"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

A Very Chiang Mai Adventure.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

June 2015.

Our minibus positively rattled through the Chiang Mai countryside. Dense jungle whooshed by along both sets of windows, an impenetrable blur of green. Located 60 kilometres from the city in a lush region of forest and jungle, the drive to Elephant Nature Park takes about an hour and a half.

The drive from Chiang Mai to Elephant Nature Park

On the way to Elephant Nature Park.

I was really excited because, you know, elephants are amazing creatures. And due to the fact that ENP was offering an experience that promised to eclipse the only other time I’d gotten close these fascinating animals.

That memorable day had come over 11 years earlier in Kerala, India. At Kodanad Sanctuary I’d met half a dozen Indian Elephants. And had been privileged to take part in their morning bathing ritual.

Visit India Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary in Kerala

At Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary, April 2004.

In contrast, Elephant Nature Park was promising a much more profound encounter. The opportunity, no less, to spend an entire day with a group of Asian elephants. An experience that would see us give them their breakfast and go trekking through the jungle with them for their morning exercise. To generally hang out and, as in India, to bathe them.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Elephant Nature Park logo.

ENP called this particular package the Sunshine for Elephants tour. As I write this, eight years later, they have downgraded the tour name to an altogether less creative Single Day tour. Happily, my group that day comprised of just seven people, including myself and Chanchai, our gregarious guide.

Our guide Chanchai at Elephant Nature Park

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

After arriving at the park, Chanchai led us into a garden courtyard by the main entrance where he treated everyone to tea and watermelon. As we munched, he proceeded to present a potted history of the sanctuary. It all began in 1998 when an expat, Adam Flinn, opened the park alongside a Thai woman by the name of Lek Chailert.

Lek Chailert Time Magazine Asian Hero.

ENP co-founder Lek Chailert.

Chailert is something of a celebrity in Thailand. She has campaigned relentlessly against the practice of elephant crushing, where wild elephants are tamed using violence and negative reinforcement. She has also personally rescued around 200 elephants from abusive situations across Asia. Moreover, Time Magazine has described her as “One of Asia’s heroes”. 

Lek Chailert.

Lek Chailert the founder of Elephant Nature Park

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In the park’s early days the elephants performed tricks and offered rides. However, before long Lek began overseeing a complete change of ideology. She opened a hospital for sick and old residents called Elephant Heaven.

Retired elephants hanging out at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Next, Lek phased out all performances and ended riding. Operating it purely as an elephant haven and conservation reserve, the new business model relied on volunteers paying to live and work at the 250-acre park. Furthermore, visitors like me can go trekking with the sanctuary’s young, healthy elephants.

Meeting the elephants at ENP in Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thus ENP became something of a pioneer in international elephant welfare. No wonder the likes of Animal Planet, National Geographic and CNN came calling to report on the park’s work. And why Lek eventually found herself rubbing shoulders with people such as Hilary Clinton.

Lek Chailert with Hilary Clinton.

Lek and Hilary.

“Ok…. I think it’s breakfast time!” grinned Chanchai, clapping his hands together. But he wasn’t referring to us humans. Rather, it was time for the elephants to receive their morning chow. So we all followed Chanchai to a breakfast station where four hungry trunked beasts eagerly awaited our arrival.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Breakfast time at Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

A very watermelon breakfast.

The menu that morning seemed somewhat limited in scope. There was watermelon… watermelon and watermelon. Still, the elephants didn’t mind of course, as they love the stuff. What the meal lacked in variety it certainly made up for in volume, a mountain of watermelon chunks waiting on a large wooden table.

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai.

Breakfast time at ENP.

It was up to us to feed them. This was an experience I was blessed to have again five years later when I visited Kulen Elephant Sanctuary in Cambodia. On both occasions I was struck by how gentle they were, despite their obvious hunger and excitement. Their trunks gliding purposefully but elegantly towards my hand before softly clipping each piece from my grasp.

