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, & how many so-called “sanctuaries” do not treat elephants ethically, I scoured the internet high & 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 elephants, including how to correctly approach an elephant, learning an elephant’s temperament, feeding & checking an elephant’s health, & how to communicate different commands. You even learn how to properly bathe & 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 & elephants are sacred. Having been rescued from unsuitable living conditions, the elephants have been given a second chance at a normal, healthy life.
I think my biggest surprise (excluding how hairy & prickly elephants are!) was how incredibly smart these gentle giants are! With such large personalities, each elephant has his or her own temperament, & it was so fun to form 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, & I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again!