Socializing with Thai Elephants
In Chiang Mai, my family and I visited two elephant organizations. It was our first time actually getting to interact with elephants…and it was pretty amazing!
The first place we went to was at Elephant Nature Park where they took care of abused elephants. Many people have abused their power over the animals and have taken it way too far, leaving the elephants wounded, severely scarred, and damaged for life. The owner of this organization is an incredibly sweet lady who has taken in these poor elephants and mended them with her whole heart.
At Elephant Nature Park, we were introduced to the abuse that was going on with the elephants, some of their stories, and the ways in which their organization was trying to help. First off, our group fed an elephant some fruit (bananas and apples) from behind a fence.
Next, we walked around the camp, looking at other single and grouped elephants, taking lots of photos all the while. Soon, we came back for a nice, large buffet lunch and then headed upstairs where a 45 minute movie was presented about the abuse of elephants; several people left the room crying. We then continued to walk around, seeing other elephants. This time, we watched them in the water. Our time ended by going knee deep into the water and splashing buckets of water on one of the elephants. After a quick tea time, walk around the gift store, and bathroom break, it was time to go.
The second place we visited was at an organization called Patara. Here, their goal was to provide people with an elephant-safe, educational, hands-on experience for you. When you get there, you are given a talk about what they did/do to help abused elephants, what their progress has been, and what the product is now (about 1/2 of their elephants have been born and raised there!). One of the reasons why they haven’t let some of their elephants back into the wild is because when they tried that, they found that the elephants were causing trouble for the humans. In some cases, they were standing right in the middle of streets for hours and causing traffic! Another time, an elephant over-turned a car, and basically stabbed the driver with its tusk! The abused elephants that were sent back into the wild had caused too much trouble and they couldn’t keep letting that happen. Therefore, Patara chose to keep these elephants but give them a better life than their previous one. While they still use the elephants for tourism (it was only in the past few years that they started to do this), the elephants are treated very well and are actually helping to provide for themselves (as well as the many, many workers, needed to complete this task).
Our day at Patara was very interactive and educational. While we learned about the abuse of elephants at Elephant Nature Park, we learned about the behavior of elephants at Patara. Besides being taught, we were each assigned an elephant to take care of for those few hours. We were able to ride, feed, brush, bathe, and interact with them.
I absolutely loved getting to understand elephants more during the two times that we did that. I felt like Elephant Nature Park was a really great warm up. We were able to learn about them on a basic level, observe them from a safe distance, and get a better feel for them overall. This was also the best time to take photos. At Patara, I loved the hands-on, personal experience and deeper knowledge it gave us. It was a wonderful time to really get to know these creatures better, and besides that, it was a whole lot of fun!
I think that both these programs are perfect for anyone looking to spend some quality time with the elephants…without causing harm! If you are less confident about being up close with these big guys, I think you should go for Elephant Nature Park. It is definitely a lot less interactive and more just photos and observations. If you are a little more on the wild side like us ( 😉 ), then definitely go for Patara. You will feel so much more knowledgeable upon leaving, and will have experienced something you won’t forget! And the other option is to do both like we did 🙂 Whatever path you choose, I hope you have an amazing experience with the elephants!
Has anyone else done any day trips with elephants? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
Deena, I know that the elephants at the Nature Park are all rescues which is their appeal. What is the background story behind Patara? And the purpose?
Hi Sharri. This is actually’s Mikayla’s post, so I’ll let her answer a bit more completely if she wants, but here’s my two cents. Patara is also committed to caring for elephants and the primary difference between Patara and ENP is that they do allow riding on the back of elephants that have already been trained to be ridden. They will not, however, place chairs upon an elephant’s back, as that is very harmful to the elephant. Anyone riding is taught to ride naturally or bareback. They have an awesome training program as well, teaching all visitors a ton of information about elephant health care, how to treat the animals respectfully, and how to interact with them. Their mahouts are like family to the elephants, never using harsh tools like the bull hooks, but instead talking to them. Both experiences were wonderful, but my favorite was Patara!