Elephants are some of the most beautiful animals on the planet and we got to spend a whole day with them in Chiang Mai, Thailand seeing them play.
This is going to be a very picture heavy post, as I think the pictures speak for themselves, but I will be including some key information that I think it really important when it comes to spending time with elephants in Thailand.
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Elephants are a huge part of the Thailand tourist industry, but usually for all the wrong reasons and it breaks my heart. The thousands of tourists that ride elephants every year, never knowing (I hope they don't know) just how badly they are being treated or that the elephants that are forced to dance for tourists or the ones that are pulled along the streets every night to take pictures with tourists, whilst the bright lights and noise are terrifying to them.
As soon as we booked our trip to Thailand, we knew that we wanted to spend time with elephants, but we didn't want to contribute to anything that was harming elephants in anyway. Instead we wanted to go to a rehabilitation centre that actually rescues these beautiful animals from years of abuse. We spent hours searching for the right place and the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai was the perfect choice.
Established in the 1990s their aim was to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for dozens of distressed elephants from all over Thailand. The elephants have plenty of space to roam around, and the park is set in a natural valley that is surrounded by forested mountains.
As soon as we arrived, it was feeding times for the elephants. Many of them have separate diets, so we were put in to different groups. These elephants can eat, and they love their watermelon, so I knew we were going to get on fabulously. Apart from the fact that they covered my hands and arms in mud within minutes.
This is just a little insight in to what they eat throughout the day and the food storage area. They get through so much food every day, and they are very lucky, as I would happily eat off their menu.
We took our Tep Wireless device with us and it worked perfectly in the middle of the jungle, meaning that we could upload photos to Instagram throughout the day.
We were impressed that Tep Wireless worked in Bangkok, but in the jungle in Northern Thailand was even more impressive. It's a portable wireless device that is the size of a phone and means you can have wifi wherever you are in the world. I don't go travelling without one now, as its really handy for working on the go too and cheaper than roaming charges.
It was then feeding time again and a chance to get an elephant selfie. They all loved posing for photographs, but of course you don't want to get too close to them unless they want you to. You kind of have to wait for them to come to you.
We heard a lot of stories of abuse and accidents for these elephants and this adorable baby elephant was one of them. It stepped on landmine before it was rescued, but with the care of the rescue centre, it was making a great recovery and was still enjoying lots of play time.
Speaking of play time, this was the best part of the day. The elephants started walking down towards the river and after a brief play with the tires and a bit of a wrestle, they started making their way into the water.
This was hands-down one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. Just seeing them all so happy and free, playing in the river. The adults were just as naughty as the little ones, pushing each other under the water and holding each other under. None of it was aggressive, just lots of fun. We sat there for over an hour watching them, just the noise of the splashing around.
We then got to go in the water with them and wash them. Although I think we got more wet that they did, as they sure like to play in the water.
It was then feeding time again and a chance to sit down under them and feed them that way. You really have to put a lot of trust in them, that they won't crush, but there are workers all around to keep an eye on things.
It's not just elephants that are there though, they have a whole cat and dog rescue centre and there are loads of water buffalo too. The water buffalo ended up there as the person that owned them couldn't look after them, so they were going to be killed, so the nature park took them on.
It really was the most incredible day and everyone that works and volunteers there is doing a fantastic job. If you love elephants and you want to spend time with them, please, PLEASE reconsider riding them as it is cruel - the elephants have to be tamed before tourists can ride them and that is a cruel process, with them being beaten, starved and sleep deprived when they are babies and then hooks are used to control them during treks.
Why ride on an elephant when you can actually play with them, wash them and actually see them happy, as well as contributing to getting them back to their healthier happier selves.
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