Destinations, Thailand, Travel log

In and Around Chiang Mai: one day with elephants

First of all, we have to start by mentioning that we are not necessarily recommending the elephant tour that we were part of. We had mixed feeling on the organization, not on the actual visit of the elephants. Among other things, we had many (many) reasons to be upset with our driver.

All in all, we were happy about our interactions with the elephants, just left with a bitter taste due to the human touch. Anyway since most of the camps offer the same program, we will describe you what we experienced.

Meet the elephants!

After the long, chaotic drive through beautiful landscapes, we finally have our first contact with elephants. Note that this was the first elephant encounter for Berit and Silviu! Meeting a two tons elephants is really, really impressive!

We first met with Maemoom and her new born Ellie, a cute 2-month old female! Ellie weighted 55kg at birth and is now already at 100kg! She is adorable but playing with her can be tricky as 100kg pushing you or stepping on you is not that easy to handle!

Feed the elephants!

We later went for a small hike on a hill to meet some other elephants from the herd including Son, Ellie’s big brother, as well as Aura and her first-born, King, 4 month old. I think the third elephant was Somboon, a male, but we are not sure anymore.

They were all waiting patiently for us behind a small fence so that we can feed them with pumpkin. We understood that the fence was here to make this feeding activity manageable otherwise the elephants would just find a way to go straight to the fruit basket! Elephants eat about 10% of their weight everyday! So about 250kg per day for an adult female! King and Ellie were still milking their mothers though.

We were taught the gesture and word to have them lifting their trunk so we could put directly the fruit in their mouth. It was very impressive and the first tentatives were quite scary! Our biggest fear? That they would let down their trunk on our heads! Stupid but… However, we were explained that elephants only have 4 teeth, all in the back of their mouth so no risk to get bitten! Ouffff!

After the feeding game, they were let loose to eat some sugarcanes. However once done with this treat they knew where to look and they all gathered around their owners trying to steal the fruits they were hiding in their bags (this is how they manage mainly the elephants during the day)! Except for King of course who just wanted to play!

Lunch and medicine balls

We later went down to the river where a buffet lunch was waiting for us in a beautiful setting: a bamboo house in front of a waterfall! Of course we ate too much and also discovered some adorable kittens to feed and cuddle! Funny thing is that elephants don’t like cats at all. In fact, they do not like any small animal at all!

After lunch, we were explained how to make “medicine balls”, a healthy herbal ball given to elephants from time to time. Silviu was the one to ground the herbs in the mortar and then we all helped shaping the balls by hand.

Mud spa!

After lunch, we changed clothes in order to get all muddy with Aura and King! The concept is simple: get into mud, splash the elephants, they might splash you back, splash each other, cover the elephants with mud, make sure everyone else is covered with mud. Once everybody is muddy, everybody is happy! 😀

Mud is a good protection against the sun for the elephants whose skin is more fragile that you would think.

Swim with the elephants

Of course after getting all muddy we needed to wash! We followed the elephants back to the river where we used buckets to rinse them. King was having fun drinking the little waterfall water and trying to climb up. At one point he tried to play with Berit but 150kg of cuteness was still dangerous in the river! Later he would try again with… Silviu of course! Ellie and King really recognized the kid in Silviu!

After the bath we gave Aura the medicine balls we prepared and let them go back while we went rinse under the waterfall! That was also a very fun experience!

Later on the rest of the herd also came for a bath. It was so nice to observe them with their mahout splashing them!

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