Published: October 7th 2010October 5th 2010
Elephant Nature Park
We were met at the hotel by our guide for the day Noi (Narissa) our group included some really great people all united in a common cause. There was Alex (who was staying at our hotel), Peter & Karen with their 2 young children all from Australia, Rebecca & Tina from the UK and Francis & Nee who I think were from Singapore.
Once we were all on the bus we were informed that it was about 65 kilometres to the park and that we would make a brief stop at a service station along the way so we could grab some refreshments and use the toilets if we wished. Noi also gave us some further information about the park as well as about the founder of the park, Lek.
Lek is an incredible woman who has worked tirelessly for many years now to rescue abused and mistreated elephants from all over Thailand and currently has 32 elephants at the park 2 of them were born at the park and are both just over a year old. Far from being just a retreat for elephants there are a growing number of other animals including
dogs, cows, buffalo and even a bear that has arrived recently. The park also provides a number of opportunities to the local people, training is provided to the locals in areas such as cleaner/house keeper, gardening some may even be lucky enough to learn to be a Mahout (elephant carer). They also buy a large portion of their day to day food supply for humans and elephants alike direct from the local farms surrounding the area.
We were then shown a DVD of a documentary made around 4 yrs ago concerning the plight of the Asian elephant and shot largely at the park featuring Lek and all the beautiful elephants at the park at that time.
When the documentary had finished we were just pulling in for our refreshment stop. After a quick 10 minute stop we were on the road again for the final 15-20 Ks or so to the park. Located in the Mae Taeng province where there are quite a few different traditional elephant parks that you pass on the way to what surely must be heaven on earth for the elephants that reside in Lek’s park.
There is no working, no tourist rides just
freedom, food and love for these poor gentle creatures who have been so badly treated. Here they are treated with the respect they deserve and given the care they need to recover from the physical and emotional abuse they have suffered at the hands of their former owners.
The stories that are attached to the lives of these magnificent creatures is truly heart breaking, but now they are here their recovery and willingness to re-connect with people after what they have been through is remarkable. I urge everyone to go to the website and read their stories (if you can, but definitely not if you are delicate) at the least it will make you think before you agree to go elephant trekking. If you don’t cry at least once while reading their stories than I would be extremely surprised.
Our only regrets about this day.....
1. We did not have more time to spend there.
2. We did not have more money to spend/donate there.
3. We did not get the opportunity to meet Lek and thank her personally for the work she and all the staff and volunteers have done. The reason that Lek
was unavailable was due to her getting ready to fly to America and Canada that night to speak about elephant conservation and try to get the message across to a wider audience.
After meeting and feeding the older elephants Noi told us many stories and plights of the elephants in the park and all the future programs that Lek and her team are planning. The surin Project, Elephant Express and Elephant Heaven are a few of the past and present programs.
The Lunch Bell sounded around 12 and a great mostly Vegetarian Buffet was served and we just sat back and enjoyed the view, Elephants grazing by the river and a great back drop of the mountains and Jungle. We then went down to the river and could help the elephant keepers bath them what a sight and such a joy to be included.
After lunch we had some special time with the two resident baby Elephants one was a year old and the other was 18months that was just the icing on the cake for us to have our picture with these two, a kiss on the cheek from their sister just made our day even
more special if it couldn’t get any better than that.
After watching another DVD on the Elephants we had some free time to do any of the previous activities we had done earlier in the day or we could browse the merchandise shop, have a massage or just relax and take in the scenery.
All too soon it was time to get back on the bus and head back to the hotel and say goodbye to our new friends. It was an amazing day that I am sure we will never forget and next time we will definitely be spending longer.
There are more photos below