During the short planning period for this trip, I came across many articles about the mistreatments of animals, especially elephants in the tourism industry. For many years we've associate Thailand and India with elephants... which means elephant riding, elephant shows, etc. It turned out that in order to have elephants be ridden and do shows, they had to undergo such cruel treatments it's so sad.
After reading more about this matter online, I decided to go to Elephant Nature Park, the pioneer of rescue and rehab centre for elephants and other animals. They don't offer rides, nor shows. What we got to see were beautiful elephant herds roaming free.
To go there, you have to book and pay through their website. They have different program options depending on what you want to do and how much time you have. I opted for a half day program and it was just enough for us. The fee included hotel transfer as well as buffet lunch.
As arranged, we were picked up at our hotel in the morning around 8:30 am. We hopped on to the minivan and continued picking up a few other guests and then proceeded to the park located about 90 minutes from the city centre. Aside from the driver, we had an English speaking guide with us. I think he was one of the volunteers. On the way, they played us a video first introducing the park and safety guides, and then to a more serious documentary about how elephants were abused for riding, shows, begging, and logging. They were broken, beaten, left to starve, stabbed, and more to train them to do what humans want. We were all so sad after seeing that video and Miss Kiki said that she was glad she didn't ride an elephant.
Not long after we arrived, it was time to give the elephants some bananas. They came and gathered in an area where visitors can grab the bananas provided and feed them to the elephants. Miss Kiki was a little scared but excited at the same time. She was very happy when a baby elephant took food from her hands. She also got to touch the trunk when that happened and it was unexpectedly dry and rough. :D
Shortly after, our group leader took us out on the field for a tour. We saw many elephants, small and large, young and old, enjoying their time eating and playing. It was truly magnificent to be able to come close to them without being separated by a cage, a fence, or a car window. Even my mom who is not a field person seemed to be having a good time.
Miss Kiki was a little hesitant to touch... but she did and was surprised by the way their skin felt.
We came back to the centre for a buffet lunch, and afterwards we headed back out to view their bathing time.
It got too hot for the Omas at that time, so they went back to sit while Miss Kiki and I continued on our tour...
We left the park with mixed feelings... It was definitely an experience we won't soon forget...
Note: Sorry it took me a long time to continue with this series... I've been procrastinating because I couldn't really decided how I wanted to approach this matter. Anyway, it's done!... Stay tuned for the second part of this day in Part 5