I stayed onsite at Elephant Nature Park for one week. The week’s volunteering cost me £305.00 in total, and included all meals, 6 nights’ accommodation as well as transfers to and from Chiang Mai city centre. The prices vary depending on the time of year you do it. I booked my volunteering project through STA Travel.
I was put in a room with two other girls. Accommodation was quite basic, but it was comfortable. Mosquito nets were provided in the rooms as well as fans.
All meals served at Elephant Nature Park are vegan as the owners are completely against animal cruelty. I thought it would be quite tough being vegan for a week, but it turned out I didn’t miss meat that much anyway! Tofu is a great substitute.
Elephant Nature Park is a unique project set in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand. It was established in the 1990’s by Lek Chailert. Her aim has always been to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants.
Volunteering for one week at Elephant Nature Park is one of the best things I have ever done; the whole experience was so rewarding and I felt so privileged to be able to help these amazing animals. Not only do they rescue elephants, they’ll rescue any animal that needs rescuing; at the time of my visit they’d also rescued buffalo, cats, dogs and birds.
I joined the volunteering project on Monday 11th April 2016. I stayed at De Naga Hotel the night before as it was just a short walk from the Elephant Nature Park offices, where I’d be signing on and meeting other people also on the project.
At the offices, I signed on and was given an Elephant Nature Park t-shirt and a water bottle which actually came in very useful throughout the week. We jumped in mini buses and made our way to the Park. We got put into groups and was shown to our rooms. For the rest of the day, I got to know the other people that I’d be spending the week with. I quickly made friends with two girls also from the U.K. called Natalie and Laurel. The three of us spent most of the afternoon at Cat Kingdom playing with the cats and kittens. Most of the cats roam freely in this area, but there was a room which had 4 tiny kittens in it. Their mum had died so ENP took them in. I have never seen kittens so small before and I went to visit them every day; it was amazing seeing how much stronger they became in a week.
On Tuesday morning it was our first day at work. The working day usually consists of two activities; one in the morning between 8am-10am, and one in the afternoon between 1pm-3pm. In between these activities, you had free time to do whatever you wanted to do. The volunteers were put not four groups, and I was in group D.
My first activity was to cut grass for the elephants food. We jumped into a truck and drove for just over an hour to some fields where we begun our work. This activity was very tiring because of the heat in Chiang Mai. Our group was the only group that got to do this because of it being Songkran, also known as Thai New Year, which is celebrated with a massive water fight. Therefore, the park deemed it unsafe to travel out to the fields because of drunk drivers on the roads. The other groups were relieved that they got out of doing it, but I was really pleased that I got to do it!
We filled up a couple of trucks before stopping for lunch and then made our way back to ENP. In the afternoon, we got to wash the elephants in the river. I also found time to visit my favourite little kittens.
On Wednesday it was the start of Songkran. In between feeding the elephants and clearing up their poo, we had time to celebrate the Thai New Year with a water fight! Half of me wishes that I was in the actual city celebrating, but the other half of me was thankful that I got to celebrate this event in Thailand; it was such an amazing experience.
Read Kabu’s story here.
Read Di Por’s story here.
In the afternoon, I had completely dried out from the water fight and it was back to work. We spent the afternoon clearing up and park, including the elephant poo!
On Thursday we cleaned out the elephant shelters and gave them fresh water in their drinking bowls. We spent the afternoon tubing down the river.
Oh Friday morning, my group unloaded a whole truck full of watermelons! Afterwards we got to feed the elephants the watermelons.
In the afternoon we visited a local temple. ENP had prepared gifts for the older people at the temple as part of the Thai New Year celebrations, and us volunteers were able to give them these gifts. It was a nice experience.
Read Jan Peng’s story here.
I spent Saturday morning walking around the park with a mahout. He told us lots of information about the elephants, and answered all of our questions. It was interesting to learn so much about them; I didn’t realise how clever elephants are. We watched them play freely and it is clear that these elephants are happy since they’ve been rescued by ENP.
We had plenty of opportunities to feed the elephants, bath them and take photos with them.
In my free time, I would quite often go across to the dog shelter to walk some of the rescued dogs at the park.
Sunday was my final day at ENP. I had one last walk around the sanctuary in the morning before saying my goodbyes to everyone and then headed back to Chiang Mai by minibus.
I would just like to say a massive thank you to Elephant Nature Park! The work they do here is amazing, and I had such a rewarding week. I felt proud that I made a difference to those elephants lives by contributing my time and money to help them have a better future.
If you are interested in volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, click here.
Next up: Chiang Mai