Thailand - Elephant Nature Park (Part 2)

Elephant Nature Park... Just wow. I have had the best week ever and can 100% say it has changed my life. We chose to do the one week volunteering with elephants so that we could really get to experience the whole place and it was just magical. There are one day options and overnight options too, however these don't include much volunteering (if any) resulting in less time experiencing the elephants and their amazing personalities. 

For the whole week you get to get involved with a variety jobs that need to be completed on a daily basis. These included:

- Making food for the elephants like washing/cutting watermelon, pumpkins and cucumbers. You can also help to make rice balls and salad with the veg for the old lady elephants who have lost their teeth and can no longer chew, and that's really fun. 
- Cutting corn/grass for the elephants. You leave the park for this and go to one of the fields that they own and with a scythe, chop it all down and load it into the truck. 
- Cleaning the park. Elephants are incredibly messy and like to get food and poo everywhere! So we went round with our shovels and rakes and cleared up any mess that we found. 
- Cleaning out their night shelters in the mornings. This involved mainly shovelling lots of poo so that their shelter is nice and clean for the night ahead when they go to sleep again. 
- Building a dam. It's very hot there at the moment so the water is really drying up. They're building a dam to try and keep the water built up so that the elephants still have a river to go and chill out in. 
- Peeling corn. This was really fun and gross at the same time. Lots of bugs like to live in the corn so when you peel it back you never know if it's going to be rotten or not. So many times I had a maggot nest in one and it was so vile but the nice corn looked yummy, and of course it was rewarding because you threw away all the bad corn that the elephants don't want to eat, and can feed them the yummy stuff. 
- Washing the elephants. This was awesome. They come to the river during the day and you're allowed to get a bucket of water and throw it over the elephants to help cool them down. You don't actually scrub them because elephants are supposed to be dirty, but they do love water over them so this was wonderful to watch. 
- Elephant walks. This mainly involved just walking around the park and visiting the different herds that you stumbled across and hearing their stories. It's quite sad hearing them however when you're stood there watching how happy they are it's a really lovely experience. Sometimes the elephants approach you too and you can touch them if they let you. Normally they're just being fat and looking for food, but it's nice when they come near you!

So, with all of this we were kept very busy! You alternated what jobs you did all of the time and if there was any you really didn't want to do, that was fine and you could join in with another job that was being done! My favourite was definitely the rice balls and getting to feed it to the elephants after. They just get it all over the place and probably waste more than eat it so it's quite funny! Plus others always come and steal it off them and that's pretty funny to watch too. 

You get quite a lot of free time during the days between your jobs, so you can go and walk dogs and help out at the shelter there if you want to. You can also sit up in the lookout and just watch the elephants going about their daily lives which I loved because you just see them being so natural and loving towards each other. You can also go and get a Thai massage which was just insanely nice! It cost £3 for a whole body massage for a whole hour!! 

The whole week cost 12000 THB which is about £240. Within that price you got all of your accommodation included and also all of your food and water everyday! All the food is vegan/vegetarian which is amazing, and even the people who ate meat couldn't believe how tasty all the food was. There is so much choice so there is always something for someone. ENP have rescued pigs, cows, buffalo and other animals from slaughter houses so that's why they don't cook with meat at the park. 

If you want to visit elephants and you don't want to buy into the tourist elephant traps, then ENP is the place to go. Of course, it's not always easy to get to a specific place and I'm sure there are many other places just like this all over the world. Just make sure that you really look into whether a company is treating elephants with love or torture. It's hard to always tell because they hide it very well, however some hints to look for are: 

- Elephant riding. This is huge NO! Any elephant that lets you ride on it has been tortured immensely and is still going through it daily. It's terrified and only lets you get on its back because the consequences of not are far worse. 
- Chains and small enclosures. If any elephant is changed to anything then it's not free. They will tell you it's so they don't run off, but ENP have no walls around their park and the elephants never run off. They are tied up because they're being forced to work. 
- Washing elephants hands on with brushes and what they claim as 'natural soaps'. Again another NO. Elephants don't need to be washed with soap, they're supposed to be covered in mud. They just need some water and they're happy. If an elephant is being washed and their mahout is holding it down in the water and it's just laying on its side, then this is an obvious pointer that this elephant is terrified. They do this all over Thailand, I saw it with my own eyes, and it's incredibly sad. ALSO if they let elephants wash you, so squirt water at you out of their trunk, this isn't right either. An elephant would NEVER do that naturally. They only do it to themselves. 
- Baby elephants that sit on you and you can cuddle them. I know this is super cute and everyone has seen the videos and wants this, but have you ever asked 'where is the mummy?'. If a baby elephant is with its mother, chances are (unless you're so lucky) you won't be able to get near the baby. Not until it's after 3-4 years old. They're very protective of their young. If you're really close to a baby elephant, then chances are that its been taken from its mother and being forced to work as its so cute that people will pay to get near it. Baby elephants can make owners a lot of money as tourists want to see them, so they take them from their mothers. 
- Mahouts standing by the ear of an elephant, or even sometimes obviously pulling on its ear. The ear is a very sensitive place on an elephant and mahouts use this to get elephants to do what they want. If you see a mahout standing incredibly close by its ear, then just take a look as close as you can to his hand. Chances are he has a hook or a nail that he is using the hurt the elephant, so that its scared and let's you near it. Again, I've seen this and it's vile. 
- Elephant tricks. Like painting or circus skills. NO an elephant can't paint naturally, NO it can't stand on one leg (nor should it ever as its very bad for them). If you see an elephant painting then it's definitely being tortured, most likely as its actually painting. And the circus is just awful. Anything that happens there is so obviously wrong. I don't even need to explain that. 

My wish is just for elephants to be able to be free once again. For tourists to stop buying into this disgusting industry and start seeing them in the wild where they're free and being natural. I completely understand the obsession with wanting to be close to these amazing creatures, but when you know they're being abused and tortured and split up from their families every day, you have to ask yourself 'is it really worth it for that one picture?'. 

Anyway, this was the most amazing week ever and I recommend doing this to everyone! If you're interested in this issue and want to know more, follow Lek Chailert on Facebook, the founder of ENP and one of the most inspirational people I've ever met. She's motivated me in so many ways and inspired me for my future. So thank you Lek for that. 

Sasha x


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