It was always my dream to see elephants living in an natural and wild environment. Since I live in Thailand now for over 2 years I finally made this dream come true last weekend in August 2019.
My main demand was to find a camp with “wild” elephants and not just a typical tourism camp which treat the animals in a not good way.
The camp I found was an organization for elephants which have been abused from the tourism industry. The trainers at the camp bought 5 elephants so far and they are planning in extending it to a few more. The area was really huge and they would definitely fit very well in this place.
With a bit of research I was able to find a camp in the south of Chiang Mai located in an jungle mountain area. The area itself includes 3 mountains and a big river for currently 5 elephants living there.
After messaging the organization Into the wild via google I arranged a pick up from my Hostel at 06:30 AM for a half day tour. The cost was 1600 TBH (50 USD) including transportation, tour and some traditional lunch at the camp. Pretty fair price in my eyes.
The drive itself took about 2 hours with a short stop at a market between. One thing I would recommend you is – Better have a strong stomach for the drive 😀 – It gets quite rough when the roads change to muddy/slippery stoned jungle roads.
Into the wild camp
When we arrived at the camp “Sam” introduced herself as a voluntary worker from the US who works at the camp since a couple of month. Her knowledge about the elephants was quite impressive.
She asked everyone who was joining this tour to sit down first and listen to her stories about the elephants and the camp itself. She told a lot of things about how they treat the elephants and where they used to live before in a much worse place with no freedom at all.
After Sam was done sharing all the information’s about the camp it was time to say hello to the elephants.
The people on the pictures you see above are the trainers of the elephants. From what I saw – there was a very big connection between the animals and the guys. The way they talked to them and treated them were really fascinating. Just in a very calm and peaceful way.
After the little meet and greet it was time to walk into the jungle with the elephants.
As you can see – I was walking right in the middle between the elephants and I would lie if I’d say I was never worried about it 😀 It was just super impressive seeing these tall and massive animals walking around. The biggest one, which is now 55 years old was walking right behind me and always I turned around I was quite “shocked” but still loving the moment 😉
Inside the jungle the elephants were just walking around and eating. That’s something they do 20 hours per day. Yap, you heard it right – 20 hours of eating / 4 hours of sleeping – Just like Koalas if I remember right 😀
Also impressive is the amount of food elephants eat – About 1/3 of their body weight. This fact tells you also how expensive it is to hold those animals in this area. They can find some of the food in the jungle but also need to be supported by foods which the trainers have to purchase by sugarcane farmers around this area.
After eating around the jungle it was time to hydrate with some water from the fresh river for the elephants. It was really nice just watching the animals doing what they are doing. I could have easily watched them for a few more days. Just fascinating and so interesting to watch these big animals.
Back to the camp along the riverside
We walked around the jungle for about 2 hours and went back to the camp. As the morning was hot and the elephants full of mud it was time to take a fresh bath for them.
As you can see – The trainers had a lot of fun playing around with the elephants in the water.
I think on the end of this report there will come one question up to your mind which we should talk about “Are this elephants really free?? – Why groups are going there??”
Well – I would say that the elephants are as free as they can be. You need to realize that the elephants never learned to live 100% free as they were used in the tourism industry. They need people around them who take care them.
And why the groups? The money from the tickets goes to 100% to the trainers and elephants. As I mentioned earlier in the report, Elephants cost a lot of money!
If some of you still think – “Well, they should just be 100% free in the wild without any humans taking care of them” ,- Ask yourself , “what would happen if they are free in the wild?” Yes, someone would catch them again and use them for the tourism industry again.
So in my eyes it is a good thing to support those small organizations which provide space and freedom for the elephants 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour with me through the elephant camp of south Chiang Mai in Thailand 🙂
Thanks for reading!
*The video which you can see in this report will be replaced by an Full HD version later today. It’s still uploading 🙂