Chiang Mai Half Day Elephant Tour Review
Jack Boad traveled to Thailand as part of a round the world trip and booked a half day elephant tour to a sanctuary in Chiang Mai. Here is how the half day tour was structred and how he found the experience...
Morning - Arrival
I was picked up at 6:30 in morning to visit an elephant sanctuary along with the other members of my group that day. It took around one - two hours to get there and the guide in the car makes that time pass quickly by giving you a very interesting background chat on the park itself and also what we would be doing. He also allowed us some nap time. It filled me a sort of giddy excitement and confidence that again, I was going to see these animals in a very natural environment and not under any cruel circumstances.
Arriving at the elephant park we pull into the car park, the place is immaculate. We get taken into a large open seated area where we are told we can have our fill of free fruit and tea/coffee. No need to tell me twice. I grab a banana and a long black and take a seat. I almost spat a little hot coffee out when I focused my eyes to the view just adjacent from the benches. Elephants were stomping around and playing in the dusty field and I could hear them trumpeting to one another.
Afternoon - Meeting the Elephants
We are given our overalls for the day. This is for two main reasons. One being that the elephants are comfortable being around visiting tourists if they all look the same and wear a familiar attire. It puts them at ease. The second is because we are undoubtingly going to get filthy. After a quick briefing we are taking into the dust field and we are within feet of these massive creatures. They look excited, but are being patient. It was then revealed to us that we were going to feed these elephants, by hand, with bunches of bananas and sugar cane. You had to show them a huge amount of respect, and so I did.
All the elephants had their own personality. Some are clearly more cheeky than others; trying to use their trunks to quickly snatch the food from your hand as you walk by. One elephant wraps it trunk around my arm and pulls me towards it, breaking my flip flop. I couldn't have cared less about the flip flop because I had clearly made a friend. I fed him all the food I had and once I was complete he wrapped his truck around me and gave me a big wet elephant suction kiss on the cheek.
After the feeding was over we went to another field and met the elephants we would be spending the rest of the day with. We were given a background on the elephants themselves and got to make acquaintance with them. We were taught how to talk to them in Burmese. Just me and the other participants with the elephants, nothing in the way - incredible.
There was this one elephant I could see off in the distance. It was only a baby and it was dancing, almost like in a trace. The same little dance over and over. I decided to ask why the elephant was doing this and it turned out that the little elephant had been rescued from a circus and it was doing that dance to attract people over to feed it. Assuming that it was never fed unless it worked for it. It was hard to take in, and very sad to see but at least this elephant was now in a place where it could be looked after. I hope it broke that habit eventually.
We spend the next hours walking around with the elephants. It was now I realised that I had the naughty one who liked to walk off the beaten track when some food caught its eye. This just made the whole experience a little more special as this guy was obviously a character.
The time came to say goodbye to our elephants with a bath. They walk into a lake and roll over onto their sides and we get some brushes and buckets to give them a good old scrub and clean. It isn't long before the elephants are sucking up large amounts of water with their trunks and blasting us with water. The water fight lasts about twenty minutes. We loose, badly.
Back in the city that night it took a while for the last two days to sink in. I can't help but have a massive stupid grin on my face all night and the next day. I would highly recommend going to volunteer with elephants in Thailand, it was probably the best experience of my life.
By Jack Boad
If this experience appeals to you, search our volunteer opportunities in Thailand or if you would like to see more of the country view Thailand tours. You might also like to check out our guide to the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.