The day we have been counting down to for months.
This was once a dream between Rachael and I, back in the UK.
We talked about our future endeavors and how we hoped we could travel and play with Elephants. We made it happen today.
All packed and ready – we head over to the business location.
A group of us load into a bus and begin our journey. On our way, they show informational videos about the “do’s and dont’s” of playing with elephants. In addition, they tell us a little about the background of them.
Most of these elephants have been rescued or saved from lumber yards or being used as street performers, illegally.
Tears were inevitable. Finally a place they could call home. Of course it was crucial for us to respect their boundaries.
Traveling throughout winded roads embraced by large trees, we pass other elephant parks. Our tour guide explains that at these places, they still permit riding and tricks on the elephants. We are headed to a sanctuary.
**If you are in Thailand, PLEASE go to The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. No tricks, no rides….nothing but pure love. These elephants roam freely.
We pull up to the park and are directed into an area with coffee, tea, and cookies. We wait while the elephants make their way up towards our sitting area.
Once they do, we are given buckets of watermelon, melon, bananas, and other assorted fruits.
Seeing them for the first time was breathtaking. These ginormous, beautiful creatures walk over slowly. It felt like we were surrounded by dinosaurs.
Individually, we grab large portions of fruit and feed it to the elephants. Taking turns seeing them pull straight from our hands and into their mouth.
Their skin was rough, but they were incredibly gentle.
As we all finished off the remainder of the food in the buckets, the guides gave us totes filled with the same assortment of fruits and vegetables to take with us on our hike.
Attached to the bags was a piece of cloth. The guide explained that these were all ripped up portions of a Monk’s robe. They use them for the visitors to tie around the trees during the hike to protect the forrest.
We started our hike with 3 elephants.All of them following and walking with us. Occasionally, we would stop to feed them some treats and of course, take some photos.
After a few hours, we make it to the top of a large hill with a wooden table set up with plates and food.
There were plates of pineapple to snack on, and a small set up for a Papaya salad at the end.
Each “couple” was given an opportunity to mix and create their own flavor in their papaya salad to serve with the other food.
Lunch ended and we were back on the trail. Our guide gave us stories about all the elephants as they roamed past us.
We stopped at a nearby creek with a waterfall and beautiful rocks surrounding us.
Once we arrived back on the main grounds, we were told to change and meet the elephants in the river at the bottom of the hill.
With big buckets of water, we jumped in the river and began splashing the elephants. Some rolled around, others just stayed to enjoy the refreshing water after rubbing themselves in dirt.
Life really doesn’t get much better than this.
So beautiful. All of them. Expressing pure happiness as they played freely.
We finished up, dried off, and headed to their main office.
Here, we were introduced to another 10-15 elephants throughout their land.
We watched as elephants aged from 3 – 80 walked around this large area. We followed them into the river and laughed as the baby rolled around near his family members.
Every single elephant had a story of how they arrived or where they came from. Some were used for logging. Being chained and forced to pull large trees and logs up hill and for long distances.
Some had broken limbs or hips that never healed after they were injured. They were pushed into continuous labor even after they were hurt and their bones eventually healed the best they could. (See Below).
Another lost a baby. Giving birth during forced labor. After the loss of her baby, she still had tear marks under her eyes – so many years later.
Others were forced to perform on the streets of Thailand. With constant vibrations throughout the city, most elephants experience anxiety and stress. Some still rock back and form as a result of PTSD.
These are some of the most emotional animals in the world. Knowing all the traumatic experiences they encountered along their journey to freedom is heartbreaking.
PLEASE do not support circuses or organizations who make these elephants perform. It is not what they were intended to do.
I cried hearing some of their stories. I was grateful that I took the time to find the perfect place to encounter them.
A long moving journey. Ending our vacation in the most inspiring way possible.
Do things that make a difference. Experience life. Be the change. Donate more. Live life. So many missed opportunities by accepting mediocracy.
Get out there. Adventure awaits.
Thailand, it was so wonderful to meet you.