We got to play with elephants!!! Seriously, we are so lucky that we were able to have this experience, and it was absolutely magical to be so close to these hilarious creatures with very unique and beautiful personalities. I would not call them “gentle giants” just because they are so powerful and can be very protective and dangerous if they haven’t been domesticated (nice word for “broken”). They have a fierce family instinct and protect each other at all costs!
Riding elephants in Thailand is an often debated subject. In order to be able to ride an elephant, it must be “broken,” and this practice is significantly more brutal than taming a horse, for example. I won’t go into too much detail about it here except to say that it is really heartbreaking. You can read about why you should try not to ride elephants here and here.
It wasn’t hard to find a responsible organization that allowed you to spend time with elephants — a quick google search led me to the wonderful Elephant Nature Park, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide sanctuary and rehabilitate the endangered Asian elephant. (ENP also works to restore the rainforest and preserve local culture by using local goods and providing employment for locals). Their elephants are rescued from trekking companies who bought broken elephants for tourists to ride and from circuses and street begging elephants. Instead of riding elephants, we were able to feed them and walk around with them in their natural habitat. We even got to help bathe them during the hottest time of the day.
The elephants we got to walk with are from a neighboring trekking camp whose owner, Muoy Khamwichai, decided she wanted to adopt the Elephant Nature Park mission as well. So awesome!
Towards the end of the day, we got to see more elephants from ENP. Two of them are babies that were actually born at ENP and have never experienced being broken or tamed, so visitors are instructed not to come too close because the babies are basically wild and don’t know their own strength or how to interact with humans gently and, of course, because their mothers were very protective. Such great work Elephant Nature Park is doing!
And lastly, this video of Mae Buay taking more than her fair share of bananas! Adorable — I loved this cheeky, grabby little girl!