Elephant Enlightenment

Chiang Mai is a beautiful little town in Northern Thailand situated along the Ping River. Home to ancient temples and history, the town offers an inviting ambience for the soul seeking traveler inclusive of vintage antique shops, river lined pubs with live music, and delicious food from vegetarian to French delicacies – but most importantly, the town is an hour drive from one of the most inspirational places I have ever visited, Elephant Nature Park.
Elephant Nature Park provided such an eye-opening experience. The reserve is home to over thirty rescued and rehabilitated elephants residing in a natural setting, complete with animal volunteers and “mahouts” (the name for the local elephant trainers) who support them. Elephant Nature Park is as authentic as it sounds – a peaceful environment alongside a tranquil river where travelers can spend an afternoon learning more about the elephants’ natural behavior in the wild.
From retired logging elephants, to orphaned elephants, and even visually impaired elephants – I was educated on the stories of each elephant’s past and how all of these magnificent creatures now have a safe, warm and loving environment supported by animal experts and tourist donations.
I was given the opportunity to bathe elephants in the glistening stream that stretched across the land. There I was, standing in awe, like a little ant amongst these enormous gentle giants. The elephants sprayed water from their trunks, soaking me from head to toe as I attempted to wash away their early morning mud bath.
And if that wasn't exhilarating enough, my heart began to melt as I fed them bananas and pineapple. Each elephant would gently extend their long, graceful trunk, delicately removing the fruit from my hand. It was impossible not to fall in love with their kind spirit.
My afternoon ended with a new perspective. No longer am I the traveler who will enlist in an activity for the sake of doing it. Now, I am driven by passionate experiences that aim to preserve Mother Earth and her extraordinary creatures – no matter how great or small.

Jessica Cole

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