There are some memories that are so special you can’t help but revisit them over and over again. My day at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was one of those experiences and I will forever cherish it. I’ve wanted to play with elephants in Thailand since my 15 year old self got caught up in the Pinterest craze and discovered that places like this even existed; needless to say, expectations were very high and Elephant Jungle Sanctuary did NOT disappoint!
This sanctuary offers multiple immersive experiences ranging from a half day visit to an overnight stay. Joey and I wanted the full experience, so we chose the “one day walk with the elephants” tour. We were picked up from our accommodation around 8:45 am (the pickup time on the website is an approximation so don’t panic if your ride is a few minutes late) and began the 1 ½ hour journey to the sanctuary.
Upon arriving, we were met by our guide (who spoke GREAT English) and started our trek through a beautiful village surrounded by lush greenery, chirping crickets, farm animals, and locals going about their daily lives. We walked down some rolling hills and crossed a rushing river on a rickety old bridge that I didn’t quite trust; we hadn’t even seen any elephants yet, but I was having the time of my life already. Simply getting there was an adventure all on its own! When we finally arrived and saw the elephants for the first time, I’m quite certain that my jaw was on the floor and it goes down as one of the rare occasions that I was actually speechless. I’ve seen elephants before, but never this up close and personal. I was just dying to interact with them, but before we could do that, we changed into traditional “Karen” clothing and listened to a small speech given by our guide about ethical treatment of elephants (don’t ride them!) and the heart of the sanctuary. As interesting as the information we were being given was, it was very difficult for me to focus with the elephants in my view.
After fifteen minutes of introduction, we finally got to play with them! The sanctuary workers brought out a massive wheel barrow overflowing with ripe bananas to feed our new friends. I had a huge handful of fruit and was trying to break individual pieces off, but those tricky elephants snatched the ENTIRE bunch of bananas from my hand in one bite. We were laughing and completely in awe the whole time.
After the elephants finished off the wheelbarrow of bananas, the fruit just kept coming. Watermelons, and pineapples, and bananas, OH MY! I don’t know who was more excited, me or the elephants. We spent so much time walking around, feeding, hugging, and taking photos with them, I was very happy with how much time we got! I didn’t feel rushed at all and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, what a great start to the day!
After a wonderful morning loving on elephants, we made our way to a huge mudhole. If you are a germaphobe, this part may not be for you…I however was loving it. We spent about 20 minutes rubbing the elephants down with mud, and having splash fights (never get into a splash fight with an elephant, they have trunks and will use them!) We were nice and muddy by the time we headed to a natural rushing river to wash off. It was so fun swimming with the elephants and watching them play and splash and roll around in the water. They were like little kids…ya know, if kids had trunks and weighed about 10,000 pounds.
It was late afternoon when we got out of the water and had some of the yummiest lunch prepared by some of the locals on staff. Steaming rice, potatoes, the sweetest fruit and perfectly seasoned veggies! It was so well prepared and one of my favorite meals we had in Thailand, not to mention the fact that we were eating outside surrounded by a lush canopy of greenery, a rushing river, freely roaming elephants, and happily chirping birds serenading us as we enjoyed our delicious meal. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
After lunch we picked out new traditional clothing to wear, and a beautiful bag with an elephant delicately embroidered on the front, and guess what?! We got to keep them! The website doesn’t say anything about taking any gifts home, so this was quite the pleasant surprise. We changed into our new clothes and headed off to learn more about elephant care and even got to make vitamin filled rice balls for them.
After the elephants had their afternoon snack, we headed off into the jungle for a 1 ½ hour hike. It was amazing to walk alongside such magnificent animals and experience them roaming freely in nature.
At one point one of the more rambunctious elephants stopped and pulled a tree right out of the ground with as much ease as you or I would pick a flower. The sheer strength was incredible to witness.
Our beautiful hike came to an end, and we headed off on our final adventure, trekking over more sketchy bridges, and walking through vibrant, green rice fields to find a jeep waiting to take us to another part of the sanctuary to see BABY elephants. Cue heart eyes and embarrassing girly squeals, I was in heaven. The babies were as clumsy and hilarious and adorable as you would expect and I loved seeing their individual and mischievous personalities and the way the older members of the herd gently, but sternly cared for them.
What an amazing way to end an adventure packed day. I’m so thankful for the experience, and if you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, I HIGHLY recommend it!