In order to come to Thailand, there are some essential things you must do. Ride a motorbike, try street food (also known as mystery meat), go to a wat (temple), negotiate with a Tuk Tuk driver and finally, go to an elephant sanctuary. Elephant sanctuaries are fairly common in the Chiang Mai area, so it’s relatively easy to find one to go to, however, you do need to do your research.
Most of the sanctuaries are no ride sanctuaries which means just that, you can’t ride the elephants, however there are some that do offer rides. Now, you are by no means a horrible heartless person for wanting to ride an elephant, but many of the elephants at such parks are severely mistreated and therefore are highly discouraged to go to.
We decided to go to the Into the Wild Elephant Camp. And the park absolutely lived up to its name…you go VERY into the jungle wild of Northern Thailand.
Walked up and down very steep, mud covered hills, and had to trek through the Thai jungle to get to the elephant park. The struggle was very real, but it was also very worth it upon arrival.
It looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park. Seriously. A cabin was constructed in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing around except for jungle. Oh, and T-Rex.
We signed up for a half a day excursion, and in the words of Goldilocks, a half day was justttt right. Not too long but certainly not too short by any means. What was included was feeding the elephants, a jungle walk with the elephants, bathing the elephants and then swimming with the elephants (oh, and lunch was included, always the way to my heart).
I hated the experience.
Just kidding 😉
Truth be told, I basically wanted to adopt an elephant by the time our session was over. I am not one to enjoy typical tourist activities (not a fan of visiting churches and cathedrals, and hate to even be classified as a “tourist”) however this is something I am SO glad I did. Plus, my GoPro pictures of elephants eating (or more so inhaling) bananas out of my hands totally made it worth every baht.
Here are some things I learned while I was out on my adventure:
- Elephant in Thai means “Chang”, which coincidentally is my favorite kind of bier in Thailand (and also, the cheapest). On the bottle you’ll find photos of two elephants. Duhhhh it all makes sense now.
- Elephants can live to 70-80 years old. God bless it
- Elephants start giving birth at around the age of 17 and are pregnant for an easy 2 years. Woof.
- You can tell an elephant’s age based on the curvature of their ears. Younger elephants have pointier ears while older elephants have ears that curl over at the top. Knowing that, how old was Dumbo?
- Baby elephants are known to have temper tantrums. The baby will just fling themselves into the mud and lay there. ( My brother did the same thing…it’s actually a phase he never got out of, kidding). The mother will try and lift the baby with its trunk, and when that doesn’t work, it gets other elephants to try and help lift the baby.
- Elephants have great balance. They can walk alongside a steep hill and using their trunks to sort of feel out the ground in front of them, they know where to step and where not to step. You remember that cartoon of an elephant on top of a ball from the circus? Balance kids, balance.
- Elephants eat bamboo, bananas, and I believe sugar cane (although I could be wrong on that one). They spend the majority of their day eating, about 20 hours.
Anyways, don’t want to bore you with all the informational tidbits I learned. Just need to jot them down so I don’t forget.
Going to an elephant sanctuary was well worth the experience, especially because you can get so up close and personal with the gentle giants.
Now, how to fit one of them into my backpack is the question.
P.S.- check out the Into The Wild Elephant Camp here