Happy Sunday guys! I thought I would take this sunny day in London to continue with my Thailand series here on C&C. After a few stormy days in Phuket, we set off in search of some sunshine and elephants 😉
My friend and I were both really keen to see elephants whilst in Thailand, there are few places in the world that give you the opportunity to see these gorgeous creatures up close and personal. I have been lucky enough to meet them in Thailand previously, also Kenya and Sri Lanka but my friend Aimee had not had the pleasure, so we decided to travel into Chiang Mai for a few days to say hello to Nelly and her pals 😉
Leaving the rain (and our luggage!) in Phuket, we jumped on a plane to Chiang Mai. The flight was inexpensive at around £40 and just 2 hours long. We booked it online the night before and it was super easy. We did the same with the hotel and struck gold with our find, Sireeampan……more on there in my next post. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai we were lucky enough to be greeted by sunshine 🙂 We had researched before heading out as to where was the best place to see the elephants and my friend and I were both adamant that we wanted to visit a sanctuary. After hearing such great things from friends and social media we booked a day with The Elephant Nature Park. This particular company has a number of locations throughout the country for rehabilitated elephants. They work with families to educate them on how to treat their elephants that were priorly abused and they also rescue elephants from unsafe and torturous environments. The organisation had a number of options for a day trip but we decided on The Hope For Elephants program. This day is specifically designed for a small group of people and we were especially sold after reading we would have the chance to bath the elephants!
We were picked up from our hotel in the early hours and travelled an hour north to meet our big buddies! When we got on the bus we were so excited to find out that there was only 4 of us booked in on that day, we knew we’d be able to have closer contact with the elephants in a smaller group of people.
Before my visit to the Elephant Sanctuary I had no idea just how terrible the existing tourism activities were for animals all over the world. My husband and I actually rode an elephant whilst in Sri Lanka 5 years ago and I had no idea (no, I realise rather naively) what the elephants go through to become a ‘performing’ attraction. I thought the activity was simply the same as riding a horse; no pain on the elephant, a novelty that didn’t abuse the animals and owners that loved them as adored pets. Well, this couldn’t actually be further from the truth and I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel stupid about once jumping on on of their backs.
En route to the sanctuary we were shown a short video which explained the torment and torture an elephant goes through from being captured in the wild to becoming a machine in the logging trade or tourist attraction. The elephants sprits are’ broken’ in a disgusting few weeks of pure torture. They are tied up in the jungle alone and beaten for days until they forget what it is like to feel normal and loved and part of a family. Once the process is over their natural friendly and warm natures are no more, they are simply zombies, therefore making it easier for their capturers to train them, either for labour or tourism. Then as if losing their spirit wasn’t enough, they are beaten, poked and stabbed throughout their adult lives as part of the training and performing process. I probably haven’t explained the true hurt in this short paragraph but I would urge you to watch this video which explains what I have tried to. It’s really so so sad 🙁
For those of you that were able to watch my snapchat stories during my trip I spoke quite a lot about the capture of wild animals after visiting the Tiger Kingdom in Phuket and I feel as though I am lucky enough to have a platform here on C&C to continue on this subject whilst telling you all about my trip to the elephant sanctuary.
After hearing about the breaking process I felt personally ashamed of once riding an elephant in Sri Lanka. At the same time though, I was simply uneducated. I was completely unaware of the torture and torment and I now feel ridiculous for thinking otherwise. I hope that by writing this article and sharing my experience will help any of you who were also unaware.
The elephants that we ended up spending the day with was a family of 4. Two aunties, a dad and his son (mummy was having a rest day). The older generation had previously worked in the tourism trade, being ridden for amusement and their owners decided to join the Elephant Nature Park program after being educated as to how to treat elephants for the better. It was so sad and obvious that the older elephants were broken and the younger son was free and unscathed. He was the so much more fun and excitable, he even tried to play with us on a number of occasions, not realising he was twice the size, much to our fright on occasion! The older generation however, were still quite dependant on their owners and seemed much more placid. It was quite heartbreaking after hearing about the breaking process but also wonderful to know that they are now free.
Roaming through the sanctuary with the elephants, feeding and bathing them truly was an unforgettable experience. The people who run the sanctuary are now working with a number of families that also have elephants and depend on them for their livelihoods. Educating them that they can actually love the elephants and treat them kindly and still make a living. To me this is the way to see an elephant in Thailand. Riding them or posing for a selfie is one thing but seeing them enjoy their lives, interacting with their families is what it truly means to see and enjoy nature.
The trip itself was a full day, we fed the elephants first and went for a long walk with them. We then stopped to enjoy a yummy vegetarian lunch followed by a huge bath (complete with trunk shower if you are lucky ;)) and another feeding session. It cost 6,000 baht which is about £130 – totally worth it! There are other programs but this was best suited to us as we only had to share our interaction with two other people.
If you are traveling to Thailand I can not recommend this trip enough. I am also so grateful to know just how devastating the tourism industry is with regards to Asian Elephants. I am now happy to know I will no longer contribute to such a monstrous trade.
Stay tuned for more on this particular location, Chiang Mai and feel free to contact if you have any questions about this amazing program.