Visiting the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai was one of our best days in Thailand.
These majestic creatures deserve to be free. Unfortunately, due to abuse in their past, the elephants at ENP would not survive being back in the wild.
The price of a ticket helps support the park, who do a fantastic job of looking after the elephants. ENP have nursed sick elephants back to full health, and given them a safe place to recover whilst allowing us, the tourist, to learn about them from a distance.
Say no to elephant riding
In South East Asia, sadly, there are a lot of places that use elephants as a way to make money from tourists, whilst ignoring the needs of the animals. If you see a company offering rides of elephants IN ANY FORM, please do not choose to support this company. You can do your own research on this topic and find out why this is not OK.
Booking was easy via their website. There are a few options to visit the ENP, ranging from 1 day visits to 7 days volunteering. We chose the ‘Single Day Visit’ option which cost 2,500 THB per person (approx £64). Included in the ticket price, was transport to/from the park and a vegetarian buffet lunch.
Sorted into small groups, we left almost exactly on time (7.40am). We had no further pick ups and headed straight to the park! The drive took around 90 minutes and was quite boring, but most people used this time for sleeping. There was a short toilet stop along the way where we could pick up little snacks. As we set off again, we were shown a short video.
I’m not going to lie, the video was horrific. Before watching, I had no idea what people did to “break” an animal into a life of tourism. I don’t think there was a dry eye on the minibus. As horrible as it is to watch, it is important to do so, as it highlights the need for places such as the Elephant Nature Park.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by our guide for the day. She explained our plan for the day and a little of the history of the park.
Our first introduction to the elephants was for their morning feed. I was a little apprehensive that the elephants would be forced to stand there whilst we fed them. I am happy to report that this wasn’t the case! Elephants literally just wandered over if they fancied some food.
Once the elephants were full up, we were able to walk around the park with our guide. The park is huge and the elephants have so much space to roam around and do whatever they wanted. We simply walked amongst them all. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them just living their lives – playing with tyres and thrashing themselves around in mud pits.
Rescue & Rehabilitation
Our guide explained the background of each elephant as we neared them, some of the stories broke my heart. Each elephant has either been rescued from abusive living conditions, or abandoned and left to die due to poor health. A few elephants had deformed feet due to standing on land mines, or poor hind legs due to years of carrying logs and/or people on their backs.
The Elephant Nature Park do some truly fantastic work. The elephants are so very well looked after. At no point during our time there, did we feel like they were being exploited. Yes, there were a lot of tourists visiting, but I genuinely believe this is a good thing for people to witness. The more people visit genuine places such as ENP, the less the demand for unethical practices.
After a large vegetarian buffet lunch (which was delicious by the way!) we walked to a river, where we watched elephants toss water over themselves happily.
We were given a bit of spare time towards the end of the day to look around the other parts of the park. Not only do they rehabilitate elephants, but they also do their bit in supporting sick and stray dogs, cats and water buffaloes. We spent a little time giving the dogs and cats a little TLC.
Obviously, the best outcome for these elephants is to live completely in the wild – but due to the awful conditions they have endured in the past this is not always possible. The Elephant Nature Park are the next best thing, allowing the elephants residing there to recover and retire in a large stress-free environment.
If you find yourselves in Chiang Mai, I would highly recommend a visit here.