Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Chiang Mai, Destinations, Featured, Thailand, Travel Photo Thursday | 38 comments

Elephant Nature Park

Welcome to week 229 ( 05/28/2015) of Travel Photo Thursday. This week I am taking you back in time (before this blog) to share my magical adventure at the Elephant Nature Park just outside of Chiang Mai. I spent two days and one night, and am still in awe that I got to feed, bath, and walk with elephants in the jungle. One of these days I will visit again. I think what holds me back is I wonder if the adventure will be as magical the second time around. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed the experience.

Don’t forget, eave your comment and a link at the end.

The day begins early, and the first stop is to pick up food for our big friends. One of the first things that I learned is that elephants LOVE to eat! Believe it or not, they can devour between 200 and 600 pounds of food in a single day!


Elephant Nature Park

After being briefed on the do and do not’s of visiting an elephant park, we got that first touch.  One of the main things you have to remember is that if you see an elephant coming towards you move, and do it fast. They don’t stop for anybody! That first touch, and I was holding my breath!


First Touch


Feed me, feed me! Each elephant gets the same amount of food at feeding time, but like humans some gobble there’s down, and try to steal their neighbors. That is a big NO NO.


Give MeSome


Don’t worry; all the elephant cares about is the food. They won’t bite the hand that feeds them 🙂


I'll Take All Those Bananas


Watermelon is a favorite, too.


Watermelon, Yum


On the way to river for a bath. After eating, I would say that getting wet is their next favorite activity!


Heading Towards the River


Each elephant has a mahout, and only the mahout rides the elephant. We learned that elephants have very delicate spines, and riding on the back of one, especially in one of those ugly seats you so often see in tourist photographs, is agony for them. Elephant rides are not part of the experience.


Bath Time



Watch for elephants rolling and get out of the way!


Bath Time

Bath Time


All clean!

Nice and Clean


You’ll never guess where they are off to next, the MUD PIT! Watching them get in and out is hilarious.


Time for our Mud Bath

Mud Bath


After the mud pit, they love to throw water at their visitors. No photos or my camera would have been history!

The beautiful river bed that we followed the next day to go into the jungle with our new friends.


River Bed

Along the River Bed

Going for a Walk in the Jungle

In the Jungle



An entirely surreal moment.


Up Close in the Jungle



The view from our room.:)


Room With A View

Elephant Corral



Travelers Tip 

The founder  Lek Chailert is very dedicated to her herd of pachyderms. She is usually on site and enjoys spending time with visitors.

All of these beautiful animals have been rescued from abusive situations or are orphans. At the park, they no longer have to work. They are pampered and get to live out the rest of their lives in luxury. Each elephant has a name, and you can learn their names and their personal stories here.

You can visit for a day, overnight, or volunteer for an extended length of time. Check out your options here. 

This is a very popular attraction, so do book early, and most important if you want to do more than a day trip.

Have you been to the Elephant Nature Park, or something similar?

This is the 229th edition of Travel Photo Thursday. You can browse the archives here.



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  1. What an amazing experience! It is so good to see such well-loved animals.

  2. Wow, my blog this week has elephants in it too. What an amazing experience you have had at the Elephant Nature Park. This is something I would really love to do. I didn’t know that about riding on elephants on those seats. I guess another case of using animals without real concern for them.
    I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for taking us there and for hosting Travel Photo Thursday.
    Happy travels.

  3. Lovely photos…I love elephants too…

    • Hi Lili and thanks. They are such beautiful creatures, and totally approachable as long as you respect them.

  4. Really great photos! Beautiful elephants…

    • Hi, and thank you. They are definitely out of this world beautiful 🙂

  5. Wow, the elephants are so cute!

  6. Nancie, I so want to do this. I would love to go and volunteer for a month or so. It sounds awesome.

    • Hi Corinne. Next time I’m in Thailand I think I’ll try an do the volunteer option. I know that it would be outstanding. A friend of mine and his partner did it a couple of years ago, and a baby was born while they were there. Now, that would be cool!

  7. Love this post, Nancie! What an incredible experience to be that close to the elephants. My kids would probably not want to leave this place. I learned some interesting things about the elephants here. I’m so gad a place like this exists to rescue and pamper these elephants. These pictures are adorable!

    • Hi Mary! Yes, your kids would want to build a house or pitch a tent, and stay…haha!

  8. Love it! I visited this place several years ago. It has been one of my favorite travel experiences (and probably one of the best days of my life). The elephants are so gentle and fun. I really enjoyed being around them.