A watermelon breakfast at Elephant Nature Park

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Within ten minutes all the watermelon was gone. “There’s more!” called Chanchai, appearing with a wheelbarrow stacked with half a dozen buckets of the stuff. But it took just another five minutes before that had been guzzled up too!

ENP Chiang Mai Thailand.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Apparently elephants don’t need time for their breakfast to settle in their stomachs. Indeed Chanchai announced that we would be heading straight off into the jungle for our hike. Amusingly, the elephants immediately understood the drill and began slowly plodding towards the start of the trail before Chanchai had even said anything.

Elephant Nature Park.

Jungle trek Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Accompanied by a local mahout, we headed off into the jungle, the elephants themselves leading the way. “Wassana will show you where to go” laughed Chanchai. Initially, I thought he was joking, but that’s exactly what Wassana did!

Review of Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Wassana leads the way.

Her name translates as destiny. Luckily for Wassana, her destiny was to be rescued from a miserable life of elephant riding for retirement at ENP. Where she could spend her days eating, playing with other elephants and trekking with curious humans like me.

I liked Wassana straight off the bat. Especially her sad, soulful eyes and the way she would stop and wait for me to move to the side if I was ever in her way. Truly, a classy lady.

Soulful elephant Chiang Mai Thailand

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I also loved Mae Deng, a survivor of poachers who had killed most of her herd. According to Chanchai, she’s more wayward than some of the other elephants and often needs encouragement to stay on the correct route. To help keep her focused, Chanchai gave me a bag of bamboo chunks for Mae Deng to munch on. Yes, it worked a treat.

Bag of bamboo sticks at Elephant Nature Park

“Would you care for some bamboo?”

For the most part, the elephants quickly swallowed up any bamboo sticks on offer. Sometimes though, if they needed a short breather from eating, or if they were preoccupied with something else, they’d simply store their bamboo bites in their jaw for later.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Saving some bamboo for later at Elephant Nature Park

Saving some bamboo for later.

Bamboo sticks…. leaves… tree fruit… grass… shrubbery…. bush roots… the elephants hardly stopped eating during the entire hike. On any given day, in fact, an elephant will smash its way through 149 to 169 kilos of vegetation.

It was mesmerising to watch them go about their business. Slow but steady, and always on the lookout for the next food source. Which reminded me of myself a bit when I was in my early twenties. Just replace vegetation with junk food.

Elephants eat between 149 and 169 kilos of vegetation daily

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We walked for several hours. Up dusty inclines, down rocky paths and along narrow trails that passed through thick sections of forest. Sometimes the elephants were behind us, other times a little way ahead. Now and then stomping right beside me, it was absolutely exhilarating.

Jungle trekking with elephants in Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

At some point the heat really kicked in for everyone, humans and elephants. Pausing for breath, and to wipe my face and neck with the little hand towel I’d brought with me, I drank greedily from the water bottle Chanchai had given me back in the park.

The Elephant Nature Park story Chiang Mai Thailand

An essential item when trekking through the Chiang Mai jungle.

The elephants meanwhile had their own ingenious system for cooling down. Basically, they began scooping up a load of dirt and leaves off the ground with their trunks. Then sprayed the contents up into the air and down onto their heads and backs!

Elephant Nature Park.

Elephant spraying herself with dirt to stay cool

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The dirt acts as a layer of protection from the sun. As a bonus, it also keeps bothersome bugs off vulnerable parts of their skin. Just another special moment to witness in a day packed with wonderment.

An amazing day at Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Following another forty minutes or so of hiking we stopped for a lunch at a gazebo somewhere deep in the jungle. Much to our surprise, a long wooden table had been set up ahead of time with plates and cutlery. We had barely taken in our surroundings when a Thai man emerged from the kitchen with trays of delicious food. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Forest lunch Chiang Mai Thailand.

Lunch in the jungle.

There were freshly prepared warm, salty poppadums and crispy veggie-stuffed spring rolls with chilli sauce. A zingy papaya salad too and a hillock of pineapple chunks. Nothing went to waste.

Veggie spring rolls and poppadums.


And the icing on the cake was a wonderful and generous helping of mango with sweet sticky rice. One of my favourite Thai desserts.

