Spending time at the Elephant Nature Park was one of the coolest days I’ve had in my life. I have to admit elephants are one of my favorite animals. Elephants and dolphins, actually. Seeing that typed out sounds random, but they are both so cute. If you spend the day at the Elephant Nature Park, it is really well planned out. You get to feed the elephants, walk around the grounds with the elephants, have a wonderful lunch and bathe the elephants.
It’s really important to go to a reputable park if you’re deciding between parks to visit. I didn’t know this before, but it is actually not good for the elephant if you ride it. Most of the time, these elephants are heavily mistreated to get them to perform tricks or even to just put the carriage on their backs. Elephant Nature Park is one of only a few in Thailand that do treat their animals with care and not for human entertainment. It is sad, most of the parks are very close together, so if you hear an elephant roar (actual question - what sound does an elephant make?), most likely, its trainer has poked it with a needle, or worse, to get it to do a trick for guests.
There are two main tours that you can do at the Elephant Nature Park, a short day or full day. A full day is 2500 baht which comes out to around $70 USD. All of the money goes to maintaining the grounds and feeding the animals. And, boy, elephants can eat. Literally, every time we saw them, they were eating! You can also spend more time there like doing an overnight or more than a day, but if you don’t have that much time, the full day is definitely the best option. I lucked out when trying to book my visit. It was originally sold out, but I didn’t give up and kept checking for a week or two. Spots opened and I was able to book the full day!
Here's what a full day looks like at the Elephant Nature Park:
If you stay within a certain perimeter around the old city, the Elephant Nature Park will pick you up from wherever you’re staying. We lucked out and were staying not too far outside of the old city, so we got picked up. If not, you can meet at their offices in the city. Pickup times start before 8am.
When you first arrive, you exit the vans and go straight to the area to feed the elephants. As the elephants started to turn the corner into sight, we all got so excited. Each group of about 10 people has their own elephant and food bucket. They come right up to the railing to snack on their watermelons and cucumbers. They grab the food straight from your hand with their trunks!
WALK AROUND THE GROUNDS
After feeding time, you have an opportunity to put your things down in a designated group area. Then, you set off on foot to explore the grounds with your guide. Our guide, “Aay”, had been volunteering at the park for a few weeks now. She explained how the elephants are cared for and told us of some of the heart-wrenching stories of how some of the elephants were found or acquired. One had been found with a broken leg that had been crushed by a tree in captivity, if I remember the story accurately. She now walks with a very bent leg, but the point is she is walking and thriving, here.
You really get some up close and personal time with these elephants. We were following the baby boy elephant’s family. This baby elephant was just 8-weeks old. I found it really interesting that all of the elephants roaming freely around the grounds were female elephants. They follow around the babies and act as their protectors. Baby boy elephant travelled around with his sister, a 2-year old girl elephant, their mother and a few “aunties”, as our guide called them.
You break for lunch, included with your visit, before noon. They really do feed you a feast. I kid you not, this was one of the best meals I had in Thailand. All the food cooked there is vegetarian and they grow all of the vegetables on site. I know, shocker, I had vegetables and I hate vegetables. There were probably over 20 different dishes, tofu dishes, tempe, pad thai, pad see ew, and multiple chow meins. So delicious!
WALK AROUND THE GROUNDS, MORE
After breaking for lunch, you head back out with your guide to see the rest of the grounds. We were able to witness a group of elephants bathe themselves in the river. We also saw where the elephants stay in the night. Apparently, they only sleep for 4 hours! We also walked over to where the male elephants lived. They are much more aggressive and one even tried to throw sand at us. This is why they’re kept separately.
BATHE THE ELEPHANTS
Your group is assigned to a specific elephant to bathe, so you don’t have a huge crowd to share your elephant with. The elephant gets it great, she is bathed all while she gets to eat. Although the elephants literally are snacking all day long. My kind of animals. Bring a pair of flip flops and a small towel. This way you can change in and out of your sneakers without staying wet. Be carefu, you can definitely get wet, especially if your group stands on both sides of the elephant. Those buckets of water reach way farther than you think! My GoPro came is really handy during this.
At the end of the day, you can say goodbye to your elephant and they drop you back at your hotel or in our case our Airbnb. Door-to-door service is an awesome perk!
I can’t tell you how crazy it is to look back on these pictures and this day and think about what an amazing experience it was. It’s also awesome because I spent New Years Eve here. I figured it was the best way to ring in a new year. Don’t you?
Have any of you been to the Elephant Nature Park before?
Check this amazing rescue and rehabilitation park out, here.
Yours Truly // Shannon