Yesterday my friends and I visited an elephant sanctuary. There is a woman at my friend’s place here where we are staying named Naree. She works for the family we are staying with and her friend gives tours of this sanctuary. This tour has been one of the biggest highlights of my time in Thailand so far. So without further ado, here’s all about my experience visiting an elephant sanctuary.
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Our reasons for choosing to visit a sanctuary rather than riding the elephants down a trail were simple. The tourism industry has exploited the working elephants by making them walk through trails carrying heavy loads of tourists on big chairs strapped to their backs. Doing this constantly is not good for the elephants and often the elephants at these camps are mistreated into obedience.
The elephants we saw were well taken care of and many had been rescued from camps such as the ones mentioned. Their tails and ears would flap happily when being fed and we got to feed them pineapples and bananas.
We found out part-way through our tour of the sanctuary that they actually do let you ride the elephants one to three at a time bareback. We were all fairly apprehensive as we didn’t want to hurt the elephants but the sanctuary upheld rules about riding such as that they didn’t get ridden for very long, they had to be ridden bareback and the cycled out the elephants throughout the day to give the others time to graze and play. To be honest I think I would have rather visited a sanctuary where there was absolutely no riding. So if you’re planning on visiting an elephant sanctuary then please do lots of research beforehand.
My favorite part I think was getting to feed and bathe the elephants. We bathed elephants in a nearby river so they could cool off in the hot sun.
I think the biggest positive impact I noticed about the sanctuary was how there was one new elephant there that had only been there for a week. They told us that she was about 65 years old and normally elephants used in the logging industry and even in the tourism industry are supposed to be retired and set free around age 60. This elephant in particular had not been allowed to retire and had two huge wounds on her forehead where she had been beaten with a chair. The owner of the sanctuary told us that he had rescued her and put medicine on her wound twice a day. She seemed to be on the road to recovery and it made me really happy that she had finally found a better home.
All in all the sanctuary was wonderful and I would definitely recommend it. If you go to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, go visit an elephant sanctuary.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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