Mango with sweet sticky rice Chiang Mai Thailand

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

While we ate, the elephants took a rest. One even napped standing up, eyes open. The open eyes part being an unusual elephant trait, Chanchai was keen to point out.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

A memorable day at Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Catching 40 winks.

At a polite distance the mahout looked over proceedings, as he did throughout the whole day. He took his lunch at the foot of a nearby tree, away from the group, preferring to keep an eye on the elephants at all times. As I lined up this photograph, he caught me in the act and I captured a rare smile.

Mahout in Thailand.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Finally, we were ready to move on. The elephants just needed ten minutes to wake up and gather their wits. Some petting here and there helped in this regard. “A little stroke behind the ear!” called Chanchai, helpfully.

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai Thailand.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

On the way back to Elephant Nature Park Chanchai stopped the group just a few times. The first pause was to point out the charming sight of a pile of dried elephant dung. Why? Because take a moment to look and you’ll see that there are watermelon seedlings growing out of the poop.

Watermelon seeds aren’t digestible, they just pass straight through the body. And elephants digest less than half of what they consume, which means their dung is a fantastic fertiliser.

A Job Well Dung!

Watermelon seeds in elephant dung.


Our second timeout was for a really worthy cause and one of my favourite moments of the day. Deeply involved in local conservation, ENP also works to protect trees in the local region. “You know, the government are chopping down more and more trees every year” grumbled Chanchai, wiping his brow with a grimace.

Hence Lek and her team began a protection program, using their income to pay for hundreds of trees to be marked for protection. That afternoon each of us got to rubber stamp a tree’s protected status by tying a yellow cloth around it. This felt so good!

Marking a tree for protection Chiang Mai Thailand

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Closing in on the park, we came across an impressive natural rock slide. There were other tour groups horsing around on it. “Guys, have a quick ride on the slide” winked Chanchai. “Then we’ll go straight for the river. Elephants need to cool off”.

Natural rock slide Chiang Mai.

Good fun.

At the river it was so much fun watching the elephants lower themselves into the water. There were soft growls among each other and several high trumpets of pure joy and relief. In order to help them fully relax and clean up, we sloshed water over them with the plastic pots Chanchai gave us. The elephants loved this, lapping up the attention.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Water for Elephants Chiang Mai Thailand

Water for elephants.

One or two of the elephants though broke free mid-wash to spray themselves with mud. Which I imagined kind of defeated the whole project. Oh well. “Yeah, they’ll do that sometimes” nodded Chanchai, with a wry smile.

Bathing in mud Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Just before leaving, Chanchai announced that a rival tour company was heading towards us down the river in a raft. “Listen guys, we have a tradition with this company” he explained, gathering us together. “They are gonna try and attack us with water guns and pots. So get ready to fight back, ok!” 

He wasn’t kidding. We saw and indeed heard them gearing up for warfare long before they reached us. Happily we were more than ready and gave as good as we got, the river briefly turning into a frenzied battle zone for the minute or so that it took them to whoosh by.

Water fight Chiang Mai Thailand.

Taking no prisoners.

Our tour concluded with a gentle stroll around Elephant Nature Park itself. The grounds are beautifully kept and wonderfully green. Everywhere I looked there was an elephant or two mooching around, clearly at peace in its surroundings. Here and there, a large group had convened for an afternoon chatter.

Elephant Nature Park.

The happy residents of Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

As lovely a scene as it was, there were heartbreaking stories in every corner. This gal for example (pictured below), worked for a construction company for decades transporting various heavy goods. One day she was hit by a truck, sustaining injuries so bad that her employer was going to put her down.

Luckily, ENP stepped in, nursed her back to full health and gifted her a happy retirement in the park. “Look carefully” said Chanchai, “her back leg is pretty much useless, just a passenger”.

A rescued elephant at ENP Chiang Mai.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Another of the park’s rescued elephants worked in the logging industry in Laos for twenty years. Her owners were physically violent whenever she didn’t perform to expectations. As a result, she still shows signs of mental anguish and prefers to spend large parts of the day alone quietly.

