Living in Thailand, home to the Asian Elephant, I just had to spend a day caring for these amazing creatures. With a special occasion on the horizon, my boyfriend and I booked an afternoon at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, where we would become Elephant Mahouts for the day, caring, washing, feeding and walking them through their daily routine. Turns out it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!
Being picked up from our Condo at 1pm, we were driven to the site an hour away from Chiang Mai hidden within the mountains. We joined our party and wandered over to meet the first elephants of the day. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant, you’ll know just how adorable these little creatures are! At just 2 months old, we got to meet Poof, who was no taller than my knees. He was the most loveable character. The sanctuary had even made him a step to reach his mother’s milk as he wasn’t quite tall enough.
After capturing a great photo opportunity and having a briefing about the day, we set off for the camp. Arriving, we were greeted by at least 2 dozen elephants, all of different ages and sizes wandering around happily, without a chain in sight! There were mahouts chopping bamboo and male elephants drinking from a hose pipe, a very surreal sight I have to admit.
We finally got to meet our own elephants for the day. A little apprehensive of the size of them, up close and personal with an elephant 3 times the size of you is pretty overwhelming I have to say. Regardless, I met my elephant, Chompoo and was thankful when I saw she was smaller than the rest. At five years old, she was still huge but the perfect size for me. We were given baskets of bananas and bamboo and I jumped straight in feeding Chompoo, although she was a fussy elephant and only wanted to eat bamboo that was sliced in half so rejected any that weren’t!
Next on our agenda was their daily cleaning process, starting with using a collection of leaves bound together to get all of the dirt off their backs. Next was my favourite part of the day, walking down to bathe the elephants. Sitting on an elephant’s back with a brush in your hand, gently cleaning them from head to toe was so surreal, such an incredible experience!
After being completely soaked by an elephant spraying water all over us, it was time to walk and ride our elephants. Now I know there is a lot of controversy over riding elephants here in Thailand, but there is no way I would have done so if I knew or saw that the sanctuary was unethical and treated their elephants with cruelty. With a credible reputation at Patara, I climbed onto Chompoo’s bare back, not a seat or any danger in sight and guided Chompoo through the walk, patting her and saying Dee Dee (Thai for good) along the way.
Again riding an elephant was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget and actually I won’t have to for a while either. After thanking my Mahout and posing for the last few shots, I screamed out in pain only to realise that Chompoo had stood on my toe! In excruciating pain, I can tell you for a 5 year old, she is very heavy! She must have heard my scream because she leapt off me, complete with pink nail varnish still attached to her foot! So, as I told you, it’s an experience I won’t be able to forget for a while, with a shining purple bruise on my toe! Despite that, I would highly recommend anyone to spend a day playing and caring for an elephant, it’s highly rewarding and incredibly exciting too!