The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an eco-tourism project , founded in July 2014, which is currently comprised of 9 spacious locations. These locations are all "no ride" sanctuaries, since elephants are not designed to carry weight on their back, and are home to over thirty formerly mistreated elephants, who are now free to enjoy their lives as healthy, happy elephants.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Camp 5 is a little over an hour from the Old City in Chiang Mai. We drove with our group in the back of an open jeep into the remote, jungle-like, area of Chiang Mai to see the elephants. Once we arrived at the sanctuary our guides went through safety. The quote that will stick in my mind, 50 years from now when I think of this experience, happened when the guide was talking about their 2 year old baby elephant, Naughty Boy. "His name is Naughty Boy. We call him that because he is so naughty." Our guide drilled it into our head that we need to watch out for Naughty Boy. He's a cute, playful elephant that roams where ever he wishes. He is only about 5 feet tall, but still weights a large amount. The guide said, "he wants to play, but he will run you down. Watch out for Naughty Boy!"
Elephants are extremely intelligent and have amazing memories. It's even been said that they can remember you even if you've been gone for a long period of time. With that in mind, our guides led us over to meet the elephants for the first time. Since you always want to make a good first impression and "make the elephants happy", we started by feeding the elephants a banana snack. The elephants stood behind a small wooden fence as we feed them. There are two ways to feed them the bananas. The first way is to put out your hand and they would grab the banana with their trunk. The second way was to raise the banana up in the air and say "bon bon". The elephant would then throw its head back and open it's mouth. Then you can literally walk up to the elephant and place the bananas directly into it's mouth. Let me tell you...the elephants eat a lot!
We also met an elephant named "Dancing Girl" who used to perform in a circus. Dancing Girl got her name from the way she sways back and forth, almost as if she is dancing. Since she was in the circus, she does have a few party tricks. One of which being her kisses. She kisses with her truck and suctions onto your face. When she kissed me she missed my check and got me straight on my lips. Even though our kiss was a little more intimate than I expected, I still gave her a big bundle of bananas as payment.
After we made friends with the elephants, we went into an open area where we got to touch, photograph and interact with them while they ate their dinner. Seeing an elephant up close and being able to pet their hairy cheeks was incredible. Before this, I had only ever seen elephants at the zoo, dozens of yards away behind a fence, so to be so close was almost unbelievable. Once the elephants were full of their grass buffet, it was time to change into our bathing suits. We followed the guides into the Mud Spa where we lathered the elephants up with mud. In turn, the guides would throw mud onto us so we matched our elephant friends. One of the elephants in the herd was pregnant and she laid down in the water to relax. We were able to feel her belly, play in the mud with her and make her a happy elephant. By the end of the Mud Spa, we were a total muddy mess so we needed to wash off. We walked the elephants to a nearby river where we brushed the mud off them, and ourselves, with the brisk water. Queue Naughty Boy. I was blissfully throwing water onto the elephants and forgot about Naughty Boy. All of the sudden he came trotting under another elephant trunk, nearly running me down. Luckily Max reminded me to "watch out" and I was able to move out of his way in time. Remember, always watch out for Naughty Boy...he is so naughty!
Overall, this experience was unforgettable. We came to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to simply see elephants up close, but we left with everlasting memories of Naughty Boy, kisses from Dancing Girl, incredible insight from our tour guides, and mud in all the wrong places. I left feeling like one "happy elephant"!
Visit the site below is information on booking an Afternoon - Chiang Mai tour.
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