Elephant Nature Park Rescue Centre.

Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

This is Lucky (below), a former circus performer. Chanchai told us how they don’t know exactly what happened to her, but an accident of some sort left her completely blind. Her first year at the park was a difficult one as she struggled to adapt to her new life.

“These days I think she is one of the happiest elephants here” he smiled. As if on cue, Lucky moved forward and reached out with her trunk to touch his shoulder with a hello.

Lucky a resident at Elephant Nature Park.


Trekking with Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

It was time to head back to Chiang Mai. As we made our way towards the minibus I discovered one more aspect to life at ENP that I’d been unaware of. In the last few years they’d also started rescuing homeless dogs from all over the country!

Dogs for adoption Elephant Nature Park.

Adopt an ENP dog.

“Now we have adoption program” explained Chanchai. Near the minivan I spotted a fluffy white dog panting happily by a motorbike. “This is Jingle” he told me. “Unfortunately he was dumped by his owners and found in a terrible mess in the forest. But you know he’s lucky, an Australian family in Chiang Mai gonna come and pick him up tomorrow”.

A rescued dog Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Lucky indeed, and yet another ENP success story. “See you later Lucky” I said, climbing into the minibus. It had been an unforgettable day and one that I wished could last a few hours longer. But alas it was time to head back to Chiang Mai. “Have a safe trip!” called Chanchai, waving to us all. “Thanks for coming. Your visit here is so important to us and the animals. An elephant never forgets”. 

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

Like this? Check out more of my travel reports from all over Thailand.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • WanderingCanadians

    It must have been such an incredible experience to see the elephants up-close, go on a nature walk with them and even feed them. It was really interesting to learn about Lek and how she made such a difference in terms of how elephants are cared for and treated.

    March 12, 2023 - 2:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, thanks for reading about my day at Elephant Nature Park. Lek is one of life’s good people and deserves all the praise she gets. She and her team seem to have established the blueprint for how to run these kinds of places. Sorry if the photos were blurred through the WordPress Reader. The issue has been fixed now I believe.

      March 12, 2023 - 4:01 pm Reply
  • Stan

    this surely has to be one of life’s great experiences. the fact that you have had three such experiences is amazing. having remembered your other articles i would say enp is the most ethical sanctuary? i remember there being some questions about treatment in the other two parks but this one seems to be the real deal. love the bamboo storage system and the lunch looks great, i may even head to adams morgan this evening for some spring rolls!

    March 12, 2023 - 3:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Stan! Yes, I would say ENP is the most ethical of the three I’ve visited. I also think the people at Kulen Elephant Sanctuary care a lot about their elephants, even if there were some complicated issues regarding the history of the park and the use of chains. Spring rolls in Adams Morgan sounds like a winner, wish we could join for a plate!

      March 12, 2023 - 4:03 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    What a wonderful experience Leighton. One pach-ed with a trunk full of joy. These are the kind of tours more people ought to take part in, rather than the circus style performances and rides. Being with these animals is much better than being on them. That table of food looks first rate, for sure. We are so lucky that the world still has people like Lek who care about the important stuff in the world. Have a great Sunday. Allan

    March 12, 2023 - 3:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allan, I’m glad ENP comes across well and that you enjoyed the adventure. I often look at the lives of people like Lek and wonder how it feels to look back on a life where so much has been achieved for the greater good. I’m sure it was a long hard road riddled with complications.

      March 12, 2023 - 4:07 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Well, worth the wait. Loved your closing. And I’ll bet you never forget either. Great pics of the baby elephants. Are these born on site? My limited understanding is that male elephants are more solitary. Do they have an elephant dating service? I thought it was fabulous that they cared for injured elephants from all over southern Asia. And that you helped them provide. Thank you.

    March 12, 2023 - 3:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Memo, I believe that they have had success in breeding. This is amazing because all elephant sanctuaries across Asia have a really hard time with this. I remember David at Kulen Elephant Sanctuary telling me that the entire future of the park depended on them welcoming baby elephants from their herd. But back in 2020 when we visited they had been hitting nothing but brick walls. Thanks for joining me on the hike!

