be missing that. lol    The half day was absolutely perfect for our group and a true highlight for my friends and I.  Did I mention that I ❤ Elephants?!

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