In the blog post To Ride or Not to Ride I talked about responsible animal tourism and why I would never support elephant trekking camps in Thailand (or anywhere). In that post I mentioned Elephant Nature Park as one of the few reputable elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai; well, I’m pleased to say that I can finally count myself among the people lucky enough to have had an ENP experience.
I chose ENP’s day trip for 2500 baht (about $90 CDN). For that price an ENP guide and driver will pick you up from any hotel in Chiang Mai between 8-8:30am; they’ll transport you the 60km to the park where you’ll spend an amazing day hanging out with elephants, broken up with a vegetarian buffet lunch and snacks, and returned to your hotel in Chiang Mai by about 4:00pm.
ENP was beautiful! Well maintained, natural, clean and expansive grounds framed by forested mountains and accented with a bordering river. It felt like the elephant version of Jurassic Park.
Okay maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it was gorgeous.
So, the first thing you do when you arrive is feed elephants bananas and watermelons from a platform. I honestly could’ve stayed there all day. There’s just something about watching elephant trunks dexterously grasp food , place it into their pink mouths that close horizontally when they eat, that just doesn’t get old.
You eventually do get off the platform and onto the ground with the elephants; your guide tells you about the unique personalities of the different elephants and the usually heartbreaking story of how they ended up at ENP.
Even though the elephants are roaming freely they’re still supervised during the day. Each elephant has a caretaker (a.k.a mahout) that minds them. I tried without success to capture a really heart warming picture of an elephant with it’s caretaker.
So, apart from feeding and learning about elephants you also get t0…
touch them, and…
bathe them. And my personal favourite….
just watch them be with one another.
I was so grateful to be sharing the same space as these awesome animals, it’s always a humbling and spiritual experience to be reminded of just how incredible the universe is.
I spent the minivan ride back with my head leaning on the window and beaming like a lunatic as I replayed the scenes of the day in my head, the elephants at ENP definitely left an impression on me that will not soon be forgotten.