The WiFi on these islands have been so awful so we apologise for the lack of blog writing. I wanted to recap on the amazing time we had in Chiang Mai and especially at the Elephant Family Care.
We stayed in a hostel called Dee Marc on the north side of Chiang Mai town. The lady working there was so helpful and spoke good english. She recommended “Elephant Family Care” when we asked “who was the nicest to the elephants?”
She wasn’t wrong, these guys were fantastic. They picked us up from the hostel at 8am (we’d paid for a group tour 1,800TBH per person, but again, we were the only people booked on. So private tour time!) We headed for a local market to stock up on fruit for the elephants and some lunch for us, which was included in the price. We also picked up some candy as apparently this was the elephants favourite treat.
We headed an hour out of Chiang Mai to the sanctuary, which has some rough roads heading in, if you’re car sick watch out! On arrival we were told we would be looking after a 7 year old male elephant called JoJo for the day. There is a whole family at the sanctuary looking after their 5 elephants full time, funded by the people who come to spend the day, so please go and help out!
We just joined in with their daily routine, which was so much fun, and as there was just us two, we got so much time with the elephants. Our first job was to fill a huge basket with bananas and take them to JoJo, he was such a good boy! He would wait until you presented him a banana and then either hold it in his trunk until he got another, or he’d throw it in his mouth and wait for more. If you held the banana in front of him and said “Bo” he would lift his trunk, open his mouth and let you feed him directly.
He was having so much fun with us and kept stealing bananas when we weren’t watching. He may have still been a baby but he was easily 8ft tall and had the roundest belly. Also it was about to be his first mating season so he was a tad horny and mischievous! Some tasks he would only do if you gave him a piece of the sugar candy, but he wouldn’t get all of it, you had to share it with him. I’d bite half and eat it and then give the other half to JoJo.
After 50kg of bananas we took him for a walk down the track. He was still hungry and was constantly ripping down branches off trees and stuffing his belly full of greens. Every now and again he would stop and not move. He knew we couldn’t move him even if we wanted to, he was waaaay to big! He was just waiting for a treat (he was being a stubborn little boy as he could smell the sugar in our pockets).
After our walk it was time for a bath, we led him into his mud bath (I fell into it, watch the video HERE and see if you can spot when). The mud was really good for his skin, as well as ours, and I coated him in it. He really enjoyed it and like a dog, was wagging his tail the whole time.
I didn’t realise how spiky elephant hair was until you get up close with them. He was a really healthy boy, and the family had done an amazing job to keep him this way. They’re motto was “No riding, no hitting, no hurting”, they controlled the elephants with voice commands and the occasional push.
We then wanted to lead JoJo into the river to wash off the mud, but he was having none of it. No sugar, no shower! He was play acting as he had guests for the day, just like a child does! We left him to it and headed off for lunch.
After a spicy Pad Thai, we headed off to see a waterfall and meet some more elephants on the way. We walked for a couple of kilometres into another sanctuary. Here we met Joy, a 4 year old little boy who enjoyed the company of woman more than men, but still let me give him a hug.
He was very shy around Georgi and wanted to give her a kiss, but kept pulling his trunk away at the last minute. As we continued to walk down the valley towards the river we met 2 female elephants out for a walk, their names have escaped me, but they were being divas. They sat down in front of us so we couldn’t pass until we had shared some sugar with them. Then they were up on their feet, making the stereotypical elephant noise and running off.
I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt these graceful giants, they were so intelligent, they knew exactly what was going on at all times. Makes you realise that the ones in captivity know they are and will have all the same emotions as a human prisoner.
The second half of our day included a trek to a beautiful waterfall as well as a visit to one of the old Thai tribes. They believe that the blacker the teeth the more beautiful. All the old women sat around chewing tobacco and weaving scarves. I tried some of the tobacco and got a nasty shock when I tasted how bitter it was! Wow!! It blew my mind.
The day was a long but incredibly fun and informative one, I would highly recommend the Elephant Family Care sanctuary in Chiang Mai! It’s a great cause, and being up close with these amazing creatures is always a fantastic experience. It was so much that I even fell asleep on the drive home… shattered!