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“Hi Mr. elephant, what’s your name?” asked Violet, who was inches away from an adult elephant who was patiently waiting for her to place a cluster of bananas in his trunk. Watching Violet, innocently talk to an elephant and waiting for him to respond, melted my heart!
“He can’t actually talk with words like you Violet,” I said to the curious toddler as she hesitated to set the bananas down in front of the giant animal. Moments later, satisfied with that explanation, she caressed the elephant’s trunk and turned to grab more fruit to feed the elephant beside them. It was then that we realized our trip to Elephant Nature Park was going to make for an incredible day.
Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand where ecotourists can volunteer to work and learn about the conservation of Thailand’s elephant population. Ecotourism is tourism directed toward natural environments in efforts to support conservation, educate visitors and observe wildlife. Ecotourists help raise awareness to their political, environmental, and social climates of the environments that are often threatened and underserved. Ecotourism is not only a great way to teach your children about sustainable travel, but also the longterm physical, social and behavioral impact they have on the world we live in. If you want to learn more about sustainable travel, please click to visit The International Ecotourism Society website.
What to expect at Elephant Nature Park
While booking your trip to ENP, you will have the option to chose which kind of visit you want. Options range from half day to over night and the extent of volunteer activities vary. For about $83 USD each, we decided to go for the Single Day Visit which is appropriate for families with small children because it does not entail any labor like the other volunteer jobs. It’s also meant to be educational and raise awareness of elephants in Thailand.
Volunteers are not limited in their activities while visiting. Activities range from playing with elephants to participating in tours and more. ENP is not just an elephant sanctuary, this beautiful open-air center is home to buffalos, dogs, cats, birds and many other animals who have been rescued.
Be prepared to visit for a few hours and enjoy yourself, you’ll need to pack supplies. You’ll want to make sure you pack bottled water, sunscreen, bug spray and a hat for this trip. You’ll be doing a lot of walking through dirt and grass, so make sure you wear comfortable and supportive shoes. Also keep in mind that due to the environment and nature of this trip that You may also get wet and dirty.
If you book through the ENP website, passenger vans will pick you up from your hotel or their office located in Chiang Mai. The shuttle will transport you through the beautiful, lush, northern mountains to the rehabilitation center, which is about an hour and a half ride. While in route, please take a few moments (or more) to take in the scenery and appreciate the calmness that you don’t get much of in the bigger cities. When I was exposed to complete silence and I could hear the wind blowing and the animals in the distance, time stood still; I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
FYI – I love when organizations take the time to make everything as simple as possible and ENP did just that. A video and instructions are given about park ettiequte, history and rules during the ride, so that when you arrive, you are ready to get straight to work!
Walking around Elephant Nature Park
Elephants are extremely intelligent animals, and this was exemplified during my experience at ENP. The elephants continuously enjoyed the human interactions, or at least they enjoyed the treats we continued to give them (lol). ENP provided a variety of Baskets filled with watermelon and bananas available for visitors to feed the animals at will.
Throughout the day, your guide will walk you through the entire park and introduce you to the animals. You will be able to get close to most of the animals and even touch some of them. However, you should always remain mindful and respectful of their space.
At the end of the visit, you’re escorted to the gift shop. And I must say, the gift shop is amazing! I wanted to buy one of everything to remember this trip forever. Once you’re ready to leave, the shuttle will take you back to your hotel where you can rest up and reflect on the impact and contribution you made to Thailand’s magical ecosystem.
You will need to wear your littles one here. This is an outdoor activity and the terrain varies from muddy to dry. If your little ones are steady walking and standing for long periods of time, they can definitely walk throughout this entire attraction. There is also a loft for resting that offers a nice retreat for tired and cranky toddlers. The loft is also good for nursing and napping
I would love to hear about your family trips and maybe receive some insight into where our next trip should be.