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Okay we haven’t actually seen them fly, but for the first time we’ve seen them free and happy and that’s close enough. At the elephant sanctuary they are without chains, without ropes around their necks and people on their backs. They are free to wander about, play, bath in the water and you can instantly see how happy they are. It truly did feel like an elephant sanctuary where man wasn’t the master, but like friends sharing a home.

The Journey

Our day stated at 9am when we were picked up by the mini-van from our apartment. Along the way we stopped off for a quick coffee break in a small town followed by an hour’s journey to the sanctuary.

I didn’t really know what to expect, we’d been to the elephant breeding centre in Chitwan (Nepal) but the elephants there were chained up in open stables. This sanctuary was nothing like that. The green open fields were beautiful and lush and you could see elephants wandering around free as birds. For the first time I didn’t feel guilty coming to see elephants.

After a short walk through the fields, we had to cross two very dodgy bamboo bridges. I still don’t know how Ru managed to get across with Ava on his shoulders, I was holding my breath the whole along.

Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Crossing the bamboo bridge at the sanctuary

The Conservation Project

When we got to the hut the guide sat us round in a circle to break up bananas as he told us about the conservation work and how elephants live. I found it fascinating learning about the strong family bonds that elephants have, the way they care for their young and how they are nursed for years just like humans. Elephants are so affectionate with each other, they hug, they play, have an amazing memory, they mourn and even shed tears. It just made me think we have so much in common with these majestic creatures.

Breaking up the bananas to feed the elephants

The guide also told us about the dark side of elephant tourism, how they are taken from their mothers as babies and tortured to break their spirits just so man can be its master.

If you want to know more about how elephants are domesticated, here’s is a shocking video that will hopefully make you think twice about ever riding elephant.

Elephant Feeding

We all helped in carrying the massive baskets of bananas to go and feed the elephants. There were three huge, hungry elephants waiting for us under a canopy and a baby elephant soon came to join in. It was incredible to be so close to these giants with no bars or gates between us, to be able to stroke them and give them a hug.

Feeding elephants Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

Ava soon got comfortable to feed the elephants herself

Feeding them was so much fun, their giant trunks would come and grab the bananas from your fingertips and before you could even get another their trunks were back searching for more. Ava loves elephants, but she did get a bit scared being that close especially when the trunks came sniffing around her face. After spending a bit of time stroking them she managed to pluck up the courage to give the baby elephant a banana.

Mud bath with an elephant

After lunch we went to give the elephants a bath which was so much fun and quite surreal too. The elephants followed us into the mud and started rolling about and squirting water at us. We all picked up handfuls of mud and rubbed it on the elephants back. The guides were having great fun too, they went around putting mud on everyone and soon we were all caked in mud! The elephants looked so happy splashing around and wriggling in the mud, it has to be the most fun part of the day.


Buffet lunch with our group

Seeing the elephants splash about was so much fun


After the elephant bath we washed ourselves in the clear water stream and drove for 20 minutes to the waterfall. We walked down a steep path to massive rocks where people sat under the shade and watched an absolutely beautiful waterfall.

Our day at the elephant sanctuary has got to be the highlight of our time in Chiang Mai. The perfect day trip for families and definitely the best way to have fun with elephants, guilt free!

Waterfall Chiang Mai

Waterfall Chiang Mai

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