Growing up, i was one of those children who wanted to see and ride the elephants. I saw many photos of people riding on top of this gigantic creature while roaming the jungle and they were even adorned beautifully for a photo. Little did i know of the “real” process on how these elephants were “trained” to be able to submit themselves to the humans.
Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them and in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”. It involves taking away baby elephants from their mothers and putting them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move. What is more heartbreaking is that they are beaten into submission with clubs and pierced iron hooks and are starved and deprived of sleep for so many days. It is generally animal cruelty!
In Chiang Mai, we booked a tour via Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and this one is the highlight of my trip well aside from the food, weekend market, thai massage and temples which i will share on a separate blog.
Pick up time at the hotel was at 6:00 am. You have the choice to either take a half day tour or a full day tour. We opted to take a half day morning tour because there is also an afternoon tour. The advantage of taking the morning tour is that you get to still do more in the afternoon plus the heat in the morning is bearable also rain forecast when we went there was in the afternoon.
We rode in an open air van which is similar to their public transport red taxi. There are 8 of us in the car plus the driver and the tour guide, 10 in total. It was an hour and half travel to the elephant camp. The road going there was cemented but it was a long and winding uphill road. I felt a little dizzy so if you have motion sickness i suggest you drink medicine before going.
An orientation was conducted by our driver which was also the main tour guide and is an expert in terms of caring for the elephants.
The orientation was very informative. It generally taught us that these elephants are harmless since they are domesticated elephants. It is also noted that Asian elephants are endangered. There are now less than 2,000 elephants living in Thailand and is declining in numbers due to loss of natural habitat and that is what Elephant Jungle Sanctuary offers to these beautiful creatures. They create an ethical and livable sanctuary to these elephants and when they are strong enough to live on their own, they will be released in the wild.
So we started to feed them and naturally at first it was scary. LOL. Like they are so hugeeeee and when they open their mouths, i get to panic. We were told that when yous say, “Bon Bon”, they will open their mouths so you can feed them. You also have the option to feed them through their tusks which is much simpler and little less scary too.
They love bananas and they don’t eat meat. They are fed with sugarcane, bananas and watermelons.
It was such a joy to see them enjoying their food.
You can also touch them and even hug them! Here you can’t see any circus tricks just pure ethical fun and love and care towards these gentle giants.
After feeding them, we went out and play with them and have photos with them. Just like any animal, they need time to loosen up with you so that is why to get their trust, you must feed them and touch them and hug them first.
Our tour guide is English speaking and encourages us to ask questions. He is very warm and kind to the animals and to the tourists as well.
The most fun part was to bathe with the animals. If you are up for this, ensure to bring extra clothes and swimsuits too.
We walk with them going to the river and had so much fun splashing water with the elephants and the guides were so cool too! They made sure we were having fun. We were provided with containers for bathing the elephants.
After bathing with them in the river, we then head to their mud playground to give them a mud spa!
They have designated showers so don’t fret if you all get muddy and sticky. We quickly showered and when we finished, our lunch was ready to be devoured.
We also enjoyed unlimited coffee and water for free however, if you want soft drinks and juices, you can have them for an extra fee.
Our hearts as well as our tummy were full!
The experience was amazing. I am glad to be able to save and enhance the lives of these elephants. These gentle giants need our love and care. Another item off my bucket list!♥
Here are things to note when inside the camp:
1.) Wash your hands before touching and feeding the elephants. There are designated wash areas around the camp.
2.) Do not stand behind the elephants as they do not see you.
3.) Do not tease the elephants with food and then take it back, they love food as much as we do.
4.) Always be cautious and attentive when playing with the elephants, as this camp cultivate them to be free spirits.
5.) Listen to the guides.
6.) Drone cameras need prior permission from the EJS since elephants doesn’t want a buzzing noise like those of the bees, they don’t like bees.
7.) An annoyed and scared elephant usually displays similar body language, ears straight out, tails curved upward and trunks will hit the ground, so when you see these signs, be very careful.
8.) Be careful when you do mud spa or bathing with elephants as the ground is slippery.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has several camps and what i appreciate the most is that they limit the number of people in the camp to have equal opportunity to be able to enjoy all the activities.
Most importantly, they have in house photographer which is already a part of the package and all photos can be seen through their drop box which can be found in their Facebook Page.
“Mankind is not the only animal that laughs, cries, thinks, feels and loves. The sooner we acknowledge that animals are emotional beings, the sooner we will cease destroying them.”
A compassionate world begins with you.♥