If you ever go to Thailand, make sure you spend some time in Chiang Mai. It’s a wonderful city and it’s also where you can have access to elephant sanctuaries. I went to the Baan Chang Elephant Park. This was a really amazing experience with some of the greatest creatures on Earth. The day was very well organized and worth every penny.
I did the One Day Mahout Training Course. It was a full day there: you get picked up at your hotel or hostel, then driven to the camp, which is about an hour outside the city. Once you get there, you’re given a change of clothes so you don’t dirty your own, but also this way, the elephants recognize the “uniform” and feel safer around you.
The first thing you do after that is feed the elephants! You get a basket full of sugar canes and bananas. Watch out! If you don’t feed them fast enough, the elephants will literally take the bananas from you. It’s pretty cute, to be honest. While you’re feeding them, your guide tells you about the different elephants, how they were found, etc. They all have really interesting stories, some horrifying and heartbreaking.
Next, you learn how to ride an elephant. You learn the basic commands; stop, go, left, right. You get on the elephant and do a quick circle to get used to it, then it’s off to lunch, which is provided for you.
After lunch, we go on the long walk! We get to ride them for about an hour! My elephant was a little mischievous and loved to go off course to get even more food, then eat slowly as we walked. Half way, we took a break and gave the elephants water right out of our water bottles. After the walk, we ended up in the pond and washed the elephants and got soaked! (That’s why the change of clothes was important.)
We were provided with showers to wash off the dirty elephant water, then back on the bus! All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I will never forget these amazing elephants.
**During the entire stay, the guide will be taking pictures, so you don’t have to worry about not getting a souvenir! He will post them all on Facebook and send you the link so you’ll have tons of proof that you rode an elephant 😉