Elephant Nature Park
Hidden in the lush greenery of Mae Taeng, almost 1.5 hours of drive from the airport, sits the majestic Elephant Nature Park. As we drove through the winding mountain roads leading up to the location, we almost missed the unassuming entrance to the big park. The park is a whopping 250 acres of wildlife and we had to make sure we didn’t miss the turn. This elephant park is low-key, and we see that as a good thing. Many of the profiteering elephant parks in Thailand have big eye-catching signs with the intention to lure passers-by in to watch elephants doing things that elephants should not be doing.
As we live in Chiang Mai, we drove our Honda Jazz up for the adventure. Another option available is to book a pick-up service from the city. Both choices would require advance bookings.
Once we turned into the Elephant Nature Park, we were readily received at the carpark, where our guided tour begins. First we visited the dog shelter, which houses a staggering 600 dogs rescued from floods, illegal slaughterhouses and puppy mills. Together, it takes 200kg of dry food and 100 cans of wet food to keep them well-fed!
One of the stories stood out to us. Mr. Scared of Floods (not his real name) never walked out of his trauma of being caught in a horrifying flood. He’s so scared of water that he is given a big tub to sit in to feel safe. He’s just one of the many dogs that the shelter’s dedicated volunteers give individual attention to, and we are so glad that the dogs have a big space to run around in their habitat. Many of the dogs have been adopted but are waiting for COVID-19 to blow over so that they could be flown overseas to their new owners.
Next, we were guided to the elephants’ area. It was VAST. It was a refreshing sight to see 95 elephants have the freedom to roam around against the majestic mountainous backdrop, most with a dedicated mahout. No chains, no sticks, and no riding chairs spotted. Our guide continued to share the many stories and personalities behind these rescued elephants. Most of them are being rehabilitated from years of being trapped in circuses, illegal logging trade, and inhumane elephant camps. It’s also common for the elephants to have multiple disabilities due to the abuse that they suffered before.
As if it wasn’t magical enough to be so close to our gentle giants, we spotted a baby elephant!!! It was SO CUTE and mini compared to adult elephants. But the story behind the baby elephant was not so cute. We don’t want to spoil the story, but it was interesting to realise how childhood trauma could affect animals too, similar to humans.
The tour continued as the guide showed us the kitchen and the massive amounts of food that is prepared for the elephants every day. They even prepare birthday cakes for the elephants! We love how they show love to the animals here. Finally, the elephant tour ended at the administration office where we could make a donation for the tour we received.
After elephants, we were given the option to tour the cat shelter but Sheryl hates cats, so we gave it a miss and rounded up our time at the Elephant Nature Park. What an eye-opening experience it was for us to see how humans could care for nature and not take away from it. Living in Thailand, we are used to the notion of usual elephant shows and it was hard to imagine how elephants could be fun without the various antics. But we realised that freedom is so beautiful to witness in itself. We definitely recommend the Elephant Nature Park if you wish to immerse yourself in a natural environment and enjoy the elephants without harming them.
- Admission is by appointment booking only. You can view all the packages and do your booking online at https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/
- Elephant Nature Park offers many packages for you to choose from. The one we did was a 2-hour short tour, with fees covered by personal totally-up-to-you donations, which is only available during this COVID-19 period. In normal times, the half-day tour is highly recommended especially if you have young kids who may need a less-intense tour.
- Bring sunblock, bug spray, hat, comfortable walking footwear, and lots of water. It’s quite a lot of walking!
- If you are driving, go slow when you are about to reach the entrance. It’s a little hard to spot it.
- Telephone number: +66 (0) 53 272855, +66 (0) 53 818932
- Facebook page
- Admission fee: Depends on package chosen
- Location/Map: Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai
- Transport directions: From Chiang Mai City, head up Route 107 and turn into Route 3052
- COVID measures: Park is currently closed due to Covid. (As Of February 2021)
- Toilets: Available
- Accessibility: Not wheelchair/stroller friendly due to natural uneven ground
- Shelter/rest area: Available
If you would like to read up more about our 3-day itinerary in Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, which includes the Elephant Nature Park as one of it’s locations, visit our itinerary here.