    • Hi Ruth. For me too! I think if travelers don’t do anything else in Chiang Mai, they should seriously consider visiting the Elephant Nature Park…unforgettable!

  9. Elephants are such gentle giants and super intelligent. I read this fantastic book a while ago titled ‘The Elephant Keeper’ and it was one of my favourite books ever. It was all about a boy and his strong bond with a female elephant named Jenny. I have swam with elephants in Krabi, Thailand and also ridden on top. Now that I know that this is painful for them I will never ever do this again! Lovely story.

    • Hi Kathy. I think I read this book, and I am going to double check. If I haven’t read it, I definitely will. Something with the title is ringing a bell! Yes, riding on them is not a good idea, unless you do it mahout style. I think there is a place you can go in Thailand to learn this.

  10. Oh I so love elephants, Nancie and these photos are superb! (And yay, I have internet again so hope to be a regular again!!)

    • Hi Jackie! Welcome back! Sounds like you are getting settled into your Greek paradise…so happy for you both!

  11. I LOVED LOVED LOVED my day at Lek’s Elephant Nature Park. It’s truly one of my most memorable travel experiences. I laugh when I see the first pictures of me feeding them because my body language has “scaredy cat” written all over it. By the end, I was so comfortable around them. When I visited 3 years ago, the mahouts weren’t riding them either, at least not within the park.

    • Hi Michele. I am with you there. The whole adventure is just so awesome. I was definitely apprehensive, but not for long. The elephants are just so gentle. It was amazing!

  12. This is absolutely stunning! It’s great to see that they are taken care of so well; the safety and protection of any animal should always be considered!

    • Hi Josh! They do take could care of them!

  13. I would so enjoy a visit to this elephant nature park. I’ve read about certain tourist experiences that one can have with elephants and have been concerned that they’re irresponsible and abusive. This looks like a wonderful way to interact with elephants in a more respectful and natural way.

    • Hi Betsy. Yes, some of the operators in Asia do not treat the animals very well. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. I’m sure you would love the adventure.

  14. I’d love to do something like this, why did you pick the elephant nature park over other elephant reserves?

    • Hi! Good question. I had heard lots of great stories from other travelers who had visited. I was also really impressed that Lek advocates no elephant riding, and no unnatural tricks. I had been to one camp where the elephant painted. It was just too weird. Much more fun to see experience them just do their own thing, and having fun their own way 🙂

  15. Nancy, this looks like a fun day to explore and be with these majestic animals except for the mud baths! Please do share this on my link up for Travel Photo Mondays, love to have you join us today!

    • Hi Noel…I did not have a mud bath with the elephants! 🙂

  16. Great photos of elephants, especially at the mud pit. I’m glad the Elephant Nature Park protects the elephants by not offering rides.

    • Hi Donna! The park is all about the elephants and treating them with respect. Some of the elephants have had very sad and abusive lives before being rescued. It is just so heartwarming to see them being treated as they should be.

  17. The Elephant Nature Park looks and sounds like a wonderful place! I rode an elephant once when I was 14 and didn’t know it hurt them but would never do it again and I haven’t been 14 in a VERY long time! Lek Chailert is a very admirable woman!

    I went to Chiang Mai about 10 years ago and got too close to a mama elephant with a baby. The mother snorted, no nice way to say this, a LOT of elephant snot all over me so I learned to keep my distance!

    • Hi Kay. Sorry, I am laughing here. I don’t think I’d want to have an elephant snort on me! Like any mama, they are protective!

  18. Couldn’t they have at least peeled the bananas first? 🙂

  19. That looks like so much fun. Isn’t it interesting that elephants always have that CUTE smile on their faces? I’m hoping to get to Chiang Mai this year. Maybe after TBEX Asia!

  20. Loved this post! Visiting the Elephant Nature Park is at the top of my list when we get to Thailand (hopefully sooner rather than later) and I loved your photos and the narrative that accompanied them. Kudos to the founder, Lek Chailert, for establishing a sanctuary for these magnificent beings and a chance for us humans to get to know them a little better!

  21. Not going to make TBEX but this looks like a great place doing good work with the elephants.

  22. Beautiful, Nancie! I was delighted to see that the experience does not include elephant rides, and that they are living a “life of Riley” after rescue. The Elephant Nature Park looks like a great Chang Mai excursion.

  23. Hi Nancie! Beautiful photos, and I enjoyed reading about your experience at Elephant Nature Park. There is such a nice feeling of love for the elephants there. Lucky you, getting to stay for two days!

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