      March 12, 2023 - 4:12 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Ha, the watermelon is therefore like pudding before the meal, if they eat so much throughout the day? I can absolutely understand why it must be so magical to walk through the forest with them and then assist with a (muddy) bath – without feeling threatened and just enjoying the closeness of this incredible animal. It must have been such a rewarding day – I take my hat off to people who rescue animals and make sure they get the best out of the rest of their lives. This is a feel good story, one I thoroughly enjoyed! Thanks Leighton!

    March 12, 2023 - 4:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Corna, it was indeed a feel good experience in a world where feel good stories like this seem short on supply. They are really beautiful animals. I think in the future Sladja and I would like to experience something similar with either gorillas or giraffes. Or both! Let’s see… thanks for stopping by Corna, it’s appreciated as always.

      March 12, 2023 - 4:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Corna, were you getting highly blurred photos through the reader?!? If so I believe the problem is fixed now. How annoying after such a long time spent photo editing, resizing etc.

      March 12, 2023 - 6:18 pm Reply
      • wetanddustyroads

        Only some of them were blurry. But you are right, it looks a lot better now … it was actually great to look through them for a second time now 🙂.

        March 12, 2023 - 6:26 pm
      • Leighton

        Mm glad to hear it’s better!

        March 12, 2023 - 6:27 pm

    What an incredible experience! Luckily for these gentle giants they have someone on their side. It’s amazing how vulnerable they are despite their size and strength.

    March 12, 2023 - 5:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, when you look at what they’re up against they really need people looking out for them. So well done to Lek and everyone at ENP. Thanks for reading and commenting. Can I ask if you read this piece through the WP Reader? Were the photos blurred?

      March 12, 2023 - 5:25 pm Reply

        I started reading in reader, but the pics were a bit blurry and too big so I moved to the regular WordPress. Everything looked great there.

        March 13, 2023 - 12:30 am
      • Leighton

        Thanks for letting me know!

        March 13, 2023 - 8:42 am

        Any time 🙂

        March 13, 2023 - 4:40 pm
  • Monkey's Tale

    Looks like a great day! We had talked about going to a sanctuary, I can’t remember for sure if it was this one, and I can’t remember why we didn’t go. Now I wish we did. Maggie

    March 12, 2023 - 5:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It was an amazing experience Maggie, thanks for your comment.

      March 12, 2023 - 5:32 pm Reply
  • anoush

    Elephants are such fascinating creatures and spending a day with them in their natural habitat sounds like an absolute privilege. As is dedicating your life to protect them. Lek is a very inspiring woman. The sanctuary is full of heartbreaking stories, some of these elephants had really had awful life prior to being rescued and saved by Lek and her team. I love that their dedication to environment and animals doesn’t end with elephants, but extends to forest preservation and finding a loving home for stray dogs.

    March 12, 2023 - 5:23 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anoush, thanks for reading about my day at ENP! You’re right, their work is amazing, we need more organisations like this around the world.

      March 12, 2023 - 5:37 pm Reply
  • bronlima

    Great to support this kind of initiative.

    March 12, 2023 - 6:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Geoff!

      March 12, 2023 - 6:19 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Leighton, this just might be my favorite “Leighton Travels” post ever! As with your visit to ENP, I didn’t want it to end. What an amazing experience you had getting to hang out with the elephants. I absolutely love the conservation efforts the park is doing, especially now that they’ve also started rescuing dogs and trees too.

    March 12, 2023 - 6:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Kellye! I’m glad I managed to get the photos fixed before you read. My day at ENP would definitely make a ‘Best of” travel experiences list, should I ever compile one.

      March 12, 2023 - 7:20 pm Reply
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        With all of your amazing travels, it would probably be hard to compile a “Best of” list, but I sure would love to see it!

