When planning our trip to Chiang Mai, visiting an elephant sanctuary was at the very top of our bucket list. Knowing how sensitive animal rights issues are in Thailand, and how many so-called “sanctuaries” do not treat elephants ethically, I scoured high and low for the perfect conservation.
Many people recommended Elephant Nature Park — which looked amazing, but unfortunately the dates we were in Chiang Mai were already booked. Back to the drawing board, I finally discovered Patara Elephant Farm, an elephant care program that adopts elephants from unsuitable living conditions, allowing them to thrive in a natural environment.
At Patara Elephant Farm, you learn to interact with the elephants, including how to correctly approach an elephant, learning an elephant’s temperament, feeding and checking an elephant’s health, and how to communicate different commands. You even learn how to properly bathe and brush an elephant, while bathing with them in the river!
From the moment we arrived, it was readily apparent how passionate the staff are. The bonds between these individuals and elephants are sacred. Having been rescued from unsuitable living conditions, the elephants have been a second chance at a normal, healthy life.
I think my biggest surprise (excluding how hairy and prickly elephants are!) was how incredibly smart these gentle giants are! With such large personalities, each elephant has his or her own temperament, and it was so fun to forge a bond with our own elephant for the day.
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai, do not miss Patara Elephant Farm! This was definitely the highlight from our two and a half week trip in Thailand, and I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again!