Doing my research, I knew there was a good deal of controversy over elephant sanctuaries. Some use unethical practices and the elephants don’t always get a better life in the “sanctuary”. This is why I took the time to find an organization that I agreed with, and that did not allow the riding of elephants.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary works in three cities; Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya. There are numerous camps set up around those cities, and I visited Camp #6 near Chiang Mai!
You can pay for this experience at your hotel/hostel, or you can find a stand offering daily excursions and attractions – they’re EVERYWHERE – and you can also buy your spot there as well.
The morning of my session, we were all picked up at our various hotels around Chiang Mai really early by a truck. There was a lengthy ride up into the hills, so I would suggest you bring a snack and plenty of water.
This particular camp I visited had all female Asian elephants, and one male baby elephant. There are a few types of visits you can attend. One is a half day visit, where you will learn how to weigh and elephant, check for bruises, cuts, and any changes in the animals. You’ll also feed them and give them a mud bath before washing them in a river.
The other option is an all day visit. You would do the same as the half day activities, but you’ll also walk with the elephants in the jungle. Watch my full experience HERE!
We first started with some elephant education. Our guide shared information about Asian elephants and the particular individuals in Camp #6. Our introduction to the females was under the shelter, where they also showed us how to feed them watermelons, bananas, and green leafy food.
I would hold a treat in my hand, and the elephant would take it with the trunk and put it in their mouths. I could have also placed the treat directly in their mouths. The large ladies were so eager for more and more treats, they would just kept taking one snack after another!
After feeding some snacks, the carers showed us how they log each elephant’s daily check ups. They keep an eye on weight, height, skin conditions, feet care, and they check for any cuts or bruises. Each animal at the sanctuary is paired with their very own dedicated human to care for them every day.
Once the health checks are finished, we took a few elephants at a time to the mud pool to give them a mud bath. Don’t forget your swimsuit, towel, and a change of clothes, because you’ll be in the mud and water with the gentle giants!
Once all covered in mud, we walked them down to a river of super cold and crystal clear water. The river bed wasn’t too deep, it almost came up to my waist. They gave us plastic bowls to splash the elephants with water and rinse the mud off of them.
The elephants loved being splashed with water, and rolling around in the river too. Once they were all clean of the mud, the time in the river turned into a really fun water fight among all of the visitors.
Spending time with the Asian elephants and learning quite a bit about them was such an unique experience, I’m so glad I was able to participate in one of the sessions at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
As our half day session came to an end, there were outdoor showers for us to use. We washed and changed into dry clothes in the toilet stalls. The payment for this excursion includes water and lunch, which was set out as we all changed into dry clothes. The villagers and families that live at the sanctuary provided the food, and it’s so great to meet them. The payment for a trip to the sanctuary will go directly to them for living expenses and also go into taking are of the animals and sanctuary!
There’s also a small hut used as a souvenir shop with key-rings, shawls, and many more items. All of the money from the shop will also help them continue to carry out their wonderful work at the elephant sanctuary in the jungle.
If you have any Elephant Sanctuary recommendations, please feel free to let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear about the experience from other volunteers.