        March 12, 2023 - 7:23 pm
  • Laura

    This is one of my favourite posts you have ever written, Leighton. What a beautiful experience, and I am in awe of the work of Lek Chailert. It makes me so happy and grateful to know that places like this exist to advocate and care for these incredible animals.

    March 12, 2023 - 7:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aw, thanks Laura. Yup, Lek is a good egg for sure. To have played such a huge part in protecting so many elephants across Asia must make her quietly proud. I’m sure she sleeps well at night.

      March 12, 2023 - 7:28 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    This is so amazing! The elephants in this sanctuary truly look cared for and respected. That is amazing that Lek Chailert is taking in elephants that need help, and you can tell that she has a big heart.

    March 12, 2023 - 10:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      big-hearted indeed, much like the elephants themselves. Thanks for reading and commenting Allie.

      March 12, 2023 - 11:18 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    What an incredible experience! It’s always so sad to hear about the elephants that are hunted and treated terribly, so it’s nice to know that these sanctuaries exist. I love the pictures of Lek with the baby elephants, so adorable! What an incredible woman!

    March 13, 2023 - 1:28 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in, Lyssy!

      March 13, 2023 - 9:27 am Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    Amazing experience Leighton! Lek and company deserve sainthood for dedicating their lives to rescuing these amazingly incredible animals. How they could ever trust humans again is beyond comprehension.

    March 13, 2023 - 6:26 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tricia. It’s sad to think that some of the elephants still bear the mental scars of their previous lives. But at least they have a quiet safe home now.

      March 13, 2023 - 9:30 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    Oh wow, what an amazing experience. I’ve been looking for an ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket to visit on my trip later in the year and it’s so good to see they do now exist! I hate hearing about how so many have been hunted and abused in the logging/tourism industries. Lek sounds amazing and that baby elephant is just toooo cute.

    March 13, 2023 - 12:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for dropping by Han. From what I understand there is quite some choice when it comes to elephant parks in and around Phuket. Hope you can find one that truly deserves your money and does the right thing by the elephants.

      March 13, 2023 - 12:53 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    What a memorable experience to spend the day trekking with elephants and feeding them watermelon. It was reassuring to learn that the elephants are so well cared for and the trip was both enjoyable and educational. Your lunch spread looked splendid and as you probably already know, I can’t get enough of mango sticky rice! Great post as always Leighton.

    March 13, 2023 - 12:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, it was an amazing day. I think this elephant sanctuary is the pick of the three I have visited across Asia.

      March 13, 2023 - 12:59 pm Reply
  • Diana

    This sounds like such an amazing experience! I’ve heard about the many elephant encounter options and how awful they treat the animals, so I’m really glad to know they’re not all like that. This seems peaceful and the elephants are happy. What a memorable day!

    March 13, 2023 - 3:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks so much Diana, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Elephant Nature Park. Appreciate your comment, as always.

      March 13, 2023 - 3:22 pm Reply
  • Terry Christopherson

    Must have been an a amazing experience.

    March 13, 2023 - 5:09 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It was Terry, thanks for dropping in!

      March 13, 2023 - 5:10 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Putting this experience firmly on my bucket list. What an incredible day of hiking with and taking care of these beautiful creatures. Oh to hike with an elephant! What a gift to create such a place to care for those that need it. It breaks my heart when people treat animals so terribly. If I were to ever become a vigilante it would probably be against people abusing animals. So glad they were given a new life here. Great post Leighton 🙂

    March 13, 2023 - 5:17 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Im with you Meg about animal abusers, there’s something about it that awakens a rage in me. Thanks for reading about my day trekking with elephants!

      March 14, 2023 - 9:06 am Reply
  • Mallee Stanley

    What an unforgettable experience.

    March 13, 2023 - 6:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      it really was, thanks for stopping by Mallee.

      March 14, 2023 - 9:07 am Reply
  • Lookoom

    The few times I have been near elephants, notably in Cambodia and in India, I have been impressed by their mass, but I have also felt that they were careful not to bump into those around them. I wish I had a way to thank these gentle giants.

