Recently we were privileged enough to visit the Elephant Nature Park rescue and rehabilitation center nestled 60 kilometers away from Chiang Mai City on a spacious 250-acre sanctuary in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
Typically tourists in Thailand interact with elephants by riding them and/or watching them perform in a show; however, the Elephant Nature Park provides an alternative way to visit with elephants in a natural setting (natural valley with a river surrounded by a forested mountain) where the elephants are NOT working for your Baht.
Visionary founder, Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, grew up in Northern Thailand interacting and caring for elephants in her youth. The park (Elephant Nature Park) she founded in the mid 90′s has provided a sanctuary for elephants to live in a peaceful natural environment with a focus on rescuing elephants that have been abused, disabled and orphaned from the begging, logging and tourism industries.
With a specific emphasis on rescue and conservation as opposed to training, riding and elephant shows, the park allows visitors to feed, bathe, pet and learn the personal history and (often) tragic stories behind the individual elephants that together number 37 in the park (32 females and 5 males). Aside from elephants the park is also home to over 400 dogs, 50 water buffalo, 30 cats, horses, pigs, macaques and cows.
The highlight for us was having the opportunity to bathe and feed the elephants in a natural river setting. Having witnessed elephants engaged in the tourism industry it was the first opportunity I’ve had to spend time with elephants in a natural setting with no expectations placed on these majestic creatures to carrying hoards of tourists and/or perform ridiculous stunts.
Learning more about the rights of elephants, in which they are considered mere livestock by the Thai government, it was disheartening to hear about how they’re abused, forced away from the care of their mother at an early age and basically groomed and dispirited to entertain ‘farang’ (Thai for foreigner) who visit Thailand. Armed with this knowledge, I’ll never again support tourism that involves Elephant mistreatment in any way, shape or form.
Visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand was an eye opening and educational experience that had a life changing impact upon me. Please enjoy the video above (our experience at the ENP) and check back soon for a photo essay and story from our time spent at this wonderful sanctuary.
Today we’re taking a fun little day trip outside of Chiang Mai. We are visiting the Elephant Nature Park, which is about sixty kilometers outside of the city. This is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center, so we’re going to be showing you around.
This center is also a refuge for a number of injured and abandoned animals such as dogs, cats, water buffalo and others.
We have a bucket full of fresh fruit and on today’s menu for the elephants are bananas and watermelons.
No bananas. Nope!
That was my first time touching an elephant and their skin is surprisingly course and hairy.
Right now the rescue center is home to thirty seven elephants. Thirty two of them are female and five of them are male. These are Asian elephants, which vary from the African elephant. The African elephant is actually a lot larger than the Asian elephant and they also have much bigger ears.
Most of the elephants on the site have been rescued from logging, tourism and begging industries.
This is the happiest time of day! The elephants are now being bathed.
Overall, the experience at the Elephant Nature Park has been phenomenal. We’ve really enjoyed having an opportunity to feed, bathe and interact with all of the elephants. It is a great alternative to doing the trekking where you are just sitting on top of the elephant and they are working. This way you get to spend time with the elephant in its natural environment feeding it and just having a great time.
Have you visited the Elephant Nature Park before? Is visiting the ENP an attraction you would consider if you visited Thailand? Let me know in the comments section below:
I would like to extend a special thanks to Diane Edelman of D Travels Round for putting together this trip to ENP under very short notice. An extended thank you to founder ‘Lek’ for inviting us as special guests to the park on a one day tour. If you would like to learn more about Elephant Nature Park check out these two websites: Elephant Nature Park and Save Elephant