Chaing Mai is known in Thailand for its stunning‘Old City’, picturesque temples and exciting trekking experiences. However, the main reason Danny and I went was to spend a day with our favourite animals; the beautiful elephants.
I wanted to write a blog post solely on our day at the sanctuary because it was honestly one of the best days of my life! I could have cried with happiness all day!
We researched carefully into which elephant sanctuary to visit because we know that there are many con sanctuaries in Thailand. When I say this, I mean that many of the owners have realised that tourists are more ethical and educated about elephant cruelty these days and will advertise their camps as being a sanctuary, when really, the elephants are still treat badly, chained and neglected.
I don’t like to preach too much, as there is still so much I do not know myself. But I do know that elephants are not meant to be ridden, their spine is not designed for huge amounts of weight. All day every day elephants made to walk in circles with tourists on their backs, on wooden chairs. It breaks my hearts that they look so sad. Please, please, look into true sanctuaries and avoid riding elephants. I assure you, your day will be so much more fulfilling and animal-friendly if you see these animals happy, in a natural habitat, with NO cruelty.
We booked our trip through ‘Elephant Jungle Sanctuary’ online. You could book it in the office if you preferred, which is situated in Chiang Mai. The cost for two people for a whole day was 4,800BHT (www.xe.com). And it was worth every penny! The Karen tribe are responsible for rescuing the elephants we met from riding camps. Many others are rescued from circuses and cages. We met 7 elephants, however, over a few camps they have many more elephants.
We were collected from our hostel at 08:30am and in the back of a pick-up truck with 6 other people, off we went. I won’t lie .. the majority of the ride was fine, but the last 30 minutes were pretty scary! You cannot expect much from a country with limited health and safety, but we sped through the dirt tracks up and down a mountain and finally got to our destination. Wow, stunning! Green, open and mountainous.
After being given our tribal top, we spent a short amount of time learning about the elephants, how they were saved, how to feed them and what to expect from the day. We then spent a couple of hours getting to know the elephants; feeding them, cuddling them and playing! I had the hugest smile plastered all over my face the whole day. They are huge! Even the babies are ginormous, but so gentle and friendly.
After this we had a beautiful lunch of traditional Thai foods and reflected on how amazing our experience with the elephants was! I couldn’t stop watching them! After lunch we made an elephant ‘delicacy’ of rice, banana and twigs! Sounds odd, but a small amount of rice helps with their digestion and the banana gives it the sweet taste. We squished it all into tennis sized balls and walked down to feed them again. Then watched as they one by one walked into the mud pit, where we splashed and rubbed mud all over their trunks. They looked so happy!
The guides are brilliant. They are very clued-up on what they are doing, as I watched them. They are so gentle with the elephants and constantly watched what we were doing to make sure we did not stand behind them and ensured we were safe at all times. They knew the elephants well and could predict what they were going to do. They were not only clued-up, but so lovely to everyone all day and you could tell they loved being there and helping these animals.
The elephants had bells around their necks so that in the mornings, once the guides wake up, they wander the land and listen for the elephants bells so that can get them and bring them to the camp. It was so nice to hear that they are able to roam the land safely and freely. Each elephant had one guide, it seemed, so at all times we felt safe.
Another thing I liked to see was that once the elephants had had enough of being in the mud or the water, they just left. There was no order to make them stay in the water for our benefit, they were free to do as they pleased, and that was such a lovely thing to know.
Once the mud mess had finished, we walked over to the river and washed them down. They played games with us when we were not looking; spraying water all over our faces. It was such an incredible day. There was one baby elephants called Peta, who was apparently a little terror and hated leaving the water, so it was hilarious to watch as he fell about in the water having the time of his life as all the others left.
They all dried themselves with the dry dirt in the fields afterwards and made their way back to the hill top to laze in the sun.
We left the day by drinking some thai tea and relaxing in the sun, watching the elephants in the distance. I could have watched them all day, I did not want to leave!
I am totally aware of how cheesy this blog post is, but I couldn’t have written it any other way. It breaks my heart seeing these beautiful giants unhappy and to see what they can have makes it slightly harder to see those who are still in captivity. I hope you read this and I inspire you to take the non-cruelty route when seeing these lovely animals. I will 100% be visiting the Karen Tribe in Chiang Mai again!
Love Sarah xxx