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!|
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.|
|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.|
|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|
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.