Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai

For anyone who is a huge animal lover like myself, this post is for you. Sadly Thailand is infamous for its elephant rides but we happened to find the best sanctuary you can visit.

Walking around Chiang Mai you'll see hundreds of tourist information shops advertising places to ride the animals and  watch 'shows' - sadly most tourists don't realise the pain and suffering these creatures go through on a daily basis and end up paying a hefty price for a pretty short day. I won't go into detail on what actually happens behind the scenes but Google it - it's horrifying and not enough people realise.

After lots of research and searches on Trip Advisor we decided to go with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Right from the beginning the website and mahouts (keepers) emphasised how riding is strictly not allowed and that all the elephants at the sanctuary were rescued from previous neglect. We were picked up at around 8:15am and drove an hour North into the mountains just outside of Chiang Mai. 

The day was absolutely amazing. We were firstly given hand-made tops to wear and the mahouts told us all about the elephants and what our day would include. We then spent the next 3 hours playing, feeding, washing and following the elephants down a river and into rockpools. The best thing about the whole experience was that we were pretty much left to our own devices to do what we pleased with the animals and basically just followed them around the sanctuary like little tag alongs.

After the first hour or so we broke off for lunch which was kindly made by the people working there. It was delicious and what made it even better is that we sat in a bamboo hut overlooking the elephants grazing in the open land below. After that we all mucked in to make traditional medicine for the elephants which we fed to them before stripping down into our swimwear and helping them (and eachother..) to a mud bath. 

After being completely covered in mud and scrubbing the elephants clean, we followed them down to a waterfall and rockpool area to wash off the mud and basically have a huge waterfight. For me this was personally the best part of the day, the elephants were absolutely loving it rolling around and letting us splash them with buckets of water. It was so cute to see them sticking their trunks up out of the water to help them breathe. 

It was honestly one of the best days of my life and I can't express just how much I'd love to be able to do it all again. The elephants are so well cared for and fed, and the mahouts really do know how to handle and treat them. Before the trip I was nervous and sceptical about finding a place that didn't abuse the animals but I can hand on heart say that I didn't feel uncomfortable at any point during the day. The elephants were able to walk around freely and there were no chains or hooks in sight like many other places have. 

The day trip cost us 2500 baht, which works out at about £45 and included a pick up/drop off from where we were staying, the tops (which we were allowed to keep), all the sugar canes and bananas for feeding the elephants, our lunch and professional photos taken throughout the day. It really was worth every single bit of the money and the group size was about 15-20 people which looked a lot a first but was perfect and so much fun in the end. 

If you're looking at visiting Chiang Mai and wanting to do an elephant trip, I highly recommend this one but I also can't express enough just how careful to be with what company you go for and do your research! Lots of it. Any place that says 'rides' or 'tricks/shows' do not treat the elephants in a humane way and you'll see this advertised everywhere. It was so sad to travel through the villages before we got to ours and seeing the poor elephants just stood there in tiny areas with seats strapped on their backs and chains on most of their legs waiting for a tourist to drop by and make them wander around.

-For 15 minutes of the journey you go down a very off road bumpy windy dirt track. So if you're not great with travel sickness, definitely take tablets.
-You'll get muddy, very muddy. They have showers and you wash off in the stream but take a change of clothing.
-Take a towel. You'll need it.
-Enjoy every part of it, it's amazing! 

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