What an eventful day it’s been so far participating in an alms offering, seeing Doi Suthep, and visiting the Long Neck Hill Tribe Village. We weren’t done yet! It was time to head north to an elephant park to see what it’s like to be an elephant mahout (trainer or keeper) for an afternoon. The park was located about an hour north of Chiang Mai.
The guide and head mahout of the sanctuary was a monk for several years before dedicating his time to take care of a few elephants. He was very nice and accommodating. He provided us with a change of clothes and a locker for our things.
First, he explained the elephant’s diet and showed us some bananas and bamboo to fill our baskets. We broke up the bunches of bananas and grabbed several bamboo for the feed.
We then got our hands dirty and made vitamin balls. It was like a thick mud paste with essential vitamins and minerals that we then rolled into balls for easy consumption for the elephants.
Once our baskets were full, it was time for a short trek through the woods to meet the elephants.
Once we were at the feeding area, we waited for a few minutes before the beautiful creatures arrived. There were 4 elephants, varying in size and age.
They were not shy about grabbing the bananas and bamboo out of our hands. It was so cool!
All our buckets were empty and it was time to learn a few key words and commands for the elephants.
The owner demonstrated how to get on the elephant. He made it look really easy. He asked who wanted to try first and my sister immediately pointed to me. Thanks!
After a brief countdown and some assistance I was able to get on top of my elephant, Wondee. Once she got up, it was pretty scary at first because it felt like I was going to fall off. I had to center myself and just keep my balance. After a couple minutes, I started to get the hang of it.
There are many elephant parks and sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. Many people are strongly against riding the elephants. So it is not something you have to do if you don’t want to. If you do decide to experience it, make sure you find a reputable place that does not use baskets or carts on top of the elephants. Stick to those that allow bareback riding.
It was time for my sister to get on her elephant. She chose to ride the younger one which was much smaller than mine!
Once we were both on our elephants, we headed into the jungle for a bit. We each had a mahout by our side to ensure our safety at all times.
Our guide, Ji, was excellent with taking our pictures. Although we put our things in a locker, I made sure to bring my Olympus Tough camera. I highly recommend bringing a durable waterproof camera with you if you have one, so you don’t have to worry about anything happening to your phone.
Riding these magnificent animals through the woods was an amazing experience! It was even more special since it turned out to be a private program for just me and my sister.
It was such a nice day and we continued to make our way through the woods. We would soon return to the feeding area to enjoy the second part of the program – bathing the elephants!
Chiang Mai Tour Center
Private Elephant Training Program