The first time I saw an elephant was during a trip with my sister to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were in the city for a few days and my sister had booked us for a single day visit to the Elephant Nature Park. As someone who has been so used to seeing magnificent animals only through cages and glass windows, I was expecting pretty much the same from our visit to the Elephant Nature Park. Imagine my glee and excitement when I found out that we would actually be walking with, petting, feeding, and bathing the elephants!
Elephant Nature Park is a rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand that provides a natural sanctuary for dozens of elephants, dogs, cats, buffaloes, and many other animals. Since the 1990s, the organization has strived to cater to these animals’ welfare and development. Aside from providing and maintaining a safe home, their projects include: rain forest restoration in the surrounding area, cultural preservation through active local community involvement, as well as multimedia and hands-on visitor education focused on the plight of animals — all while acting independently of political movements and other groups who do not value the park and the creatures in its care.
Location: Elephant Nature Park, 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai, THA
Business hours: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Official website: Elephant Nature Park
Facebook page: Elephant Nature Park
Contact numbers: +66 (0) 53 272855 / +66 (0) 53 818932
For the Elephant Nature Park – Single Day Tour Package, the pick-up time from our Chiang Mai hotel was at 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. The package is inclusive of roundtrip aircon van transportation, admission fees, park guide fees, buffet lunch, and baggage/luggage allowance.
It is recommended to bring sunscreen, sandals/flip-flops, change of clothing, towel, bug repellent, and of course, a camera. The trip is suitable for all ages, but make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat. The day tour usually ends at around 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. and the rates are at 2,500 Baht/adult and 1,250 Baht/child (2 to 11 years old). That’s approximately ₱3,500 and ₱1,600 respectively.
During our stay there, we learned about the history and present struggles regarding elephant abuse in Thailand through a documentary they were showing for free. I teared up at the stories of the elephants residing in the park. As we followed the elephants around for a day, our tour guide pointed each one out and told us their names and what each elephant had been through before being rescued.
Volunteers and visitors can choose to support the Elephant Nature Park’s projects in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar. For a while after our experience in the conservation, I seriously considered doing the month-long immersive volunteer work in the park. I still think about it from time to time. I’m willing to up and leave to sleep under the stars and learn how to care for elephants properly and fight for their freedom. That’s how amazing the experience was for me.