The Elephant Nature Park is located next to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. It’s a place where elephants that have been mistreated or hurt, mostly due to irresponsible touristic activities, are rescued and healed.
We visited the park during early July 2014, and had a really great experience there. The activities include feeding the elephants, as well as walking with them and bathing them in the river. We saw that the elephants here have a lot of space for them to walk freely, in an area with conditions that match their natural habitat. The park is really large, it crosses a river and has parts with a lot of trees, as well as some places where the vegetation is not so dense.
Many of the elephants here had visible bone injuries from which they were recovering. Visitors can’t ride them, of course, since being ridden by tourists is actually one of the reasons why these animals needed to be rescued in the first place. This is another reason why we recommend not to ride elephants while traveling in Thailand. The animals that they take to the touristic areas are poorly treated, and living in highly populated locations is terrible for both their health and their sanity.
It feels really good to be able to interact with elephants in an environment that is not harmful for them, while also contributing to their healing. We were only allowed to interact with the females, since apparently males can sometimes get more aggressive and prefer loneliness. But we were perfectly fine with that, since above all we wanted to be around free animals, in a respectful way. It’s easy to identify the females, since they don’t have any visible tusks.
Overall, we fully recommend visiting the Elephant Nature Park. It’s worth it to pay a bit more if you know that the animals you are visiting are being treated in a decent and respectful way.