Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phuket

Tuesday, June 19, 2018
When we first started planning our trip to Thailand, my friend Ashley and I had one demand - that we spent a day with elephants. We hadn't done much research on the elephant excursions in Thailand and we both thought at the time that we wanted to ride an elephant. That changed quickly when we started looking into it. Riding an elephant should never happen. I'll talk about that more at the end of the post as I don't want this to be preachy.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an ethical elephant sanctuary with three locations in Thailand. We visited the one in Phuket where we were given an opportunity to interact with these amazing creatures in the wild. We were able to select between a morning and afternoon tour, we selected the morning and were picked up in an open air truck from our hotel. We drove an hour through the coastline of Phuket and it was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.
Once we arrived at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, we instantly saw elephants! I squealed like I was a 5 year old seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time. Then I saw a baby elephant and nearly lost my mind.
After a quick introduction on the animals and their backgrounds, we helped bring buckets of fruit to the elephants. If you find yourself doing this tour, here's a tip - grab the watermelon over the bananas! The elephants loved the watermelon.
We spent a while feeding and interacting with the elephants. The baby I saw upon arrival was only 2 months old. He was a crazy kid and reminded me of a puppy. He would copy cat his mom and run all over the place. He even tried ramming people!
Along with the 2 month old, there was also a 2 year old who was much calmer and would allow you to take photos with her! We heard each elephants story, how they were rescued from log camps or the entertainment industry. I made "friends" with a 72 year old who was brought in from a log camp a few months back.
Now you may ask why these rescued elephants are still in a sanctuary vs. being in the wild. Elephants that are no longer considered wild are domesticated and they need all the love and attention that normal household pets receive.
After we fed them, it was time to give them a mud bath!! We covered the elephants in a mud treatment for their skin (we got some on us as well). The elephants loved every moment of this pampering session.
Once everyone was covered in mud, it was time to wash them off and swim with them. Never in a million years would I have thought I would swim in the water with an elephant. The elephants played a bit and sprayed us with water.
After everyone was clean, it was time for a few additional photos. Speaking of photos, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has a few professional photographers onsite and all the photos taken during your day are free! How incredible is that?
After we said goodbye and changed into dry clothes (there are showers), we were provided with a homemade Thai lunch. The afternoon visit includes two meals. We paid 2500 baht a person (around $75 USD) for this half-day experience. Interacting with the elephants on their land was an incredible experience.
Now I am going to talk about why you should never ride an elephant. Elephants are not designed to carry weight on their back, they are not built like a horse. They have evolved to support a mass amount of weight suspended below their spine. Examination of the skeleton shows instead of smooth, round spinal disks, elephants have sharp bony protrusions that extend upwards from their spine. These bony protrusions and the tissue protecting them are vulnerable to weight and pressure coming from above.
Riding / Trekking camps have been known to make elephants carry people for up to 5 hours. Being forced to work while in the heat of Thailand slowly wears the elephants down as elephants need to cool down and be allowed to eat more then they are provided. They are hurt at these camps guides use hooks to force them to carry tourists which they hit the elephants with, causes bleeding.

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