Remarkable and memorable birthday to remember with rescue elephants
In case you didn’t know, I gained another year here on Earth! Happy, proud, and grateful!
This time around, having planned a family vacation in time for my birthday, I tried to find a way to make it more special. Reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, visiting an elephant rescue park had caught my attention and I knew this would be the highlight of our trip and the way I would like to celebrate my birthday.
After years of being a Self-Care advocate, I guess I got my values back and intact. And I guess one way for me to prove that was by choosing things I love to relay this advocacy as well. This time around was with elephants.
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen on print ads, tourism brochures, and vlogs/blogs a photo of an elephant carrying humans with wide smiles from ear to ear. I have nothing against them but now that I’ve/we’ve been given a choice on how to treat elephants, what I choose to show and teach my daughters is how to treat these gentle giants the way they should be treated.
Finding a legit rescue park though was something I knew I need to be careful about. Reading a lot of bogus rescue parks is something I couldn’t comprehend and accept. I mean, even rescue parks, other people want to take advantage?! Well, I guess that’s how money can make other people lose their core values.
Anyways, after looking into a couple of rescue parks, I settled with Elephant Rescue Park. Not only do they have a disclaimer and warning about fake rescue parks but also warned tourists about to book tours on an identical park name as theirs to be a fake one too. Why would they right this kind of claim if they themselves aren’t a real rescue park, right?!
Their prices may be a bit high than others but trust me, from booking on their website to our tour guide fetching us to having that incredible experience and bringing us back to our Airbnb, all I could say are good words!
Let’s start with how I booked our chosen tour, Program B, which is a half-day tour and includes pick-up and drop-off on where you stay, clothes/uniforms to change to, boots, hats, feeding, observing, and interacting with elephants (we even got to bathe them!), getting a shower, and a sumptuous lunch! All that for the price below:
Adults – ฿2,200
Children 6 – 9 years – ฿1,800
Children 4 – 5 years – ฿1,500
Having done and experienced this, there’s no doubt I’d recommend this program!
Okay, back to how I made our booking. It was such a breeze actually I needed to double-check if we really are booked. Why? Because after entering our details on their website, I simply received an email saying that our booking is confirmed, and the things we need to bring (underwear, insect repellant, towels, sunscreen, and socks). On the email too was a note that payment could be done with the tour guide fetching us—in CASH. Yes, you’re traveling to Thailand which is pretty much still a cash-based country.
Anyways, having booked this a month before our travel date, I’m not sure if that’s it. I mean, they didn’t request any deposit or even be paid beforehand which is somehow unusual especially nowadays. Poy, the one who I got to email with was kind and responsive to my doubting questions, which calmed my anxiety. haha
I received again an email from him a day before our tour reminding the things we need to bring and the time we should be ready at our lobby.
Excited as we could be, we are ready to be fetched 10 minutes early than our call time. This is when we realized really how many tourists go to this kind of rescue park every day. On the same day, we went and just 10 minutes earlier than our call time, we’ve been mistaken twice by other tour guides coming to fetch other tourists.
Our tour guide named Andy (or what he jokingly calls himself Andy Fried Chicken) indeed came on time (the time given in the email) and after a quick verification that we indeed are the tourists he need to fetch, we’re off to go! We’re fetched by a van which can fit 12 passengers+2 people in front (tour guide and driver). Having been the first tourists to be fetched we are able to choose where we want to sit.
We then fetched another 3 tourists (another Filipino and an Australian couple) to complete our group. The van was indeed very spacious for all of us and not surprising since it was off-season. Andy said they usually have around 2,000 guests during peak season!
That’s why if you’d be blessed with good weather like us and given a choice to be able to have some time off sometime in late June, I’d totally recommend going on during the off-season. Not only would you be able to help them thrive through their business through those off-seasons but also get to enjoy a somehow private tour for yourself!
We drove for about an hour out of the city of Chiang Mai and into the mountains to reach their rescue park. This indeed is the place the elephants would need to rehabilitate and somehow feel where they belong the most, the jungle.
As mentioned, feeling like having a private tour, Andy made sure to tell us more about the places we passed by making our travel time well worth it and less boring. Once we arrived, we were given our cute uniforms. It wasn’t only great to see in photos but also a helpful tool for elephants to see and know that we’re their friends who visit them.
There are lockers available to keep your valuables and shelves to keep the clothes you were wearing when you came. Let me tell you how important bringing socks is as you’ll be wearing rubber boots. With Thailand’s heat and considering you’ll be walking up and down some uneven dirt paths, you’ll surely get your feet all blistered without your socks on.
Anyways, another group of 6 tourists came to join our group while we waited for the introductory discussion. After they all dressed up as well, we were given bottled water and told more about the gentle giants we were about to meet.
Only cold-hearted people wouldn’t be touched by their life stories and have their outlook on how to treat them be changed. One of them even was rescued too late which caused his life. 😢 Before starting our tour, a local photographer was also introduced which we can opt to pay for and take our photos so we get to enjoy the experience more and not worry about not having photos to help us remember afterward. This service is for 200 Baht per person.
We then started our interaction with them by feeding them. Like humans, what better way to know each other more but with food in between? With two baskets of bananas in tow, we each took turns feeding the elephants and giving the bananas through their trunk. The girls were scared at first but eventually get the hang of it.
Afterward, we followed them on their walk through the hill. Here we saw how they take a rest and shower themselves with soil to cool down. There’s also one who wasn’t shy to pee and poop with us all around to witness them doing their shit! haha…
We (humans and animals) are all sweaty when we arrived at this man-made pond where we get to bathe the elephants. This was where I saw the girls relax around the elephants and really enjoy the experience. I guess they weren’t expecting elephants to do similar things they do too when they take a bath.
With brush and dipper at hand, it was a treat for us as well to have a dip in the water. Some of the elephants got playful as well by lying down on their backs or squirting water from their trunks! Such a memorable experience indeed!
We then had a “real” refreshing shower afterward. Our lunch spread is composed of pad thai, scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, rice, and a fruit platter. We are all tired, just taken a bath, and were full that all we need was an airconditioned van to doze off!
After paying and giving our email to our photographer, and paying our guide for the program we just enjoyed, we’re then sent back to our Airbnb.
If you’re traveling to Thailand, I truly recommend dropping by Chiang Mai, a relaxed and vibrant city, and try also visiting an Elephant Rescue Park, specifically, this one that we went to. Supporting them would not only help the elephants they have already but also get to save funds to rescue more of them.
You can check out the details of Elephant Rescue Park from here.