This was one of our favourite experiences to date, and definitely one the most unforgettable.
We booked Elephant Jungle Sanctuary after doing some thorough research on Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand. A lot of “Sanctuaries” in Thailand are actually training camps, as they promote riding on elephants, which is very cruel and painful for the elephants. We were stuck between two but settled on doing a full day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project located approximately 60km from the city of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Founded in July 2014, it is a joint initiative between members of the Karen hill-tribes and Chiang Mai locals who were concerned about the welfare of elephants in Thailand.
We booked the day direct with the company and thought we would be getting picked up at 08:00 from our hotel, however, due to a bit of a miscommunication with payments and confirmations, we ended up doing a half day instead of a full day. We were picked up at 11:30 from our hotel and given a refund for the half day that we had missed. We travelled on the back of a pickup truck to the sanctuary with two German guys, two French girls and a Canadian couple. They were all awesome people and the 90 minute ride to the Sanctuary flew over. We arrived at the sanctuary approx 1pm.
When we arrived we changed into Karen Tribe clothing and were given a quick crash course on feeding the elephants. We were given a several bunches of bananas each. We had to hold the bunch behind our backs and feed the elephants bananas one by one. Elephants are very smart, even when you hide the bananas behind your back, they know that they are there!
We also fed them sugar canes and they were given huge corn crops which they stripped themselves, which was awesome to watch. We got lots of photos and video footage with the elephants.
After feeding the elephants we took them for a mud bath. The elephants literally collapsed in the mud whilst we gave them a good scrub with the mud. You could actually see them smile!
After the “scrub” we took them to the water and gave them a bath and washed off all the mud. They were very relaxed and were loving every minute of the attention.
Once we had finished giving them a clean, we had a Thai buffet style lunch which was very tasty. Yellow Curry, rice, vegetables, omelette, lots of fruit. Yum.
There was a baby elephant at the sanctuary called Christiano Ronaldo, who we both fell in love with. On arrival to the sanctuary, he became very attached to an older elephant. This older elephant was very sharp and realised where we were sitting eating our lunch was the same place that they stored the bananas; and she came over and ransacked the place, everyone found it hilarious, except maybe the Karen Tribe men, who had a job on their hands getting her away from the banana gold mine. The baby elephant came back to me gave me a quick high-five before running after his foster mother, as if to say “Did you see that Ma’?! How badass am I?!”
We learned that the Elephants are given a random name from the tribe on arrival to the sanctuary but after a year they choose their own name and have a ceremony. They will pick a name based on it’s personality and say the name. There is food placed in front of the elephant and if the elephant is happy with the name, it will eat the food or if it doesn’t eat (which means an unhappy elephant) they will pick another name. The ceremony can last up to a week.
We got changed back to our normal clothes and got in the pick-up to go back to our hotel, we slept all the way back. We both agreed that the half day was the perfect amount of time to see and do everything we did. A definite once in a lifetime experience.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is based in Phuket and Chiang Mai, we would recommend this company to anyone; they love what they do and take such good care of these amazing animals.
Once we got back we got packed ready for our one night’s stay in Chiang Rai to visit the White Temple and the Black House.
Craig & Rach x