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Where to meet happy elephants in Thailand

This is probably one of the most important posts I’ve ever written. Not only because the topic is extremely important, but also the meeting with elephants was extraordinary.

You probably know from my other post (click here) that elephant tourism is highly developed in Asian countries, like Thailand or Cambodia. It means that in many places popular with tourists you can take a ride on elephants or watch tricks made by them (painting, dancing) etc. There are so many marketing lies that create unreal stories about elephants. One of these is that they are very talented so that they are able to paint. Do you really believe that a wild animal like elephant likes to paint flowers and trees because it has an artistic soul? Elephants are trained and forced to do that in pain and fear.

Elephant riding is another popular attraction. The perspective of riding on a huge animal is very tempting. What a great photo can we take, can’t we? Unfortunately, there is a dark side of this practice. Did you know that elephant’s back is not prepared to carry a burden like a platform with people? It causes an extreme pain and irreversible change in its spine. There is also another myth about elephants’ business. The famous hooks used by keepers to control the animals. It’s kind of disturbing to see a guy who stabs an elephant’s head to keep it walking. When you ask, someone is telling you that it’s nothing wrong because elephant’s skin is very thick. Stubbing doesn’t hurt it. Well, guess what? Elephant’s skin is as delicate as human’s, and every single kick, punch or hit hurts it a lot. Just imagine your skin in a contact with a hook. Then you have an answer that something is wrong.

Why I write about it? The reason is that I want to show you an alternative option for meeting with this beautiful animal. There is a place where elephants are respected and cared for -Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Owners of the park rescue elephants from circuses, labor in forests and tourism industry. They also help them to rehabilitate and live in peace. The park provides a natural environment for dogs, cats, buffaloes and many other animals. You can visit it for one day or volunteer for longer to help to care for animals. The park is surrounded with mountains, by to the river where elephants can take a bath.

I took part in single day visit. I booked it online on their website (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org). I was picked-up from my hotel and taken to the park. It takes about an hour to get there from Chiang Mai.

During this day I was feeding elephants (several times because they are always hungry :)), what was probably the cutest thing in the world. They were so delicate when grabbing a watermelon from my hand.

They looooove watermelons…
They looooove watermelons…

 

 

Our guide introduced us to the elephants that live in the park and told us their life stories, which were in most cases horrible. The majority of animals have been laboring for 20-30 years in misery and pain.

After the lunch which was absolutely delicious, there came a time for an elephant bath.It means that people walk elephants to the river and splash them with water.

Right into eye…ups…sorry elephant!
Right into eye…ups…sorry elephant!

After that was their favorite part – mud bathing. It was hilarious to see how a few tones elephants wallow in mud like a group of kids. They looked so happy and the view was heart melting.

Just an ordinary mud batch :)
Just an ordinary mud batch :)
Dirty enough? :D
Dirty enough? :D

I’ve never been so close to such a huge animal nor had I an occasion to touch it. The feeling is amazing. They are so calm, delicate and smart. It’s a pleasure just to watch how they interact and care about each other. The experience is extraordinary and I will remember it forever.

If you would like to spend your money, do it right, for projects like this. Living in places like this is probably the only chance to survive for many elephants.

But watch out! There are a few places with elephants around Chiang Mai. They may seem to be similar but they aren’t! They force elephants to perform tricks or carry tourists so you will basically pay for elephants’ tortures.

And next time you will see an elephant somewhere, just take a minute and look closer. Think. Observe. Can you see the chains on their legs? The wounds behind their ears? That should be enough for you to see that something is wrong. Even if you don’t perceive this, look in elephant’s eyes. They will show you everything. The sadness, pain and fear.

And for God’s sake! Read reviews in the Internet before you plan your trip. There are thousands of negative opinions about the popular places with elephants! There are documentary movies from these places and hundreds of articles based on facts.

