While most people skip Chiang Mai when visiting Thailand, we were determined to see elephants, however we weren’t convinced by the ethical nature of the ones outside of Chiang Mai. Saying that, 90% of the places in Chiang Mai had some dodgy practices going on, however we made sure to book with the elephant sanctuary.
We couldn’t decide between the full day or half day option, however then we were offered a golden opportunity to combine a trek to the waterfalls, white water rafting and feeding the elephants all in one package. How can you say no?
The trek was a good hour to the waterfalls and then an hour back, but is completely worth it and a lot more adventurous than I was expecting, walking along small wooden pathways and across the stream. It was an amazing contrast to the city life of Bangkok.
If you want to give this a try, definitely bring you mosquito spray as their were a fair few nibbling on my arm.
White Water Rafting
This is hands down my favourite activity in the world, always number one on my personal bucket list wherever I go. The rapids were actually incredibly calm at this location, however it doesn’t take away from the joy of the activity.
Now the whole group has tried it though, I definitely need to book us into a more intensive one.
The main reason we came seemed to disappear the moment we saw a little puppy nibbling at our toes. All those thoughts of not stroking stray dogs shot out the window as we fell in love with the little ball of fur.
The elephants definitely appear intimidating when you first lay eyes on them, with their giant stomping feet getting closer to you as they smell the food in your bag.
We first grabbed 3 giant buckets of bananas and began to place them either onto their trunks or in their mouth’s. All I will say is their tongue is…ummm…well I wouldn’t want to touch it again! But it was the most amazing feeling feeding the elephants and seeing them smiling in joy.
After this we had to cut down a tree and carry it down for them, as they eat 13-16 hours per day, meaning we still had plenty to do.
After this, we went over to the kitchen, where we made them a mix of rice, chilli, tamarind and a whole load of other spices and vegetables, to give them a nutritional boost. We made them up into balls and went back over to feed Jumbo and Mai.
After all this eating, we then took them for a walk up the mountain side, where there are plenty of trees for them to munch on (which definitely kicked up my hunger, I almost battled one for a nibble). There was a slightly scary moment when we walked back down the hill and the elephant was behind us and got nervous about the height so started sliding towards us on its butt. I sped up a little as I saw a 60-stone giant hurdling towards my confused face.
We climbed up the mountain to gather a special plant which cleans the bacteria off their body, so we then led the elephants to the water and began scrubbing away. They loved nothing more than being scratched behind the ears, as their legs started flexing like a dog when stroked in the right spot.
Return To Reality
After the entire adventure, we had a 1.5 hour journey back while we drifted in and out of sleep after an exhausting but amazing day. I’d 100% recommend giving this a try, but just be careful who you book with. On the journey over, we saw plenty of other elephant places where people rode on their backs, which causes them severe back aches and arthritis.