The thing I looked forward to the most on my trip to Chiang Mai was spending a day with the elephants. I’ve visit Thailand when I was very young and the only thing I remembered was feeding bananas to the elephant. Except, I was too scared and dropped the bananas on the ground when their trunks got close. This time around I made sure to visit an elephant sanctuary to feed and bath the elephants. They are such friendly and playful animals!
There are a bunch of elephant tours in Thailand. Some tours include riding elephants and making them perform tricks, but those elephants are abused with hooks. I didn’t feel comfortable with that and wouldn’t have enjoyed the tour, so I opted for a tour that does not involve elephant riding. I went with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Full Day Visit where we fed, petted, bathed, and made medicine for the elephants. It was a blast and the tour guides were super friendly.
The tour started with a 1.5-hour car ride to the sanctuary in the back of a converted pick-up truck. There were two benches on the back of the truck to seat 8 people. It was surprisingly comfortable and breezy since it was exposed on the sides.
The day was divided into 4 parts: feeding the elephants, lunch, making medicine for them, and bathing them.
We had crates full of bananas to feed about 10 elephants. The second we held up the bananas, they would extend their trunks to grab the bananas. If we weren’t paying attention, they would grab the entire batch out of our hand. On average, elephants eat 250 kg of food and drink 150 liters of water per day, and sleep only 4-5 hours each day.
It was so fun feeding them and seeing how playful they were. When they’re happy they flap their ears and swing their tails, and it even looked like they were smiling.
We also petted the elephants and got up close next to them. They are definitely not the fluffy and soft type. In fact, their skin is extremely rough and they have strands of hair on their head. Nevertheless, it was fun playing with them, having their trunks wrap around me and taking selfies with them.
The sanctuary we were at also had a newborn elephant that was only 1 month old. He was even more playful and would purposely nudge you or bump into you when he walked by. At 200 lbs, that’s a pretty big nudge!
After lunch, we made medicine balls for the elephants to help with their digestive systems. It contained grains, rice, bananas, tamarind, ginger, sugar, and salt. It was essentially all these ingredients mashed up and molded into a ball.
The last part of the day was bathing the elephants. It started with a mud bath where we threw mud on and massaged the elephants in a puddle. To be honest, it was a little uncomforting because our feet were sinking into the mud and our entire bodies were muddy.
Next, we moved to the river to bath them (and ourselves) with clean water. The elephants essentially laid down in the river while we splashed water on them. They love baths because it helps cool them down. They don’t sweat out of their skins and only from their toe nails, so being in the water was refreshing. It felt like children having a water fight. The elephants were so happy because their legs were flailing and ears flapping!
The second the elephants got out of the water, they rolled in mud and got dirty again. They actually prefer being dirty and like baths just to cool them down.
Overall, I had a blast with the elephants. I got to spend so much time with them and learn more about these friendly animals. My favorite part was feeding them because it was very interactive and it made them very happy. It’s like playing with a pet elephant – they are giant animals but extremely playful.
More Elephant Photos