Choose smart!
If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and SHARE. Your recommedation is very important to me :)

18 Comments

  1. Dzięki Ci za ten tekst. Więcej świadomych podrózników, to mniej cierpienia dla tych wspaniałych zwierząt (i nie tylko ich).
    A o dziwo, mimo czasów internetu, świadomi podróżnicy zdarzają się rzadko…więcej jest turystów…

    1. Ewo, to ja dziękuję za zrozumienie tego tekstu. Ziarnko do ziarnka i może coś się zmieni. Wydaje mi się, że trzeba mówić i pisać o takich kwestiach, bo świadomość jest zerowa. Mam mnóstwo znajomych, którzy jeździli do Tajlandii, korzystali z przejażdżek na słoniach, a gdy mówiłam im, jak to wygląda od środka, przecierali oczy ze zdumieniem i mówili, że pierwszy raz o tym słyszą…Zatem problem jest w edukacji :/

  2. Twój tekst zrobił na mnie ogromne wrażenie. Głupio się przyznać, ale nie wiedziałam, że to jest aż taki hardcore…Za tydzień lecę do Tajlandii i miałam w planie jazdę na słoniu, ale na pewno tego nie zrobię…Dzięki za uświadomienie. Rychło w czas :)

    1. Cześć Martyno, dziękuję :) Nie byłam tam, ale patrząc po opiniach na forach, to są doskonałe i nigdzie nie natkęłam się na wzmiankę o wykorzystywaniu słoni. Wydaje się być ok :)

  3. I’ve been the tourist on the elephant ‘safari’ and white water rafting at two different locations in Chaing Mai. Initially it was fun seeing an elephant kicking a football, painting pictures and hearing how much they enjoyed life labouring all day for tourists. On the last trip the penny finally dropped, I witnessed the bleeding injury caused by one of the young Burmese handlers with his iron hook because the exhausted creature simply refused to take another step. But the real message was conveyed to me by the elephants themselves. Having stopped for lunch I used the time to walk off alone to see the elephants up close and the emotional experience of quietly making eye contact with these intelligent animals I will never forget. They seem to sense the empathy and their unblinking sad eyes almost implore you to take pity on them. You can enjoy so many activities in Thailand, there is no need to ride an elephant. A day trip to an elephant sanctuary is a much more rewarding way to experience these animals close up and the money spent directly contributes to the welfare of the elephants. It is a similar story with the ‘selfie’ tiger experience but that’s another story. Enjoy your vacation in the beautiful area of Chaing Mai.

    1. Yes James, I totally agree. Only seeing an elephant is good enough to enjoy this beautiful animal. We don’t have to and we should’t do anything else!
      It’s good that you realized it and that you changed your mind!

  4. Cześś, jestem na niskobudżetowym wyjeździe w Azji Południowo-Wschodniej, w okolicach Wigilii będę w Chiang Mai.
    Możesz mi powiedzieć ile kosztuje bilet do tego miłego parku ? Z góry dzięki :)

  5. Hi Aleksandra, I’ve just found this article through your FB comment and I want to say Thank you for spreading this message of love and respect for the elephants :) Your article and photos are beautiful and I’m sure they’ll help other travellers think twice before they book a tour to see the elephants. No animal (elephant, horse, camel, donkey…) was made to carry humans on its back. Happy travels!

  6. Witam!
    Bardzo dobry artykul Olu!
    Niech on uswaidomi ludzi,ktorzy zyja w ciemnocie i przekonaniu,ze jadac do Tajlandi wszystko jest piekne i zajebiste!
    Mam tylko pytanko czy wie moze ktos o takim”rezerwacie”dla sloni w obrebie Krabi?
    Pozdrawiam!

    1. Cześć Greg :) Dziękuje za wsparcie i zrozumienie tematu! Za mało w ludziach świadomości a przez to odpowiedzialnej turystyki. Eksploatujemy nasz świat do granic, a naprawdę wiele moglibyśmy mu oszczędzić. W okolicy Krabi nie znam rezerwatów, a widzę, że wszystkie projekty Elephant Nature Park znajdują się bliżej Bangkoku. Ale może ktoś pomoże w tym temacie! Pozdrawiam serdecznie :)

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