When Cameron and I decided to take a trip to Thailand, one thing I knew I definitely wanted to do while we were there was ride an elephant. However, it was also of utmost importance to me that we go somewhere where the animals are treated humanely. Elephant parks are very popular near Chiang Mai, so when planning out our itinerary we knew that it something we wanted to allot a day for during our time there. After doing some research, there were a two elephant parks that stuck out to me - Patara and Elephant Nature Park. (These two places also happen to be the #1 and #2 top ranked things to do in Chiang Mai on TripAdvisor) I had heard that Patara treated their elephants well and that you got to spend a lot of up close and personal time with them; however, December is a really popular time to travel to Thailand and unfortunately they were booked for the entire time we were over there. Elephant Nature Park came very highly recommended to me by multiple friends that had visited Thailand and I was really intrigued by their focus on elephant conservation. Fortunately, they had more availability and we were able to make a reservation to spend a day at the park on Christmas Day!
Elephant Nature Park is located over an hour away from Chiang Mai and so a van came and picked us up at our hotel at 8am to take us out there. (Also, they conveniently have a booking office in downtown Chiang Mai, which was perfect for going to confirm our reservation the day before) The landscape at the park is very lush and mountainous, and it was an absolutely gorgeous place to spend our Christmas in Thailand! Over the course of the day, we got to feed the elephants, touch them, take photos, give them a bath in the river, and just spend time in their world. Elephant Nature Park is extremely peaceful and it's crazy how truly gentle these animals are in spite of their size. The only thing that you don't get to do at Elephant Nature Park is ride an elephant. At first, I was kind of disappointed about this; however, after learning more, I understood why they don't allow it. They rescue elephants from industries in Thailand such as logging, trekking, and circus performing where they are abused/overworked and give them a safe haven to spend their lives (which is good since elephants can live to be 80 years old!). Some of the elephants in their herd are injured and quite a few were blind, so allowing people to ride them would obviously be very stressful on the animals. Instead, the elephants are allowed to roam the park in peace and they seemed so well cared for. Spending the time there made me glad that we chose to support this place as they are incredibly passionate about conservation of elephants in Thailand!
They go through literally tons of food every day!
Feeding the elephants!
There are also lots of cats and dogs that call Elephant Nature Park home as well...
Some of the dogs are roaming free around the property while others are in a special animal shelter area - I thought it was great that they care for all these dogs in addition to the elephants!
I will say, Elephant Nature Park was pretty crowded the day we went. There were a few points during the day that it seemed a little crazy because there were quite a few people all trying to take pictures with the elephants, however, because we were at the park all day, it ended up being fine.
Mahouts are essentially the keepers/caretakers of elephants in Thailand and there were tons of them at Elephant Nature Park. It's interesting because, for the most part, they are super super short! Kind of like a jockey or something - crazy!
The only elephants that were fenced off were a baby, the mom elephant, and the nanny elephant, which they explained is how elephants typically raise their young. The baby elephant was so adorable!
I changed my shirt because my other one was super thin and I didn't want it to be see thru if it got wet :)
Overall, it was a fantastic day and I'm so glad we included it on our trip to Thailand. I feel like spending time in a place like this really just makes you fall in love with elephants, and it's really awesome to see these amazing animals be able live in such a beautiful place where they are loved, protected, and well cared for. I'm glad we chose Elephant Nature Park and would highly recommend checking them out if you're ever visiting Chiang Mai!