Spend half a day or a full day with the elephants, with the utmost respectful atmosphere … this is precisely what the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s first elephant sanctuary, offers.
The elephant, symbol of Thailand, attracts the attention of all tourists without exception, but often in bad conditions. Like other animals of the Kingdom of Siam, most elephants are still suffering the consequences of mass tourism and are victims of abuse at an early age.
It can not be said often enough that elephant rides – no matter where, how and with whom – are synonymous with ABUSE. It is not natural for this animal to let people get on his back; he was conditioned and tortured from an early age.
Much stronger than an article’s words, here are the explanations in this video:
Lek Chailert, the woman who whispers at the elephants’ ears.
Seeing the horrors done to elephants in her country, Lek Chailert, raised with his grandfather’s passion for the welfare and rescue of animals, dedicated his life to the pachyderms of Thailand.
After long years of perpetual struggle and more than 200 saved elephants, her word is now internationally recognized, especially through documentaries on popular channels such as National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC.
It was in 1998 that the story of Elephant Nature Park began. Adam Flinn, in collaboration with Lek Chailert, founded the Green Tours Organization, to welcome wounded elephants in a small valley not far from Chiang Mai. Although this park originally offered elephant shows, Lek quickly realized that the well-being of pachyderms takes precedence over their tourist attractivity.
And this is how the very first elephants sanctuary of Thailand appeared.
Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is what is known as an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center. You can volunteer as well as spend a whole day with his – huge – boarders. The park provides a 100% natural environment for elephants … but also for many dogs, cats, buffaloes, and many other animals rescued from human cruelty.
The concept is very simple: to take part in the life of the elephants, without disturbing them, in a total respect of the animal and the nature.
Elephant Freedom – Single Day
To get prepared to meet the elephants.
Our day starts at 07:40, when we have an appointment at the office of Elephant Nature Park, located in the heart of Chiang Mai. There, a local guide welcomes us, and invites our group – of 7 people – to get into a minivan.
The 1H30 of winding road allow us already to create a first link with the elephants waiting for us at the park. Indeed, a small informative video explains what we must and should not do in the presence of the giants, and introduces us Lek Chailert, founder of the park and unconditional love of her boarders … a love she actually managed to pass on to us with less than 30 minutes of images, as beautiful as impressive.
Once arrived at the park, a small welcome snack awaits us. In other words, a perfect opportunity to get to know other people in our group. A moment of exchange, … and also the preparation for the long-expected meeting.
The first moment of complicity.
After putting on a large, colorful, local fashionable t-shirt and raincoat boots on loan from the guide, we leave with hands-on bananas for our first face-to-face encounter with the giants.
It’s here that we spend an hour with a 62-year-old elephant mother, and her two little ones, to feed them. Bananas, bamboos, plants and other fruits … it’s full of stars that we take advantage of this unique moment.
The small break with a traditional meal.
After this moment, we follow our guide to a large table specially prepared for our group. An all-you-can-eat buffet awaits you with typical Thai dishes such as pad thai, fried rice, stir-fries … and other coconut desserts, lychees and Thai bananas. All is served without meat for potential vegetarian visitors.
The collective bath and the little walk within the forest.
Once our meal is over, we go back to see our three friends to share with them a special moment: the bath. A small water line runs a few steps from the entrance to the forest; it is here that the mother and her little ones open the walk, followed by our small group, impressed by this closeness.
Then begins a magical moment: we all fill our small bucket given by our guide, and throw the water on the back of the elephants, while rubbing mud to wash their skin. The three pachyderms, lying on their backs, are totally confident with us and do not hesitate to wet us with their trunks.
When they decide they are clean enough, the elephants get up and show us the way to a small path through the forest. We walk with them, the mother in front and her “little ones” behind us, to a field filled with persimmon trees where we can feed the giants who are fond of these small fruits.
The last moments … and last bananas.
It is with nonchalance that we return to the entrance of the forest, always accompanied by our three friends.
The guide makes us prepare small banana and oat bran dumplings, which we can then give as elephant treats for our last moments of complicity.
After hours of sharing, about 2 tons of bananas and bamboo and unforgettable moments, it is with sadness that we must say goodbye to the elephant mother and her two children.
… and it is with a mind and a heart full of memories that we take the road back to Chiang Mai.
Elephant Nature Park Office
📍 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing,
Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
See the MAP
📞 +66 (0) 53 272855 – +66 (0) 53 818932
Bookings for the Elephant Freedom Single Day can be made directly on site, but it is best to book online in advance. The cost of this day is 2500 baht for an adult and 1700 baht for a child.
Little Bonus! During the day, Karen women living with elephants and taking care of them spend some time with us during the bath to take pictures, which they then post on their Facebook page so we can get them back.