Beyond the concrete jungle of Chiang Mai, Thailand, lies an entirely different jungle. A real jungle where lush, tree-covered mountains are home to numerous species of animals. Within this jungle is a special place — Elephant Nature Park (ENP). Unlike other tourist outfits in Thailand, ENP delivers something unique — a chance to interact with elephants without exploiting them.
These gentle giants, while revered in the country, are not free from abuse. Every day, wild baby elephants are captured and taken away from their mothers (who are often killed) and forced to undergo a torturous training to domesticate them, the phajaan. This practice essentially breaks the spirit of the elephant, using fear of pain to train them to accept riders on their backs, perform tricks and paint. However, ENP provides a sanctuary for these creatures broken by tourism and the illegal logging industry.
Founded in 1995 by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, ENP gives these magnificent animals a new lease on life. At ENP, there are no tricks. There are no rides. No elephant paintings can be bought. Here, these elephants are allowed to live their lives free from bullhooks, free from abuse.
Home to more than 35 elephants, most of which have been saved from the tourist and illegal logging industries, the Park offers visitors the opportunity to engage with the animals. Operating daily trips to ENP, visitors can choose to spend the day, night or even more mingling with these creatures in their natural habitat. At ENP, guests can feed the elephants and bathe them, and also learn about the plight of the Asian elephant and what they can do to help.
Please note that the park is also a sanctuary for more than 350 dogs rescued from the destructive Bangkok floods of 2011 and from the streets of Chiang Mai. The vast majority of these loving animals live in newly-constructed shelters, but there are some that roam free on the property.