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I spent February 9 – 10, 2019, at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand!

My impression of the Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai?

More than anything else it was FANTASTIC!

Fantastic is a word I used a lot
about all my adventures in Thailand.

DAY 1 at the Elephant Nature Park

I was picked up from my hotel at 8 a.m. in a minibus, collected 3 other couples from around the city and arrived at the camp 2 hours later.

My first glimpse took my breath away!

Elephant Nature ParkElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai
What a beautiful place… large bamboo building raised on stilts, overlooking vast grasslands, with a river winding through.

This was doubly wonderful for the number of animals wandering about freely…

  • cats 
  • dogs
  • domestic buffalo 
  • elephants 
  • goats
  • horses
  • pigs
  • sheep

They’re allowed to ramble wherever they want. 

Basic info about the elephant nature park

We were introduced to our guide for the morning, and given a little talk about safety, ethics and the camp environment. 

  • Completely vegetarian,
  • All food from local villagers and farmers. 
  • All elephants are “rescues” from trekking, shows, ill treatment and logging. 
  • Similarly, the other animals were rescued from “disturbing” situations.

The philosophy behind the Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

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Domestic buffaloDomestic Buffalo
Pot belly pigPot Belly Pig

Elephant and mahout interaction

We went for a walk across the grass towards the river and watched a few elephants going into the river. 

We were only a few yards away from the animals… it was amazing...
(a word I sometimes use instead of fantastic!)

Elephant and mahout going to the river
Elephant bath in river

Each elephant has its own mahout who followed the elephants… no riding whatsoever.
However, the elephants are content to be doused with river water by the mahouts.

Socializing new arrivals

Next we walked to an enclosure with a young elephant and an older one. The young one had only been rescued from a show recently and the older one was keeping her from feeling lonely.

They were in a pool playing together.

Older elephant helping a young newcomer to adapt by swimming together in the pool

Meals were always tasty

We returned to the main building for a buffet lunch.

There was a large choice of hot and cold food, fruits and drinks… and it was universally delicious…

After lunch meet our new guide, Apple, who was ours for the afternoon and next day. 

Again we hiked down to the river, while she told us more about the elephants and the camp.

I got a lesson in just how hot Thailand can be!
I should have had a large floppy hat with me...


Later, Apple showed us our rooms for the night.

  • well done individual bamboo buildings
  • large bed with mozzy net
    [mozzy = mosquito]
  • shower and toilet
  • balcony which overlooked the river

After another great meal, I spent a lively evening discussing the day with the rest of my group:
two couples from USA, one couple from Germany
and one very young couple from Holland.

DAY 2 at the Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Next morning we got up early for a very good breakfast. 

We met up with Apple and made plans to follow a larger group of elephants. Before we met them we went to collect food,

  • watermelon
  • bananas
  • corn
  • leaves

As the elephants passed us they all stopped to smell our hands!

We followed them along the river to a large grass area where two of them stayed and we hand fed them.

Hand feeding an elephantI can’t believe how huge they are, yet so gentle
while their skin is so hard and rough.

Afternoon rest

The rest of the herd and their mahouts had moved on to a place where they usually stopped under the trees. The mahouts set up a campsite for themselves and all settled down with the elephants eating or standing in the shade. 

Apple told us more about how the camp and how it had been set up and the hopes for the future... it was impressive how the underlying "humane" philosophy was carried right through...

Herd Discipline

Suddenly there was a lot of noise from the elephants as they moved into a large circle… all facing inwards… with a young female in the center, hemmed in by the adults… who seemed to be disciplining her.

The mahouts didn’t seem at all bothered. 

After a few minutes the chastised female stomped out acting like a petulant teenager and went and stood a little way from the rest. 

Apple thought the young one had been very naughty and had been told off.
It was amazing how the older ones had "put her in her place".

Later the herd moved into a wooded area. Some of the mahouts followed the animals while the others folded up their camp and followed. 

The Three Amigos

Later in the afternoon, we saw three elephants parading single file.

Apple explained the three had not come to the camp together, but now were very good friends. They had formed their own mini-herd. 

  1. The leader had been rescued from a circus and had dislocated hips that had never been treated so walked with a bad limp
  2. The middle one had come to the camp blind.
  3. The last one had been used for logging and had trodden on a land mine and was still having treatment for the wounded front left foot.

When she had her treatment the other two would wait outside the clinic, and “talk” to her until she came out.

They walked together everywhere, using the usual elephant “parade” method… trunk linked to the tail of the elephant ahead;
the lame leading the blind and tailed by the injured.

Elephant with injured front foot from stepping on a land mine.Medical treatment, where needed, is part of the rehabilitation process.

Humans should look after each other so well!

Too soon it was time to leave.
We trekked through the rest of the camp  towards our mini-van,
interacting with the other rescued animals. 

I was tempted to adopt a puppy
and take her back to England…
but reluctantly decided it was unlikely to happen.

It was like leaving my baby behind!

Then, with sniffles affecting several of us, it was into the minibus for the drive back.

Two never to be forgotten days…

From Fantastic Thailand,

Libby Jones

Libby with her special friend

p.s. It was so uplifting to see how these previously wretchedly treated animals were now living a peaceful life!
p.p.s. I took the plunge, and adopted a rescue puppy back in England. “Barty” keeps me moving!