Why We Chose the Elephant Nature Park

On April 18, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

We knew when we started planning the Southeast Asia portion of our trip that we wanted to see elephants up close. Not just see them, but ride them and take awesome pictures of us riding them. That plan changed dramatically when we found out about the Elephant Nature Park, and we’re so glad that it did.

Everywhere you go in Chiang Mai, there are advertisements for jungle treks on elephants and elephant rides and elephant parks. The world’s largest land mammals are a part of the Thai culture and religion. These days, they’re also a big part of Thai tourism.

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Elephants do this pretty much all day.

Asian elephants can grow up to 12,000 pounds, and they can eat more than 600 pounds of food a day. The word “big” doesn’t quite cut it here. We’re talking about colossally huge times massively enormous. Something like that.

THE PLAN ALL ALONG

We really wanted to ride an elephant, and we were looking at the best places to go, until we read about what elephants go through before they are domesticated. Let’s not forget that elephants are wild animals, very wild if you spook a mother elephant. To tame them – and to allow them to carry riders – they are put through a brutal process of beating and jabbing that can last a week. The elephant’s owner needs to break the elephant’s will and spirit. Tourists never see this part of course.

ELEPHANT INJURIES

Enter the Elephant Nature Park. The park is more than an elephant petting zoo – it’s a rescue center for injured and mistreated elephants, and there are many in Thailand. Some of these injuries date back to the logging industry in Thailand, where elephants were used to haul tree trunks. Many elephants suffered broken legs working in logging.

Other elephants suffered serious injuries, strangely enough, in car crashes. Some Thai people take elephants into the big cities and offer tourists a chance to feed an elephant for a few bucks. But if a car is coming down the street and the elephant spooks, the elephant is the one that suffers.

A SAFE HAVEN AT THE ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

The Elephant Nature Park is a place where elephants no longer have to worry and no longer have to suffer. Here they live, once again, as wild animals, free to do what they want, when they want. They form their own families and live their own lives in a way they were never allowed to do before. If you want to read more about the work of the Elephant Nature Park, click here.

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It’s always a bit scary turning you back on an elephant.

OUR TIME AT THE PARK

We knew going in that we wouldn’t be able to ride an elephant, but we were absolutely ok with that. Our day started with feeding the elephants, handing them big chunks of fruit that they would grab with their trunks and eat in seconds. Then they reached out their trunks for more.

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You can never have enough tiny elephant pictures.

We walked around the park and saw these giants up close, feeling their rough skin and taking pictures with them. We grabbed a quick lunch, then saw a short documentary about the Elephant Nature Park. Part of the documentary showed the process by which elephants are domesticated – it was tough to watch, but made us appreciate the work of the park even more.

BABAR TAKES A BATH

Ok, none of the elephants are actually named Babar. Or Dumbo. At least I don’t think they are. I just needed something alliterative. Our last stop of the day was the river, where we bathed the elephants. Basically, we kept splashing them with buckets of water until they decided they had cooled down enough. Then they went and covered themselves with mud, undoing all of our hard work in a few seconds.

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The elephants were wonderfully human in many ways. You can see they have personalities, they’re curious, and they’re whimsical. They are royalty at the Elephant Nature Park, and they know it.

If you’re visiting Thailand, you’ve almost certainly come across some sort of elephant attraction. We urge you to consider the Elephant Nature Park. You may not get to ride an elephant, but your time will be even more meaningful with these gentle giants.

For more awesome pictures of elephants, click here.

-O.L.

4 Responses to “Why We Chose the Elephant Nature Park”

  • My 3yrd old was in the room as I was reading this latest entry! He asked if he could see! I said sure.. Every single elephant pic he asked to kiss – and did so! A traveler made? I hope so! Love your blog! Thank you!

    • That’s so cute!! Thanks for the very kind words 🙂 We try to keep it fun and entertaining. We’ll see you on the road!

  • The Elephant Nature Park looks like it’s doing a great job looking after rescued elephants (and allowing visitors to look after the elephants!). It’s nice to hear…

    • From what we can tell (and we’re certainly no elephant experts), they’re doing an excellent job taking care of some animals that need a lot of love. We had a great time there and enjoyed every minute of it!

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