So you’re in Asia, Chiang Mai to be exact, and you are planning on going to see the elephants. Good idea!
Now I bet you’re wondering which tour to do? Who to sign up with? One of my absolute favourite day trips i’ve done during my travels would be the elephant, trek and rafting trip that Steve and I booked through our hostel ‘Chiang Mai capsule gate hostel’. The day trip is split into three parts, first – two hours spent with the elephants, washing, feeding and making medicine for them. Next – trekking through the jungle to an amazing waterfall. And lastly – white water rafting down the river.
The main reason we decided to sign up to this tour, is that the elephants involved are infact rescued. This meant that there were only 4 elephants there, 3 that had been there for a while, and 1 that was fairly new. We had to gain the elephants trust before we could get too close, we were definately not allowed to ride them and even things like ‘selfie sticks’ were forbidden as the elephants assume you will whip them with it. One of the young elephants had a completely flat back instead of the natural curve you would normally see, this is due to having tourists ride on her back before she was rescued. Unfortunately the tourist trap still exists, and elephants are just one of many amazing creatures who are victims of this. One traveller I spoke to said ‘they disagreed with riding elephants as it is cruel, however they would go to a show where elephants ‘perform tricks and paint’ as the elephants aren’t manipulated into doing this’. ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINERS. They do not perform for the public because they feel like it. They are tortured into ‘learning’ these new tricks. They are ridiculously intelligent animals with the very probable fact that they will one day become extinct due to the conditions they are ‘expected’ to live in and naivity of tourists. Companies will advise you the elephants are being treated with care and respect when in actual fact they aren’t behind closed doors. So I strongly advise you do some research into the company you are planning on booking through first!
Sorry, rant over!
Upon arrival at the elephant camp we had a discussion about elephants, what scares them, how and why they could react if they feel they are in a vulnerable position and the abilities these animals have. For instance, the old elephant afraid of a mouse scenario. According to our guide, an elephant cannot see straight ahead, but due to their extremely large ears they can feel tremours in the ground. Now as a mouse is tiny, the elephant can feel it moving through these tremours, but cannot see it. Thus creating a vulnerable situation which results in the elephant being scared. Interesting huh!
After absorbing all we could, we went to say hello to the elephants. These huge beautiful grey animals stood before us, with their tails swishing side to side and their big eyes blinking at the newcomers.
Let me tell you now, being up close to 4 incredible elephants is just euphoric. The rush of admiration you feel for 4 creatures is mind blowing.
We had to walk up slowly to let them get used to us and greet them by saying ‘dee-dee’ (Thai for good good). We fed them sugar canes and patted their long searching trunks. After they had eaten we lead them into the river, and scrubbed them with homemade bamboo scrubbers which we had made previously. This creates a friction and gets all the dirt off their skin. The elephants sucked gallons of water up into their trunks and sprayed it joyfully into the air whilst we rinsed the dirt from their skin.
Due to elephants eating a lot of sugar cane, they can get constipated which can lead to them becoming ill. So our next job was to make them some ‘medicine’. We made sticky rice balls filled with salt and dried fruit to make them poo. After feeding these to the elephant it was time to say goodbye.
An hour long trek through the green jungle awaited us. Rivers with a tree trunk balancing across them lay waiting for us to approach. We balanced along the top, having nothing but air to hold onto. The prospect of falling into the river wavering over you like a cloud. But, we made it!
As we stepped into the clearing, the sound of gushing water hit our ears. The sweat on our skin was itching for the cold, refreshing water to touch it. We ran straight into the freezing cold water and dived under the powerful waterfall.
A Thai lady was sitting next to the waterfall with a baby monkey in her lap, sucking on a bottle. True Thailand.
After relaxing at the waterfall for an hour, we started the sweaty journey back through the jungle. Luckily talks of our amazing day and the shaded trees kept our minds at bay.
White water rafting approached us. Now i’ve done white water rafting before, but at a man made site. Which was scary enough! I was apprehensive of what the real thing would bring. Let me tell you! It brought lots of screams, laughter and panic as our boat chopped and churned through the currents of the river. We dipped into riptides and our boat filled with water as we paddled as fast as we could whilst clinging on with our feet, too scared to relax incase the arms of the waves pulled us into the depths below. Until finally we reached calmer waters. Everyone in the boat breathed a huge sigh of relief as we drifted down the remainder of the river.
Just writing this blog post brings back the excitement this amazing day brought to us. This would definately be a top priority on my list of things to do in Thailand!