Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuary

photo by kafka4prez

The Asian elephant is the only type of elephant to live in Asia, and also the largest creature that lives on the continent. Asian elephants are an endangered species, and most people rarely get to see them in zoos, nevermind in the wild. However, if your travels take you to Chiang Mai, you can get up close and personal with these majestic animals, and interact with them personally, and not from behind a fence either. Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuary, the Elephant Nature Park, is one of the largest centers of this kind in the world. No matter how many cultural or historical sights you get to see in Chiang Mai, if you are traveling in the area a visit to Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuary is an absolute must if you love wildlife.

About the sanctuary

photo by ckmck

The 2000 acre sanctuary was created in the 1990’s as a refuge for elephants from all over Thailand. The center’s goal is to provide and safe and healthy environment for elephants that had lead a life of begging, hard physical labor or street performance. The center is the brainchild of Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, who founded the center near her small home village. Lek’s childhood friendship with an elephant ‘adopted’ by her family inspired her to establish a refuge for distressed elephants. The valley in which the center is located provides a beautiful natural environment where the elephants can feel at home and can be cared for by staff and many volunteers. As opposed to other elephant parks, the over 30 elephants at the Elephant Nature Park are allowed to roam free and to form their own family groups, living in similar conditions as in the wild. Thanks to this innovative approach, the rehabilitation center won many well-deserved prizes.

Activities

photo by sweet_redbird

As a visitor to the park, there are tons of activities that will allow you to bond with the elephants, not just see them from afar or merely ride them. Day tours allow you to hear the story of each elephant, to feed them, bathe them, watch them plays and play together with them. Since the tour includes pick up from your accommodation, no planning is necessary. If you want a deeper insight into the workings off the park, you can volunteer overnight and you will be taught all you wanted to know about elephants. The mahouts (elephant trainers) will give you a basic introduction to communicating with elephants. However, if you want to help out and you have time to spare, you can volunteer for as little time as a week. Volunteer jobs vary from basic tasks like bathing the elephants to areas that need some expertise, like healthcare. If you want to invest your time and skills in something important, then there’s no better place than Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuary!

 

 

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