See elephants as they should be seen at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
R&L’s newest contributor Amelia from the UK (and based out of Thailand), takes us on a virtual tour to this beautiful elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She shares how she enjoyed her day out in the wild, spending quality time with the rescued animals in their natural habitat, and relished her Thai vegetarian buffet lunch.
Thailand’s Northern Province of Chiang Mai is an incredible place to see wildlife, boasting an array of exotic animals that are specific to the region. But what separates the Elephant Nature Park from the rest is its commitment to the welfare of the elephants – a movement against keeping elephants in confinement for human amusements. There is no riding here and each elephant’s needs are individually assessed and prioritised.
For those intending to visit the park, the itinerary, travel details, and cost set out below is what you can expect from a one day tour.
The day begins with elephant feeding, visitors stand on a platform and are instructed to carefully place hunks of fruit on the elephant’s trunk, while keeping a respectable distance. Observing elephants eat is quite fascinating as they use their flexible trunks to grasp a hold on the fruits before tossing it into their mouths with surprisingly good aim. Following a short rest, visitors are led on a walk around the park by the experienced mahout guides, as they provide detailed back stories for the elephants in house.
While some are familiar with people and can be touched; others must be admired from a safe distance, treated like the wild animals that they are.
The park also offers a vegetarian Thai buffet lunch, followed by which the visitors reassemble and all make their way down to the river to observe the more wilder of the elephants in their naturally formed groups from a safe distance. Interestingly, the visitors are also allowed to ‘wash’ the elephants and spend some fun time with the creatures. They are left some food while the visitors throw river water on their backs with buckets. Be prepared to get a little wet.
How to get there?
The park is located in the beautiful Mae Taeng valley, 60km from Chiang Mai, and surrounded by luscious green hills. The views are truly spectacular. Entry fee includes pick up and drop off to your hotel.
A day trip to park costs 2500 Thai baht per person. This includes a vegetarian buffet lunch, which is surprisingly delicious including coffee, tea, and biscuits also on offer. Soft drinks and alcohol are also available at an additional cost. Booking in advance is essential as the park gets fully booked. For a full day trip with transport and good food included, this price seems reasonable. Longer volunteering visits are also available.
Is it worth it?
If you are set on seeing some incredible wildlife but are not the type to go off trekking into the wilderness, the elephant nature park is a good alternative. By the end of the day you may feel like you’ve had an elephant overload, but for many visitors its a once in a lifetime experience.
While it is still a tourist attraction, with crowds and tour guides, and hardly seeing elephants in the wild; it is still an excellent way to observe the beautiful animals up close without leaving with a guilty conscience.
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- Amelia takes us to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. - September 20, 2017