Thailand is famed for its elephants so if you’re planning a visit, you can’t miss spending a night at the best elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai!
What is the Elephant Nature Park?
The Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for poorly treated elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Most of the elephants at the park have been subject to abuse at some point in their lives, and now they are recovering both physically and mentally at the park.
The centre provides a safe environment for the elephants to live in, free from whips, bull hooks, chains and riding.
What Can You Do?
You’ll have a lot of time with your guide being walked around the park. They’re really knowledgeable about every single elephant in the park, and can tell you the story behind each one. You’ll feed the elephants a few times, wash them and walk alongside them.
Other animals call the park home too. There is a separate area for the rescue cats and dogs which you can visit.
There is a Cat Kingdom where the cats live, and you can sit yourself down inside to wait for an attention seeking feline. We very nearly adopted another cat! If you are in a position to do so, talk to the staff and they’ll be more than happy to show you how you can!
You can even take a dog for a walk on a nearby road!
There is a gift shop for souvenirs to take back home – unfortunately when we were there, they were refurbishing it so we could only buy from a small section.
You might want to grab a beer and relax on your balcony to round off your day. There’s a fridge full of Chang and when the staff go home you’re just asked to write down what you take and put the money in a trust box.
It cost 80THB/£1.80 for a large Chang, which was pretty standard for Chiang Mai.
What Is Included In The Overnight Stay?
One breakfast, two lunches and a dinner are all included in the price. The room we stayed in had a double bed and one single – if you’re a solo traveller then you have to be prepared to share (with any gender).
They give you a water bottle and a handy bag for it too, which you can take home.
How Do You Get To Elephant Nature Park?
An air-conditioned minibus organised by Elephant Nature Park will come and pick you up from your accommodation at around 8am. They’ll then drop you back the next evening!
Where Do You Stay?
The Elephant Nature Park offers rustic-style hut accommodation. We weren’t expecting much but in actual fact we were impressed with where we stayed.
There was a lot of space in our room, as well as a balcony overlooking the elephants’ sleeping pen.
Toiletries, towels and a mosquito net were all provided – the only thing that reminded us that we were in the jungle was the pour-flush toilet. Oh, and the occasional snuffling from the elephants only 20 metres away!
What Do You Eat?
A buffet is provided for the breakfast, two lunches and dinner you receive. There’s loads to choose from and everything is vegetarian. We also noted that the milk was dairy-free.
Fruit is also available, and there are random cookies and chocolate swirls set out every so often!
What Does It Cost?
For a one night stay at the park, it costs 5800THB/£133 per person.
This includes everything I’ve spoken about (apart from the beers, obviously!) so it works out to be quite a good deal considering you’re living with the elephants!
There are loads of other programmes if you don’t want to splash out – check their website to have a look at everything they offer.
We’d definitely recommend the overnight stay though! We were able to bond with our group over a couple of beers in the evening and we had a lot more time with the elephants and other animals. You’d pay for another hotel room anyway so why not share your night with elephants!
Here’s a quick guide to our itinerary for the two days:
We were picked up from the hotel in the city on time. The minibus was super snazzy and we stopped for a short toilet/snack break. There were 8 of us altogether – one of only two groups to stay overnight.
We were given a table to leave our belongings on and then our guide (Top … Top Secret) led us over to the elephants. We got stuck in feeding them watermelons, which they crunched and gobbled up with ease.
There were so many elephants roaming around the park so Top took us to a few groups and we watched them interact with each other.
Some of the elephants we could touch, others we were warned to keep a distance from as they were still adapting from their former lives.
Free time, which we spent with the cats and dogs! These ones followed us round the whole time!
After lunch we went to see more elephants. Top gave us loads of information about each one. It was sad to see a few of them as they had injuries that could not be fixed.
This happens when their previous owners don’t bother fixing a broken leg for example and then everything fuses together. Many of the elephants had also stepped on landmines and were being treated for those.
On a happier note we saw a young elephant who had been born in the park, playing around with his older friends having never been mistreated or injured.
There wasn’t a structure to the afternoon, so we spent more time with the group whilst petting the cute cats and dogs.
We took Mandella the dog for a walk and she was the best behaved dog on a lead we had ever seen!
We visited the park on a Sunday, and we were told that this meant that there was no ‘evening activity’ for us.
I’m not entirely sure what we missed out on, but we still had a great evening drinking beer sitting on the balcony overlooking the elephants.
We were given time to actually get ready for the day and then our new guide Apple took us on a walk round the park to meet even more elephants.
This was where we heard one Nanny elephant give THE most almighty roar anyone had ever heard. It was incredible!
After that we bathed the elephants to help them cool down – you could tell they enjoyed it a lot!
We had a longer break today but afterwards we went on a Jungle Walk with Apple. She took us about five minutes’ from the park and we met three gentle elephants who were clearly expecting us.
We fed them watermelons and pumpkins and got incredibly close to them.
When we returned, we made rice balls for the older elephants. Those who find it difficult digesting the hard food, or those without teeth were given rice balls full of cooked pumpkin.
We squished them altogether and then fed a 90 year old elephant. NINETY!!!
She absolutely scoffed the whole lot though and became extremely disinterested in us when we showed her the empty basket.
We took another dog, Bobo, for a walk and then packed up.
We drove back to the city centre and were dropped off at each of our hotels.
There’s lots of free time but it’s a beautiful place to be and there are plenty of animals to observe. Invest in some good sun cream though – even if you’re visiting Chiang Mai in January!
It was a great experience and we would recommend it to anyone. There are lots of different programmes you can choose, but we felt that one day wasn’t enough!
Have you visited the Elephant Nature Park? Tell us what you think!