Elephants are one of my favorite creatures in the entire world. I’m also a huge fan of dolphins and tigers, of which you’ll get to hear about soon enough. We had visited an elephant park when we went to Bali, but that was two years ago, and we knew it was high time to check out another one! I had my heart set on visiting Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, but unfortunately our emailed reservation was overlooked, and they sold out of the remaining days we were there. I jumped on Trip Advisor and quickly found Baan Chang Elephant Park, which is known for it’s quality of care and genuine concern for it’s elephants.
The only fault is that they do temporarily keep their elephants on chains instead of letting them roam wild and free like Elephant Nature Park, but that park has the resources to do so. The Baan Chang Park does not have the funding or amenities to do this. Elephants are naturally curious (and destructive) creatures, and if they are not watched carefully they can cause a lot of damage. The elephants are are not chained up all day and get plenty of walking time, even the ones who are not trained to work with the public. The owner spends a ridiculous amount to buy each elephant from its previous owner, just to make sure he can save it and give it a better life.
Baan Chang Elephant Park is actually a sanctuary for rescue elephants who were either street workers, jungle workers, or logger elephants in their time before they were rescued. The elephants themselves seemed happy and well cared for, and visibly had a genuine, trusting relationship with their personal mahouts (elephant keepers). Yes, I agree they do deserve to run wild and free, but the sad thing is, that doesn’t happen in Asia. I would much rather them be taken care of: well fed, watered, loved, rescued, and appreciated, than beat to death in the jungle or on the street.
There was one bull elephant that looked a little rough, so I asked our guide about him. He told me they had just rescued him two weeks prior from a camp in the jungle where he would often get scared and run into trees, cutting his head. Elephant skin takes a long time to heal, so he’s under TLC for a little while.
We began our elephant adventure with dressing in the most attractive uniforms, and then went to go feed bananas and sugar cane to the eager giants. My favorite elephant was a cheery brown one that had a thing for my camera. After feeding, we learned how to properly get on and off the elephants, how to steer, and how to tell them to stop (which is obviously the most important part).
We ate a good lunch, and headed out for our hour and a half trail ride. Derik and I shared an elephant, and I tell you, my hip flexors weren’t even remotely ready to get on a wide-bellied elephant. If you go, I suggest you do a little yoga beforehand. After the ride we took the elephants to a little watering hole and gave them a bath.
Overall it was a great experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone! Please feel free to ask any questions. :) Sorry about the random picture qualities, I went through my camera, the tour guide’s camera, and Derik’s GoPro to find these shots.