Review: Elephant Nature Park, Chang Mai, Thailand 4


Thailand is one of the best countries to visit if you want to immerse yourself in yoga. If you want to do some ‘karma’ yoga (aka volunteering), and if you like elephants, I would definitely recommend joining the Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai. On our trip around the world, my boyfriend and I spent a week on the ‘Journey to Freedom’ project. Here’s my review. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will answer as soon as possible.

What is the Elephant Nature Park?

The Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand. You can either visit for a day or more (easy from Chang Mai), or volunteer. If you’re thinking of riding an elephant, you’re in the wrong place. The ENP takes care of elephants who got injured doing just that.

 

Elephant Nature Park, Chang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park

 

Imagine a baby elephant in a busy city like Bangkok… it’s tapping its leg against the pavement, rocking its body. Most people don’t think much about it, but it’s rocking its body out of anxiety and stress. A city is no place for an elephant.

Also, the methods the trainers (mahouts) use are not always pleasant… Sometimes they are downright violent.

Fortunately, there’s one courageous lady named Lek, who founded the Elephant Nature Park to take care of mistreated elephants who don’t have anywhere else to go.

It all started with one elephant Lek saved. Now, she has around 40 elephants living in the park, she sets many others free to live in the mountains, and she continues to educate the mahouts of the consequences of their ‘training’ methods.

Journey to Freedom Project

With the Journey to Freedom project, you spend the first 5 (of 7) days in Mae Joom Sam, a tiny village home of the Karen tribe high up in the mountains, with 30 inhabitants.

Your accommodation is a shared homestay in the village. This is not a typical guesthouse. It’s basic, and I would advice you to have an open mind. The people who live there are genuinly interested in you, they are so incredibly friendly!

During these 5 days you do 2 walks through the mountains to visit the elephants and their mahouts.

 

Hiking through the mountains

Hiking through the mountains

 

There’s not much electricity, but it’s good being away from everything, from the iPad, iPhone, tablet, TV, computer, all that. The people are so happy here, and yet they don’t have any of that stuff. Maybe because they don’t have any of that stuff.

You help out with any task that is available, from fixing roofs to teaching/entertaining the children.

 

Learning how to make a roof, thai style

Learning how to make a roof, thai style

'Teaching' children the alphabet.

‘Teaching’ children the alphabet.

Bathing the elephants

One happy elephant..

Elephant Nature Park

Two happy volunteers

 

You spend the last 2 days in the Elephant Nature Park. You get to bathe the elephants, feed them and ‘pet’ them. A big terrace offers you the perfect view, overlooking the park.

What did it all cost?

This program is 360 Dollars for one week. It includes everything; local transport, food, drinks, accommodation, and entrance fees. Compared to other volunteer programs, this is a reasonable price. The money is well spent, you can see it being used in such a positive way.

More information

Please visit their website: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/.

 

PS: Want to read this blog post in Dutch? Check out my contribution for the Dutch online magazine on sustainability ‘De Betere Wereld’.

 

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4 thoughts on “Review: Elephant Nature Park, Chang Mai, Thailand

  • Therese McMahan

    Hi- I am a going to Journey to Freedom the last week of June with my girls- 14 and 15, Do you have any advice with some practical issues like what kind of foot wear and clothes. What kinds of things do you think would be good to bring? Where else did you go in Thailand?
    Great post. Thank you!

    • Jess Post author

      Hi Therese, thanks for dropping by! So cool that you are doing the Journey to Freedom, I hope you like it! It’s amazing seeing the elephants in their natural habitat. Regarding the foot wear, best to bring good hiking boots. And bring a warm sweater (it can get very cold high up in the mountains at night). A torch is very handy to bring, as well as some soap. I also visited the old city of Chiang Mai, Pai (very lovely village, with great hiking/mountainbike trails), and some of the southern islands (Koh Phi Phi, Ko Tao) and of course Bangkok. Those are the ones I remember (it’s been a while haha). Have fun!! All the best, Jess.

  • Shane

    Hi there my name is Shane and I came across your site while looking for more information about “Journey to Freedom”. Your experience looks amazing!!

    I was wondering what type of insurance do you recommend?
    And also can you only start your volunteering on Mondays? Or any day of the week?

    • Jess Post author

      Hi Shane,
      Thanks for stopping by! So cool that you’re going to do the Journey to Freedom project! Insurance, yeah I had a Dutch insurance (I’m Dutch): Special Isis. But I kinda changed my mind on that. Now I just use my travel insurance from my local bank. It’s way cheaper. If I remember correctly the Journey to Freedom project starts on a certain day only. You have to get to a village high in the mountains. I guess if you can make it up there by yourself, you can start on other days as well. You can always ask the organisation of course! Best of luck, and enjoy, Jess