11.12.2015 - 11.12.2015 84 °F
Today was elephant day! Our Elephant Nature Park guide picked us up in a van from our guesthouse at 8 AM and we, along with seven other people from all over the world, began the 1.5 hour journey to the countryside. The big city of Chiang Mai gradually faded into smaller towns until we finally arrived in the mountains and were greeted with the picturesque views we had hoped for.
Upon arrival at ENP we were led to a feeding platform to feed cucumbers and sweet potatoes to our first elephant, Lucky. Lucky is unfortunately completely blind due to mistreatment before being rescued, but is thriving at ENP and is very familiar with this feeding ritual. As we took turns gently placing food in the crook of her trunk, we were also allowed to pet her. This was honestly a little terrifying at first-- we had just watched a safety video on the ride there that reiterated the fact that an elephant can send a human catapulting through the air with about the same amount of effort we use to swat away a fly--but Lucky was very gentle, and much more interested in the veggies than the humans providing them. We learned today that Asian elephants, who are smaller and shaped a bit differently than their African cousins, spend 18 hours a day eating, so they are highly motivated by food.
After feeding, our tour guide, Aeh (pronounced "ay") took us for our first walk through the park. Along the way we were introduced to several different elephants, all of whom were female and had their own names and backstories. We were allowed to pet most of them, as long as we moved slowly and made sure the elephant was always aware of our whereabouts. Spooking an elephant can lead to the aforementioned catapulting. One of the last elephants we met on this walk was Mae Pam, ENP's very first elephant who came to the park in 1995. She was very sweet, and curious, and was accompanied by her best friend Jakia. Jakia was the first blind elephant ENP's founder, Lek, rescued and she wasn't sure how the other elephants would react to her disability. Luckily, Mae Pam took her under her wing from day one, and they've been best friends ever since. Lek has since acquired several other blind rescues, as this is sadly a common problem among working elephants.
After lunch, we joined the elephants by the river and bathed them by splashing water on them with buckets, which they seemed to love. We then took another walk to meet a family of elephants with a 2-year old named 'Baby Boy' who was just the cutest! Unfortunately we could not pet, or get very near him because mama elephant wouldn't like that, but it was still a great experience to be able to see him.