Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Bon Bons, Jungle walks, mud baths, and river play-time are just a few of the epic experiences we enjoyed with our Elephant Jungle Sanctuary all-day tour.
What to Bring:
-Hat (wish I had one!)
-Light, sweat-wicking clothes
-Chacos, Tevas or an open-toed shoe
-Swimsuit (for river time)
What To Expect: My boyfriend, Garrett, and I were there a full day, you can overnight or half days as well. This is the general expectations for all the adventure options. You are up close and personal! The elephants have free-range to walk around, so watch your feet! You will be out in nature with these magnificent creatures, so expect sunshine and bugs. You get to wash the elephants and play in the river with them, so BRING YOUR SWIMSUIT! Nobody cared what anyone looked like, we were all too excited to be there! I wore my Chacos because they are just my favorite shoe ever, to be honest, they're open-toed and have a buckle slide strap. (And so cute) We brought a bottle of sunscreen as well as lathered up beforehand because we were still pasty white from our American Winter. They also fed us lunch, so no need to pack in anything (if you want extra snackies, go for it!)
***DISCLAIMER! We went to an actual SANCTUARY. PLEASE do not go somewhere where they advertise riding the elephants, and keep them in cages. They are abusing and extorting the animals for their selfish monetary gains, not for the greatness of the animal's life. E.J.S. of Chiang Mai rescues elephants and gives them the best life possible.***
After an 8 am pick up right from our hotel in an open-backed, half-covered pickup truck. We climbed our way through windy roads for about an hour and a half to reach our destination for the day- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in northern Chiang Mai.
We were given these awesome print shirts so that we matched the elephant's handlers. That way, the elephants already felt more connected to us, and more friendly towards us! There were about 25 of us in our group that day. We sat eagerly awaiting the actual elephant interaction!
"BON BONN!!!!" Is an elephants keyword for Banana! So you had a bunch of wide-eyed, excited tourists yelling "BONBON!" at the elephants, who in turn opened their gaping mouths to be fed.
Being up close and personal with the world's largest land mammal was a humbling experience. They gently took bananas from our hands and tapped us with their trunks.
The Initial meeting was breathtaking! The sanctuary has multiple families, so there is enough elephant to go around! We had about 3-4 people per elephant, each of us was
just delighted to get slobbered on! Getting to walk right up to an elephant was a childhood dream come true! They are a lot rougher than I had imagined. Hmm, elephants, not soft and smooth.. who would have thought! After they ate us out of the Bonbons, we headed a 4-minute mini-hike to the next family.
Onto Family two! We had arrived a little after everyone else did.. Garrett and I had to run back for a little more sunscreen! One of the men who worked there saw us separated and so kindly guided us back to our group. We emerged from the jungle trail and came to a HUGE field with two more families, separated by a creek. What a sight to see! I cherished getting to watch them roam around and be free! They boasted the eldest of all the elephants! We met a grandma who was about 56 years old, adorable! I gave my last banana to her.. well, it went more like.. her searching me and finding it!
Mama's and Babies made up the next group. Okay if you can imagine a cute old elephant.. imagine a PINT SIZED LIL BABY! They were SO playful! The youngest one they have is around one to two years. Be a bit careful because even though these elephants are very very used to human interaction, they are still wild creatures. I had to take a few quick steps out of the way when I got a little too personal with a baby who was behind her mama! No harm no foul! Elephants in Chiang Mai also have the pleasure of eating sugar cane! We watched our main guide slice fresh sugar cane with a machete and feed it to them.
Back to camp for lunch! They had a delicious Thai style buffet set up for us upon arrival. Fresh fruits, chicken, pork, and rice- YUM! They had free waters for us and other options for drinks for purchase. (p.s. the sprite in Thailand is the best I've ever had!) We had people in our group from Italy, Canada, Spain, Brazil, and many more! It was so very cool to know that people from all over the world came here for a mutual love of animals and nature!
Medicine making! After letting our tummies settle, we gathered on a mat to experience something truly unique! Making elephant "medicine" balls, which consisted of mashed bananas, smashed uncooked rice, and local tree bark. Since elephants have 4 stomachs, it is very easy for them to get constipated and when that happens.. they can actually get sick and die from it. So in the name of elephant death prevention, we commenced! We were separated into men and women, men to work this farming contraption to smash the rice, and the women to peel and mash the bananas. After all the mushing concluded, we began constructing it all together! Yep, that means digging in and getting your hands a little dirty! Once we filled the tray, we washed up and it was time for the elephant inspection.
Into the suits, we go! Next, was the inspection time for one particular elephant. We gathered around her, hoses and scrub brushes in hand, apt to get check the integrity of her skin and get all the cracks clean. They really enjoy this! A full body massage.
Medicine and Mud bath! Of course, the only sensible thing to do once you scrub an elephant clean is.. to get into a mud bath! But before we hopped into the water, we met up with 7-8 elephants to get grubbing on our made-with-love medicine balls Their fondness for bananas had them lining up and waiting for them! Hand feeding an elephant is an experience I won't soon forget! Like clockwork, they headed to the mud bath. I stomped my way to an elephant across the pond and got to work scooping the soft mud and smearing it across her massive body. Garrett soon joined me, but thought it would be hilarious to start throwing the muck at me! Hello.. do I look like an elephant to you!! Hmm actually, don't answer that..
And Into The River, We Go. Giggling like a child, Garrett and I jumped in. I think this is when I was feeling the most present. Hey look, it's me, standing thigh-high in a river, in a swimsuit, with 25 strangers, and splashing an elephant in Thailand. What an incredible moment. I didn't care how cold the water was, if my flub showed as I bent over to scoop my bucket full, or if that was a coconut or an elephant poop floating by. I was having SO MUCH FUN! Once our new friends were all clean, we posed for one last picture with them, and headed for some dryer clothes.
To End Our Time, they set out coffee, tea, and cookies for us to relax and take it all in. We had met a sweet kitten during lunch who stuck around. (Probably for my awesome pets, #CatLady) I just remember sitting there, in complete awe of the day that will always hold a high rank on my list of "Best Days Ever". After relaxing, and chatting with our fellow travelers, we took one last magnificent look and headed back to our lifts home. I was exhausted by the end of it, but it the absolute best way possible. We ended up showering, and going to bed at about 7 pm!
So my friend, if you've made it this far into this blog, I know you want to go. So DO IT! I wouldn't trade these moments for anything. I hope you enjoyed reading about my wonderous day amongst God's most gentle and gracious creatures.
Here is the website for Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai:
Here is their Facebook Page: