Once we had collected all of our belongings, we walked along the river past the elephant riding camp and ended up at the main area of the Elephant Nature Park. It was still very strange to walk by the elephant riding camp, I have to admit that I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over seeing that camp sandwiched between the two parts of the Elephant Nature Park. It was definitely an interesting thing to see and almost sad to see that there were elephants that were still being held in captivity while these other elephants roamed free and did their thing. We ended up by the outskirts of the main portion of the reserve and were greeted with a few elephants playing in the mud.
We weren’t allowed to approach these elephants as they were significantly younger and they were definitely more protective of each other. There was a 18 month old baby elephant that was hanging with this group so we had to keep our distance. It was amazing seeing a baby elephant who definitely had a playful personality. At one point, while we were standing there, he was eating and found a tire. You could almost see him trying to make his decisions while he was standing there. He couldn’t decide between eating or playing with his tire. So he did both. He chewed food while he picked up more food and then grabbed his tire. Then he started walking with his tire and food, then threw his tire ahead of him so he could chase after it. This was probably one of the most adorable things I had seen. It was a baby elephant trying to keep himself entertained and he was very entertained.
We hung out with these elephants for a bit and heard their stories. It was a bit difficult to see so many elephants that had these terribly sad histories and how their bodies had been impacted by their past. There was one elephant that had hit a land mine and had her foot blown off so she was standing on three legs and one just dangling. But at the same time, even with these really sad histories, it was amazing to see that the elephants were now thriving and in an environment that supported them and gave them a home to live in away from the torture. It was a happy ending to a very sad story.
After hanging out with those elephants, we diverted our attention to the other group of elephants near us that had the 9 month old baby elephant. The baby was too young still to determine if it was a male or female so they were still waiting to determine if it would grow tusks. The baby was constantly surrounded by the adult elephants, specifically its mom and the rest of the elephants definitely kept a watchful eye on the humans and the baby. We weren’t allowed to approach this pack as they were also very protective but we stood from a safe distance and watched them interact. At one point, the adult elephants stepped into the drinking water to get better access to the well. I’m not sure what they were thinking but they seemed very pleased with their decision.
Finally, it was time for us to start making our way out of the park. We walked by a lone elephant who had decided to climb a pile of dirt to look out over the park and we stopped by the male elephants. Since the males are significantly more aggressive and harder to control, they keep the male elephants caged and away from the tourists and other elephants. We go to see them and they were significantly larger than all the other elephants in the area. Plus, I feel like they were probably very lonely elephants since they didn’t have anyone to hang out with and elephants are relatively social creatures. After the final walk, we got to see the kitchen where they store hundreds of watermelons and make giant rice balls for the elephants. It was really crazy to see everything that goes into running the Elephant Nature Park and everything that they need to do to ensure that the elephants are well taken care of. It really makes you appreciate what they’re doing to help out these beautiful creatures.
After that final viewing, it was time for us to get back into our van and drive back to Chiang Mai.