With everybody running around in elephant pants you might be tempted to see some real life elephants. And Thailand is the place to be if you want to meet the gentle giants. However, you have to be really careful and do your research on which places treat the animals nicely and which do not.
Do not go to a place that offers elephant riding as this will hurt the animals and should not be supported. Sadly, many tourists do not think about the animals and how they are treated. If you care, please help to spread the word.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai was probably the only place that I had booked in advance. This was not necessary as my friend had booked the same trip about two days before, but it at least helped me plan my travel destinations in Thailand a bit more as I had one fixed date already.
When I was doing my research at home, two names stuck out for places that people recommended and who promised that there was no elephant riding involved and the elephants were treated correctly: the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and the Elephant Nature Park.
I only heard good things about both places but I just decided to go to the Jungle Sanctuary since I couldn’t go to both places.
It sounded really interesting and offered both a day and a half-day trip. I chose the full day one which included feeding, bathing and washing the elephants and which I paid 2400 TBH for.
On the day of the tour we got picked up from our hostel early in the morning and it was about a two-hour car ride to the Jungle Sanctuary. Not really comfortable but there were some nice people in the car and time went by really fast.
As we arrived we first had to cross a hanging bridge which was pretty scary and then we sat and waited for a while until all other people arrived. There were a lot of people present. I had imagined it a bit less busy!
Meeting the Elephants
We all got to wear these Thai shirts and then we got to meet the elephants for the first time after receiving some instructions. We got to feed them bananas and carrots and it was absolutely breathtaking to get this close to the animals. There even was a little baby elephant which was so adorable.
After our first meeting we had lunch and I made friends with the dogs that were staying at the Jungle Sanctuary. The lunch was alright and after we got changed into our bathing clothes and moved on to the river as a big group to start bathing and washing the elephants.
There were enough elephants for all of us and some of them even laid down in the water to enjoy a bath. They really seemed to like it that all of us were throwing water at them.
After the elephants were clean, it was time for them to get dirty again, We continued going up the hill to some mud holes where we started to rub dirt on the elephants until they were all covert in it.
And so where we. I think they even enjoyed this part more than the bathing. So the reason for doing this after they were clean is apparently that the dirt helps protect the elephants from things such as sun and insects. Their skin is less protected if all the dirt is washed off.
Enjoying the Waterfall
While the elephants were happy and left so that they could eat again, all of us travellers went on to a little waterfall were we could relax in the water and clean off all the dirt. We stayed there for a little while until we had to get back to our belongings to get changed and prepare ourselves for going back to our hostels. However, we did get a chance to say goodbye to the elephants who were waiting for us.
They day just went by really fast but it was a really incredible experience to get this close to the elephants. I would have never thought I would have ever gotten this opportunity. While it of course would be better the for animals to live in their normal environment were they could do whatever they want, I do believe that the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is treating them well.
It included a lot of more space where the elephants stay that we did not see and was not accessible for us. When I visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, they were planning on rescuing another elephant from the circus or an elephant riding place.
Have you ever been to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary or are you planning on going in the future?
Let me know!