2 days at the Elephant Nature Park

On 28 May 2014 by From elephants to kangaroos

You now know, I am a fan of elephants. So when several people told me about this camp near Chiang Mai, trying to protect elephants instead of using them for tourism, I did not hesitate. You can take a tour on a day in the park, do 2 days/1 night or a whole week of volunteering.

IMG_5243 (2)For my part, as I never plan anything and do everything at the last moment, it was impossible to do the week of volunteering (must be booked several months in advance) but I’ve decided to spend a night in the camp and stay there 2 days. So here I am on Tuesday morning leaving Chiang Mai, the camp is located 1h- 1h30 from the city. Small shock before you get there , it turns out that a few meters before this camp fighting for the protection of elephants, you go through 3 or 4 purely tourist camps who use them badly… strange for me! Anyway, we are therefore arrived in the park, a large green area of several thousand m2 mixing elephants, dogs, cats and buffalos. Upon our arrival at 10am, Ten, our guide for the day, explains the program. And it will start a few minutes after with feeding the elephants. At the gateway, all elephants accompanied by their mahout arrive! A large basin filled with watermelons, bananas and pumpkins to give to them. The first movement is hesitant, impressed by all these elephants (even though each group has its own elephant feeding), but you get used quickly.

IMG_5350After this nice moment , we start to encounter elephants at the bottom of the bridge. There are 39 elephants in this camp, including 4 babies (the youngest is 8 months) and 3 males who are isolated because more violent / uncontrollable. We go by group from an elephant to another, discovering the history of each. All were adopted due to abuse forest work or due to mass tourism. Many elephants are blind of one or two eyes, some have broken backs, broken legs, abscesses and so on. I literally fell in love with a female who has 2 hind legs and back broken, but is a kindness unnamed. Despite her injuries, she moves at its own pace and follows her 2 friends around the park, very touching! We can also come closer from the babies but we can’t touche them, to not disturb them or not knowing how their mothers will react and it’s better to let them go to adulthood before they get used to be touched by humans (except mahouts course) .

IMG_5589 (2)After lunch, we watch a video on how elephants used by tourism are prepared. And this is a shock. I knew that these elephants were mistreated but we can clearly see in the video how local learn to the elephant to order to them, all being well based on beatings, violent peaks in the eyes of confinement in pens that are not even their size and other. A good time for me to ask you not to go in this kind of camp where you can ride on an elephant, it really is not respectful to them and know they suffer greatly in arriving there and as much after a few years of lugging you on their backs ! For the story elsewhere, the camp opened following the action of a woman who took care of them after several abused elephants and then decided to devote her life to them. As in, elephants have been given to her or some that have been abused got to this park.
IMG_5597Next to it , it is bath time, long awaited moment! But I admit that I am skeptical about this time of day… I came to this camp because I do not like those who flock of tourists but for the bath, all tourists (who are 1 or 2 days or more) come together in one place, the mahouts and all elephants come to bathe. Some people do not even come to touch the elephants but more to take a good photo with them… it disturbs me a little! It does not stop me however to take my bucket with joy and wash our elephant from head to toe in a good time of fun with our group. For once, we love fills our elephant, we spend our time to wash, caress, and hug her. Its mahout is very nice guy with whom we have a good laugh ! Then comes the time to bath babies and their families, moment that we can observe from high to not interfere once again.

IMG_5731End of the bath , it’s time to feed them again (an elephant eats an average of 200kg of food a day !), 1st group around a shipment of watermelons. Then the elephants will bathe themselves in mud pools (why not?) , play with each other and with their mahout. I have great pleasure in observing the relationship between a mahout and his elephant , we feel they are truly committed to each other, each elephant knows where to go. As these animals can live up to 80 years , it is sometimes a lifelong relationship that develops between them. The end of the day is calm, looking at an another baby, tourists who are there for the day leave and therefore remain our group of 5 people and volunteers. The camp becomes very quiet, very nice. From our beautiful bungalow, we can observe elephants seek treatment, buffalo eat or dogs walking around.

IMG_5769The second day starts at 7am for breakfast and then we start with Apple, our guide for the day, 2 hours for a walk in the park. This is for me the real value in this package 2 days / 1 night: you have the opportunity to approach all elephants, really take your time with them, with their mahouts . We then learn more about their lives, we take the time to go and cuddle them, we also get purchased by a baby and so have a little morning run. We see them swim and another, a great time! Also an opportunity for me to ask questions about these other camps that we saw next door to try to understand how they react against it and how they are trying to educate them so that the elephant next door are not mistreated.
Around 10:30 am, the day tourists arrive and then begin almost the same program as the previous day for us, except that now the elephants are better known so it is easier to feed or bathe. After bathing in the afternoon, we will prepare their food. So here we are sorting bananas, preparing a mixture for older female elephants who have no teeth to chew and to feed her.

Here’s how these 2 beautiful days end in this park. I highly recommend visiting here if you want to find a respectful place of these animals. You do not ride on them, but do not worry , you will leave with tons of beautiful memories !

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