On arrival to the Sanctuary, I was greeted with nothing but smiles and positivity. A nice change from what I had previously seen in other Thai tourist attractions. The view that met me once I arrived in the middle of the jungle, was truly captivating. I stepped into the fresh jungle air and I couldn’t have been more grateful to experience what I was seeing. A few local children surrounded me near the campsite, happily playing with sticks and mud. It was a different world, no technology in sight. And I wouldn’t see any until I travelled another 60km towards the city centre! I really was in the middle of nowhere.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary tour emphasises how important it is to promote elephant awareness throughout Thailand. Some of their elephants have been rescued from abusive companies, others have been with the local tribes since birth. I was lucky enough to encounter a baby elephant – only 3 days old! Probably one of the most adorable sights I will ever come across!!
The tour began with some quality time with the elephants in their natural habitat, while the guides gave us a summary of the elephants’ backgrounds. Firstly, we dressed into the traditional Karen clothing. Following this, the guide taught us the safest way to approach and feed the elephants. My most cherished memory from this experience was the elephants’ hugs and kisses. If you plan on giving the elephant kiss a go, watch out for the slobber haha!!
I then trekked through the jungle alongside the tribe with the elephants. The next step of the tour was bathing the elephants in the mud bath, in their own shite basically! It’s kind of gross, but the elephants were thoroughly entertained. Finally, we ended up in the river, where we could have a somewhat refreshing clean with the elephants. This part of the tour was enthralling. Swimming in the jungle rivers alongside elephants, fish and birds is something I will never take for granted.
The excitement and playfulness amongst the animal and us tourists is a once in lifetime experience. This ethical sanctuary is also very beneficial for the locals as it provides them with employment, education, and financial support. The people who I met working there were kind, modest and very welcoming. My tour group and I were even offered a traditional Thai meal after we were finished swimming with the elephants.
I’m so grateful to have been involved in such a breath-taking encounter with the locals. I can’t express enough the respect I have for the tribe people because of the love and care they express to the animals around them.