I eagerly woke this morning knowing what was in store for the day, hanging out with elephants! First, was an hour and a half van ride to the North. In the van we watched a video on the history of the Elephant Nature Park which included some heart wrenching videos of elephant mistreatment. They torture these creatures to get them to do things for us, just for our entertainment (riding, circuses, street begging, etc.). I’m glad people are talking about it more and refusing to partake in riding elephants, without demand the bad businesses will hopefully die out.
Upon arriving at the park, we hopped into an open air truck and took a short ride into the jungle (I picked the Pamper a Pachyderm tour). Then, we got off the truck and started walking down a path and….woah… a few hundred feet in front of us stood two large female Asian elephants. I’ve never been this close to an elephant outside of a zoo. It was a different feeling without the barrier between you and them. These particular elephants were rescued, nursed back into good health (physically and mentally) and now walk freely on the land during the day. Well, they had some incentive to walk down the path…we each had a bag filled with bananas and sugar cane. As we began to walk down the path, the elephants would follow up in hopes of a treat.
It was so much fun to walk beside and feed them. I was able to study their features, look into their eyes and watch them interact with us and the other elephants (a third one had joined us part way). They were ages 35, 42 and 60. We took a lot of “elphie selfies” and continued very slowly down the path. Its amazing to think that someone though riding them would be a good idea, they walk way to slow for it to even make sense!
We reached a spot where we would stop for lunch. They walked the elephants down to the river under some shade while we enjoyed a very delicious vegetarian Thai lunch. After our lunch, we prepared lunch for the elephants. First, we made rice balls mixed with pumpkin, sugar and salt. Then, we sliced watermelons, melons, and of course added in more bananas. We fed them again and then changed into our swimsuits, it was bath time!
This way my favorite part because we were now on the same level as the elephants. They plopped themselves down in the river and splashed around like a kid in a bathtub. Occasionally they would squirt water on us, which was cute until we realized they were all going to the bathroom in the water
We helped wash the dirt off their backs with buckets of river water and once they were all clean, we walked back up on to land. The elephants followed and the first thing they did was put dirt right back on their backs! It keeps the bugs away, but they could have waited at least a few minutes after all of our bathing efforts.. 🙂 We had to part ways with the elephants now because we were taking a raft back.
I’ve done some white water rafting before, so looking at this river I didn’t think it was going to be very exciting. However, it ended up being a ton of fun! There were a few rapids that did give me a small scare and the guide made it fun by splashing us and occasionally pretending to fall in. The coolest part was just watching everything around us. Occasionally we would pass by and elephant or a water buffalo. We would also pass by locals eating on the river beds.
Our stopping point was the Elephant Nature Park were we visited a few animals who were still being nursed into good health. It was hard to look at. They had pretty severe deformities due to mistreatment or snares. The park would do the best they can to take care of them, but many of them would remain handicapped. The important thing was that they are now in a safe environment and happy. They would “adopt” other elephants and start a new families/friendships with them. Elephants are very social creatures and hang out in groups.
I had been waiting for this day for so long, I couldn’t when believe it was over! I don’t think I’ll ever forget the special day I had with these gentle giants. Going forward, I will ensure that I help spread the word about how elephants should and should not be treated and encourage people to boycott places that mistreat them.