Okay let's be real, this was probably the main reason I came to Thailand.... I have loved animals my whole life and a day spent taking care of elephants; feeding, playing with, and washing them, seemed like absolute heaven. Needless to say these gentle giants did not disappoint...
The day started with a 2 hour ride out of Chiang Mai in an open hair truck. The road was a little bumpy, windy, and definitely a thrill of a ride. Honestly probably my favorite part was bonding with the people in my group, the 6 of us telling traveling stories, tales of back home, and making jokes about the driver taking us off road... I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life. So grateful to have met those people because at the beginning of my solo trip I was so anxious to find people to connect with!
Upon arrival to the sanctuary we were briefed a little on some basic rules and given a shirt to wear so that the elephants would recognize us, to differentiate between a threat and someone who came bearing fresh fruit! We wandered up the hill into the jungle, mosquitos buzzing and slipping a little in the mud but it was worth it when we came to the end of the trail, about 3 large elephants ready for their fresh watermelon and banana! We got to take turns feeding all the elephants and taking photos. I couldn't get enough! Seeing them roaming freely with no chains/leashes/collars was so heartwarming. They meandered off after the food was all gone, but we did save one bag for a late visitor-a baby elephant! I forgot how old he was but look how cute! He definitely got spoiled with all the fruit.
After the feeding we went back to the main camp for a lunch. Really yummy Asian food and I was happy to see they had vegetarian options as well! This was another amazing time to socialize with the other travelers, again I had so much fun laughing and hearing everyone's stories and adventures.
After the lunch was what we had all been waiting for-elephant washing. As one of my group said. " I can't believe we pay to wash you!" So funny but so true and everyone was hyped up for it. We all got a brush and bucket and gathered around a couple different elephants. First we splashed with water, dumping buckets onto the elephant. Then came the scrubbing. Then the final step was to coat with mud(to prevent mosquito bites), which seemed a little weird after we had just washed the elephant but was probably the most fun step. We did this for all the elephants, then washed up ourselves. It was a perfect day adventure, and these animals truly blow me away. They truly are gentle, kind and caring(watching the mom care for the baby elephant and make sure it was always within eyesight was truly special). I hope to encourage all to promote animal safety and discourage away from tourist activities that cause cruelty to animals(elephant riding...so painful for them!). This day was perfect for anyone looking to see if a long-term volunteer opportunity would be suited for them, as I believe you can volunteer for a week or longer. Or if you're looking for a day trip out of the city in nature this would be perfect. I am so grateful to have checked this experience off my bucket list, but I would do it again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity!