SPENDING A WEEK WITH ELEPHANTS IN CHAING MAI
The number one experience on my bucket list was to spend a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I am happy to say that I did it and it was a dream come true.
Years ago I found out about the Elephant Nature Park and the work they do to rescue and rehabilitate elephants from the logging and tourism industries. I knew I had to visit this special park, so upon learning that they offer weekly volunteering programs I knew it was something I HAD to do! Along with my sister, Lizzy and cousin Lakin we planned our once in a lifetime trip to Thailand – volunteering at ENP and witnessing the Yi Peng festival.
Here’s a run down of what to expect during a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park.
Approximately 45mins from Chiang Mai, you’ll be collected from your accommodation by an ENP rep. After a quick look around and lunch it’ll be time to be educated on what the Elephant Nature Park do and watch a video on the ‘crush’ also known as breaking the elephants spirit. This video is very emotional but needs to be seen so we can educate others so this doesn’t happen in the future.
Volunteers are divided into groups and are given 2 tasks daily – a morning and afternoon task. Tasks include preparing elephant food, cleaning the park and of course, picking up a lot of elephant poo! I found it similar to hay and would often just pick it up with my hands instead of using the shovel because it was easier but I definitely wore gloves 🙂 These tasks may sound a little tedious but I can assure you, the views and hanging out with great people make these a whole lotta fun.
You are left with plenty of free time to enjoy a few other activities. ENP also run volunteering programs for stray dogs. There were over 400 dogs on my visit and twice a day you can walk or socialise with them. A special task is to walk the disabled dogs that have training wheels attached to them. A number of dogs roam around the park and you can even adopt them! Due to Australia’s strict quarantine requirements it’s very difficult to adopt but there were plenty of dogs who found homes in the U.S and throughout Europe.
Along with dogs, cats are also looked after at ENP, they have their own sanctuary, Cat Kingdom which you can visit during the day. I’m not a cat person but I fell in love with the large, fluffy cats. So cute.
There are also Thai massages on offer, a must after a day in the park. Staff also host a nightly activity like Thai culture lessons or the mahouts performing for you (I will always remember the elephant song ‘Chang, Chang, Chang’).
This is an unforgettable experience and one of the best weeks of my life. I loved every day in the park. The work Lek and her incredible team do to help these beautiful animals is truly inspiring. Why not take a holiday with a difference and help elephants live saddle free.
The Low Down
Where: Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: All year round
Duration: ENP offer day trips, overnight stays, 1-2 week volunteering programs.
Accommodation: Basic rooms with bedding and fans. Bathrooms are communal but some rooms have their own private bathroom
Food: Delicious! Its vegetarian, even for most of you meat lovers out there you won’t notice it because its soo good.
Souvenirs: The mahouts carve elephant figures out of wood and are for sale at the gift shop. These may be pricier than those at the markets in Chiang Mai but I liked supporting the mahouts and there are carvings of specific elephants. It’s hard choosing just one. There are also clothes (I bought a t-shirt), jewellery and books.
Check out their website for additional information https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/