Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day Tripper

Based on the length of their stay, one could argue that there are three categories of people who visit the Elephant Nature Park (ENP).  Third there are the people who volunteer to work at the park for a week or two.  Many of these fine people realize this is for them as a result of having visited the park for a shorter period of time.  Second there are the overnight guests. They enjoy more time at the park and can avail themselves to a morning walk to observe the elephants on the ground.  And first, there are the good people who go to ENP for a day trip.  I lovingly call them the “Day Trippers”.  Many of these people come back for an overnight visit and many return to volunteer for a week or more.  I myself was introduced to ENP by way of a day trip.  My life has never been the same from that day forward; much better, much fuller.

Two days ago I caught a ride to the ENP with the intention of hanging out and having lunch with a good friend.  However I was so inspired by the people who rode on the van that I just had to write this.  If you don’t know, a day trip to the ENP begins with being picked up at your hotel or guesthouse. I boarded at the ENP office and off we went to pick up the passengers. The driver made four stops and picked up people from five different countries:  Australia, Brazil, China, England and Israel.  This is the perfect group to accompany, photograph and write about.

The group meets their first elephant

Wow she has a big trunk! 
I managed to cull the photographs down to only 37 and then posted them at  A special message to the group, if you want to print any of these please send me an email and I will give you a print size file. Please do not print from these internet size files. If you want to pay me for the photograph, don’t.  Instead please make a contribution to Save Elephant Foundation. 

After picking up all the guests the van heads for the Elephant Nature Park, about an hour and a half journey. Our guide for the day was Bee.  I always enjoy her narratives and observations.  She’s truly a great guide.  By the way her real name is ผึ้ง (Pung) which is Thai for bee. On the way a video is played which introduces the guests to the plight of the Asian Elephant and to the Elephant Nature Park.

Bee at the Medical Clinic, she's holding
sample of elephant worms and dog worms.

Bee and me at the river.
Once at the park we receive a brief safety briefing and an explanation of the days schedule, then it was off to see a few of the elephants. 

Hope was just passing by.  He is the only elephant who has a mahout
who is allowed to ride him.   Gwan & Hope are marvelous together.

The group meets Darrick on the way to the medical center. 
About 11:30 we returned to the platform in time to help feed some of the elephants.  Many come to the platform and enjoy being fed a basket of fruit and veggies by the guests.  You might also want to know that not all of the elephants participate; some are still terrified of human contact (given their history, no one can blame them). 

Oh goodie, banannas in the basket. 

12:00 noon is human feeding time.  The lunch at the ENP is always a delicious vegetarian buffet. One day soon perhaps I’ll make a point of photographing some of the dishes. After lunch, around 1:00 pm the different groups are taken to the river and encouraged to help bathe some of the elephants.  Our group had a great time! 

Mong Dee and Sao Yai
Somewhere in mid-afternoon the guests are asked to watch another video about the plight of the Asian Elephant.  This one explains the torture the elephants go through as the start of their training to become tourist attractions. I’ve heard complaints that it’s too hard to see, but I believe ENP is correct in showing it. One part of ENP’s mission is to educate.  Everyone is free to step out of the screening room at any time, as did my Australian friend the first day we went to the park.

The remaining hour or so is spent as free time.  Depending on the day and the weather, one might get another opportunity to get close to the elephants.  This day there was a torrential rain. The elephants didn’t mind, but the people stayed under cover. 

Depending on the day everyone climbs back on the van between 4:30 and 5:00 and heads back to Chiang Mai.  Out of this group, at least one person has decided to return as a one week volunteer.  All in all it was a great day, one in which I made some new friends, caught up with an old one and was able to think through a few things that had been muddling around in my brain.

Abundant Blessings,

Jerry Nelson 

1 comment:

  1. I suspected that the elephant nature park provided an exceptionally healthy, natural atmosphere/environment...where the elephants are treated with respect...compared with other tourist elephant "attractions" where they entertain the you have confirmed that! DF San Francisco