    March 14, 2023 - 2:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes, gentle giants indeed. What a black heart someone must have to beat, terrorise and even murder these amazing animals. Thanks for checking out my piece on Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai!

      March 14, 2023 - 9:09 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I’ve heard about elephant sanctuaries, and while I’ve heard some vary in their treatment of these great animals, it looks like you went to a good one that treats their elephants well. It’s great to see how these large animals live and interact; it’s remarkable that they can also feel so much like humans and it’s very touching you got to experience the beauty of them all. I enjoyed this post, Leighton!

    March 14, 2023 - 4:52 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Rebecca, unlike the other two sanctuaries I’ve visited ENP seems to be 120% squeaky clean in their approach to elephant treatment. Let’s hope there are no skeletons in their cupboards, if you know what I mean.

      March 14, 2023 - 9:13 am Reply
  • Juliette

    Wow, that was such a heartwarming read! The ENP seems like an amazing place and it is great that those elephants are now in good hands that actually take care of them. It must have been such a unique experience, thanks for sharing it!

    March 14, 2023 - 8:37 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you for reading and commenting Juliette. The experience was unforgettable, it really shouldn’t have taken me(nearly eight years to get this material onto the blog. Better late than never I guess!

      March 14, 2023 - 9:15 am Reply
  • Len Kagami

    Such a memorable trek! Do you know whether ENP is still in operation? I hope that the pandemic didn’t force them to close down 🙁

    March 14, 2023 - 6:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Len, thanks for reading and contributing to the comment thread. I’m happy to say that ENP is still going strong!

      March 14, 2023 - 7:11 pm Reply

    Absolutely brilliant experience, glad you found a properly ethical operator (understatement by the sound of it!) in that maze of available tours. These people deserve medals for their dedicated work – especially those like Lek who pioneered change and shifted mentalities on a large scale. And yes, what wonderful animals they are, those elephants.

    March 15, 2023 - 2:24 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers! Glad ENP came across well in the piece. Hope you have landed safely in Delhi and that you are anticipating the upcoming train shenanigans.

      March 15, 2023 - 9:02 am Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    This is a moving story, how wonderful that visitors can hike and do things with the elephants without riding. Who knew elephants love watermelon!

    March 15, 2023 - 6:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Watching them smash their way through that mountainous breakfast was something I’ll never forget. Cheers, Ruth!

      March 15, 2023 - 6:34 pm Reply
      • rkrontheroad

        Cheers! 😄

        March 15, 2023 - 7:14 pm

    incredible experience very well written with fine photography

    March 15, 2023 - 9:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your kind words Vikas.

      March 15, 2023 - 10:50 pm Reply

        Thank you 😊 Brother

        March 19, 2023 - 8:41 pm
  • Travel with a Pen

    What an exciting day trip! It just kept getting better and better! And the water fight? Epic, Haha!

    March 16, 2023 - 4:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Amarachi! It was a dream day in many respects and such a fun piece to finally put together after all these years.

      March 16, 2023 - 4:54 pm Reply
  • wanderwithfaith

    Beautiful place.I love elephants ❤️

    March 19, 2023 - 6:44 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comment!

      March 19, 2023 - 9:17 am Reply
  • Toonsarah

    When we visited Manda Lao near Luang Prabang the Thai director told us it was modelled on similar places in his homeland, and reading this I can tell that this is exactly what he had in mind. The perfect way to enjoy elephant encounters ‘on elephant terms’ as he put it 😀 🐘

    March 19, 2023 - 10:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Elephant terms indeed, that’s the way it should be. I’m sure Manda Lao will be high up on our list when we eventually make it to Laos. Thanks for dropping by Sarah.

      March 19, 2023 - 10:12 pm Reply
  • Petra

    Oh that looks amazing!

    March 27, 2023 - 10:30 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading, Petra!

      March 27, 2023 - 10:50 am Reply
  • Cherryl

    What a wonderful experience you had there, fabulous – such beautiful animals.

    April 9, 2023 - 11:47 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for getting in touch Cherryl!

      April 10, 2023 - 8:19 am Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: