Wow, almost a month since I last blogged and so much has happened! For personal reasons, we’ve had to come back to the UK and put our travels on a temporary hiatus (nope, I’m not pregnant). BUT I still have so many photos and videos to share from our time in Thailand, and we are still having lots of adventures while we’re back home. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, right?
So, I think we were up to our elephant sanctuary trip. We had stayed the night in a small jungle cabin, huddled beneath a mosquito net while I listened for the slithering of snakes. We made it through the night without any encounters of the reptilian kind, and emerged from the cabin to breakfast. It’s difficult to explain the beauty of the river that greeted us that morning. Sunbeams shimmered over the water, while above danced hundreds of dragonflies. It reminded me of that scene from Harry Potter with the room full of flying keys. It was magical.
The second day at the sanctuary saw us take a jungle trek through the mountains to another elephant camp, before making our way to a natural waterslide where we enjoyed lunch and a dip in the cool water. By the time we were back at our hotel that evening, we were completely exhausted. Two days in the northern Thai jungle, hiking and playing with elephants is tiring. But completely worth every aching muscle.
So, would I recommend the elephant sanctuary? Yes and no. I do have a couple of reservations about the camps.
We were really lucky with our first camp. It was remote, large, and unbounded. The elephants roamed free and you could tell they were really happy. The other camps we visited throughout the rest of our stay were smaller and closer to farmland. This meant the elephants were chained up at night and I didn’t like this at all. Also, I felt the volume of tourists that passed through was just way too much for the elephants to handle. This was much more noticeable on our second day, when we visited the other camps. We got to see a behind-the-scenes of the day trips, making it a much more questionable experience.
What I can say though, is that the elephants were never tied up, made to perform tricks or otherwise forced into unnatural behaviour for the tourists. Their lives are infinitely better than they were before they came to the sanctuary, and for this the sanctuaries should be rewarded. To get to see such beautiful animals up close is an incredible (although selfish) experience, and I do think it makes people much more conscious of the impact of animal tourism. Which is an important and good thing.
I would perhaps not visit this particular sanctuary again, as it felt too touristy and not enough about the elephants – for me. Others might have a different experience and I would say to do your research. This sanctuary might be amazing compared to others, and that is worth considering. When all is said and done, these elephants should be roaming the wild jungles. Not being ridden, and not recovering in a sanctuary.
We stayed at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, and did the Overnight Trip