A few weeks ago when we were bicycling around the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, I glimpsed my first elephant here in Thailand . I was briefly thrilled as I saw these giant beasts walking along the street just feet away from me and my bike. Elephants!! then everything registered almost at once- they were carrying actual platforms on their backs with often several smiling tourists. I could almost see the corners of those uncomfortable looking platforms cutting into their flesh. And they had heavy chains around their necks. Then I noticed the hooks their mahouts were carrying. And the decidedly cruel looking faces of the mahouts. I never posted any of the photos I snapped before all this registered, and I never will. I do not ever want to promote this practice in any way. I am angry it is still allowed in Thailand, and I'm even angrier at the tourists who keep these people in business.
So this is what The Elephant Nature Park is all about- rescuing abused elephants from the tourist and logging industries in Thailand. They have 40 elephants in their park, and still others at separate locations. We knew we wanted an "elephant experience" in Thailand, so there was no question this was where we would have it. We signed up for the "Sunshine for Elephants" program- a day with a small herd of 4 elephants trekking, feeding, bathing, and the chance to observe them in their natural jungle environment.
Our day started at 6 AM pick up, and then meeting our herd at their home base. They were all females. Mae Daeng, meaning red mother, was gentle and shy. Wasanaa, meaning fortune, was big and bossy. Here's Andy feeding those two:
Mae Daemon and Mojana were bff's who never parted. Hello, girls!
After a feeding them 4 huge bushels of cut up melons, it was time to take them for a walk. We followed them and our guides up the steep mountain. It soon became apparent that elephants go where they want, and soon there was much discussion among the guides as all the elephants were out of sight entirely. We were soon back on the trail of one of the elephants, but the other 3 were not seen again till lunch. I might add, this was no leisurely stroll. We were trekking through some thick jungle on the side of a mountain, and I had 30 years on the 4 other people in our group. Luckily, I was able to hold my own. Every group needs a rear guard. On the upside we saw this:
We ate our bagged lunch of stir fried rice in a banana leaf, and fruit at a makeshift picnic table. Within minutes all 4 elephants found us, I'm sure knowing from routine that it was time for our lunch. Of course, they made out well, getting most of our fruit and banana leaves. How can you say no when an elephant has laid her trunk on the table next to you and is looking at you from under long elephant eyelashes?!
OK!After lunch, the ladies like a mud bath, so we made our way over to a stream and watched them bathe. In the mud. Oh my.
They were not movin'. OK, our day almost over, we said good-bye to our herd of 4, and headed over to the main park. We then got to get in the water and give a bath to one of several elephants there, but she wasn't much interested and walked away as soon as her snack was finished.
The Elephant Nature Park is in our estimation a most worthwhile organization. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, or just love elephants, consider them. It costs a quarter of a million dollars a year to feed these 40 elephants. Their work depends on us.
Here again is the link to Elephant Nature Park
Here's a link to the larger organization Save Elephant
Please consider patronizing them and or donating?
We want our grandchildren to see elephants too!
As always please follow along here and on our other social media on the right there because...uh, reasons? Because someday we'll monteize all your eyeballs? Leverage your uh...assets?
Anyhow it's cause we want you to see where we are so when you are there too we can meet up!
Failing all that search #wetrotabout for pix and such! See ya!