This has been by far my favourite day of the trip if not my entire life! Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiangmai is an elephant sanctuary that rescues elephants from circuses and riding camps. Sometimes the camp has to buy the elephants but they try to bring the elephants and the owners to the camp by educating them on this sustainable, ethical means of elephant ownership. It’s a no hook, no riding camp and the elephants generally spend their days doing what they love: eating, pooping and swimming.
We visited last Friday on a half day itinerary which can be booked and viewed here. Pick up was at 7am and were looking forward to a day of: elephant education, feeding, mud rubs and paddling. After parking up just off the road we had a 5/10 minute walk on a narrow path, over rickety bamboo bridges and up dusty slopes to reach the camp – all while carrying 10kg of bananas each. But the hike was sooooo worth it.
Once at camp 8 we were greeted by our lovely guide who provided us with traditional Karan clothing. She was super friendly and welcoming, had us all laughing with her and joining in. We then had an elephant education talk in which we learned all about the abuse elephants face in the circus and in the riding camps, the astonishingly low numbers of Asian elephants left in the wild and how Elephant Jungle Sanctuary are trying to change this.
Following our elephant education we grabbed a bunch of bananas and headed off to feed the elephants. I honestly couldn’t believe how gentle and friendly the elephants were. They would take the bananas gently with their trunk and even lift their trunk and open their mouth so you could hand feed them. Amazing.
While feeding the elephants we had plenty of opportunities for photos, elephant hugs and talks with each elephants carer (they have 1 each) to learn more about the individual elephants.
After we’d fed the elephants as many bananas as they could possibly eat we headed back to camp to change into swimwear. We had a big group hug and a quick demo on where to stand to safely give the elephants a mud scrub then headed down to the mud pool. Here we had sooo much fun. Everyone jumped straight in – including the elephants. We splashed them (and each other) with water and then began scrubbing the elephants with handfuls of mud. Lots of mud slinging followed and by the end of it I was covered from head to toe, with a face full for good measure.
Everyone had such a good time getting muddy, especially the elephants. They were paddling around, rolling on their side for back and belly scrubs and blowing bubbles with their trunks.
Having played in the mud for far too long we headed down to the river for a good wash. The elephants joined us and we had a bit of a splash party washing the elephants and each other off. Once we’d all washed off we took it in turns to ride a natural rock slide, the strong currents shoot you down this rocky chute. Most people made this look graceful, I however made it look like this:
I grazed my bum from top to bottom and now have a bruise to tell the tale. But it was definitely worth it.
We headed back to camp, showered off and changed into clean clothes ready for lunch. Lunch was typical Thai cuisine but very tasty and gave us a chance to mingle with the rest of the group, exchange travel stories and take in the views. There was also a small hut with a lady hand weaving scarves and blankets for you to buy, all very beautiful and super interesting to watch.
At around 1 o’clock it was time to leave, we collected our belongings and made our way back down the dusty path to the truck. A much easier journey without the huge bags of bananas! The professional photographer from the day had all our photos uploaded to Facebook by that same evening.
All in all I couldn’t recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary enough. The elephants were soooo happy and you can tell that everyone who works at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary does it for love not money. If your visiting Thailand and want to see the elephants please make the right decision, visit a Sanctuary not a riding camp.