Heaven is a Place on Earth: 5 Reasons To Visit Elephant Nature Park
Most people who travel to Thailand do so with the hopes of meeting an elephant. Natural vegetarians, fiercely loyal, and gentle lovers, elephants are one of the most intriguing animals on the planet.
Elephants are considered to be the symbol of Thailand, but the truth is they haven’t been treated so well in the land of smiles. There used to be 100,000 elephants roaming wild in Thailand and, now, only 4,000 remain. Throughout Southeast Asia, circuses, the logging industry, street beggars, and touristy elephant riding camps have exploited these animals. Luckily, there is one place you can experience these magnificent creatures without contributing to their demise.
Elephant Nature Park, or ENP, began in 1995 when an amazing woman named Lek Chailert saved four elephants from a lifetime of abuse. Today, the park has over 36 elephants who have all been saved from terrible lives. Now the elephants are able to roam free throughout 18 acres of land. With the wide array of elephant parks out there, here are five reasons why just one should be on the top of your list.
1. Spend an entire day hanging out in “elephant heaven”
ENP is one of the only elephant parks in Thailand where you cannot ride the elephants; therefore it is truly a retirement home for the animals. Elephant rides are abusive by nature and most parks that offer elephant rides use negative reinforcement (aka beating) to get the elephants to cooperate. At Elephant Nature Park, elephants do as they please all day long and are not abused in the slightest. If for some reason the elephants need to get somewhere, their loving caretakers coax them with food.
2. Eat like an elephant
Elephants eat 10% of their body weight in a day, so they are basically constantly eating. At ENP, you will spend a lot of time helping feed the elephants. They are natural vegetarians because they don’t have the teeth to eat meat. They eat mostly watermelon, bananas, and banana trees. For lunch, you will eat vegetarian like your new friends at a delicious Thai buffet.
3. Get up close and personal with the elephants
While hanging out with the elephants, visitors are encouraged to get up close with the elephants and pet them. Despite being one-inch thick and extremely rough, elephant skin is extremely sensitive and they love being scratched. During your day at ENP, you will also bathe the elephants. An elephants skin can reach up to 500 degrees during a day, so after the bath don’t be surprised if they immediately cover themselves in mud.
4. ENP is not just a sanctuary for elephants…
… it’s a sanctuary for many other types of animals as well! Dogs, cats, and buffalo all can find a safe haven at ENP. Here they can have a long, healthy life living among gentle giants.
5. Learn the heart-breaking and heart-warming stories of each individual elephant
As you explore Elephant Nature Park, a friendly and informative guide will show you around and tell you each elephant’s unique back-story. For example, one elephant delivered her baby while carrying logs throughout the jungle. The baby rolled down a hill and died and the elephant’s human owner would not let her stop. After this, the elephant was uncooperative and her owner stabbed both her eyes out. When this elephant arrived at ENP, another older female elephant approached her right away and the two have been inseparable ever since. Elephants are extremely intelligent with complex personalities and with the help of your guides you will be able to understand each one during your time at ENP.
Elephant Nature Park is located outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Make reservations ahead of time!