For us, elephants have always been an exotic animal that we would only be lucky enough to see in a zoo, back in our home country. So when we had the chance to hang out with these amazing animals at an ethical sanctuary for the whole day, we couldn’t contain our excitement!
We booked our adventure through Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in the northern region of Chiang Mai. They are an eco-tourism project jointly initiated between the members of the Karen hill-tribes and the locals of Chiang Mai who were worried about the well-being of elephants in Thailand. And we can’t recommend them enough!! (By the way, this post is not sponsored by them in any way, we just really loved our experience!).
Our day started by being picked up by the project’s driver. The drive took about an hour from Chiang Mai and was a little bumpy (this would be our only recommendation for improvement). As soon as we arrived, we instantly felt the laid back atmosphere of the camp. We were greeted by some of the local workers and asked to put on some pretty cool tops that we were told help make the elephants understand you’re a friend and keep them calm.
After a short discussion about the day’s itinerary and rules, the group was split in half and each party was able to feed half of the elephants at the sanctuary. Once the watermelon ran out and we had some time to interact with the 3-4 elephants with us, we switched with the other half and continued hanging out/still feeding the other group of elephants.
This experience was truly unforgettable. Being that close and able to freely interact with these magnificent animals really demonstrated their size and intelligence. They enjoyed being rubbed and petted (their skin felt like warm, worn out leather!).
After feeding time, the groups merged in order to get ready to get dirty! No literally, we all put on bathing suits and started ‘washing’ the elephants with handfuls of mud. This ended up being way more fun than we initially thought, with the elephants spraying muddy water at everyone and the sanctuary workers having a little fun with their new friends by ‘accidentally’ getting them covered in mud.
We recommend just letting loose and having fun with the dirt, it will make your experience so much more enjoyable!
Once the elephants were nice and lathered, we walked them down to the river to give ’em a good rinse. This was probably the most fun we had all day! You could really see the enjoyment the elephants were having, splashing around in the water next to all these happy people. This was pretty much the definition of positive vibes 🙂
Once the animals were nice and clean it was time to say goodbye. We waved as they made their way back into the jungle, thanked our amazing guides/staff and all took a big group picture (which you can download for free from their Facebook page!). The day ended with some members of the group walking to a nearby waterfall for some cliff jumping before getting clean up and changed for lunch. A standard Thai lunch was provided. We hopped back into the truck to be driven back to the hostel, admiring all the pictures and videos we took that day.
If you plan on visiting elephants during your time in Thailand, we can’t recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary enough. They don’t allow any riding of the elephants and they don’t use any harsh tools to control the animals. The staff is professional, full of energy and tons of fun. When it comes to the animals, please remember that you are visiting their home so be respectful, listen to the staff and you’ll have a truly amazing experience!
Have you ever seen elephants in person?
What was your experience like?
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