Baanchang Elephant Park

While in Chiang Mai I knew I wanted to do some sort of elephant activity. Unfortunately I ended up having to leave Chiang Mai earlier than I had planned which left me frantically researching and calling different elephant parks to organize a visit.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’m fully aware that interacting with elephants and visiting elephant parks is a controversial activity. A lot of research was done before deciding on Baanchang. I was careful not to choose a park that required the elephants to do “tricks” like painting or playing games and read through lots of reviews online. The main fault of Baanchang is that the elephants are not allowed to roam freely at all times and are chained during some parts of the day (particularly when the visitors feed them).

Elephants are giant and curious creatures and while every facility would love to have the resources to let these animals roam freely at all times, it’s just not realistic. The elephants seemed to have great relationships with their mahouts (elephant keepers) and it was really sweet seeing how naturally the mahouts and elephants interacted.

It would be amazing if these elephants were in the jungles, free from any harm or exploitation, but unfortunately in Asia many elephants are abused and used to work in the jungles. I’d much rather the elephants live in a park like Baanchang where they can be properly fed and cared for by the mahouts.

That being said, I had an amazing day at Baanchang. I thought it was well worth the price and it was probably my favorite part of my trip to Chiang Mai.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Snack Time

It’s no surprise that an animal of such size eats a ton. Elephants eat hundreds of pounds of food a day and so the mahouts at Baanchang are almost constantly feeding them.

When we arrived at the park our first activity of the day was getting changed into some sweet mahout outfits and then picking up baskets of bananas and sugarcane for feeding time.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Question: How come the real mahouts weren’t wearing this denim on denim get up?

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

just a fraction of what the elephants eat in a day

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, ThailandApproaching the elephants for the first time was admittedly intimidating. I didn’t realize how huge they would really be up close. There was one point where I brought a basket of food up to one elephant without realizing I was within reach of about three others.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

during the elephant ambush

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Next thing you know, elephant trunks are reaching at me left and right, grabbing the food right out of my basket and out of my hands and still hounding me for more.

I was squealing and distributing the bananas and sugar cane as quickly as I could while the mahouts watched and laughed at my joy/minor panic.

Elephant Riding

After feeding the elephants it was time to learn the basics of elephant riding. We learned how to safely get on and off the elephant as well as how to give the elephants instructions to lie down (so you could get on/off), turn right, turn left, go straight, and stop.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Riding 101

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

 

To be honest, I don’t really know that the elephant was listening to any directions I was giving during the initial riding lesson or once we hit the jungle trail. I think he was mostly following his trusted mahout who was walking in front of us.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

But once we were taught the basics, it was time to trek through the jungle of the elephant park. We rode on the elephants for about an hour and let me tell ya, as cute and exciting as it was, elephants are not the most comfortable ride. If you didn’t have flexible hip flexors, straddling the giant elephant was tough.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Plus you don’t really have much to hold on to and you’re quite high off the ground so you don’t feel terribly stable up there either.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

But it was wonderful. My elephant was a baby (elephants aren’t full grown until their teens) so it was a bit smaller than the other elephants and just the perfect size for me. It was adorable. I wanted to take it home. We were in love.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bath Time

By the time our jungle trek was finished the sun was high, it was hot and we were all a bit dusty. The logical thing to do next was to cool down our elephants with a nice bath.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was looking good post elephant ride

Y’all. Bath time was fun. My elephant was rather calmly seated in the water and I hopped in to scrub him down, splash him with water and give cuddles. I was really sad when it was time to say goodbye after bath time.

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nobody’s elephant cuddled with them like mine did. It was precious! Plus my mahout was awesome and took some GoPro footage for me while I was bathing the elephant (video coming soon).

Baanchang Elephant Park - a day with the elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you’re in Chiang Mai, I’d definitely recommend Baanchang Elephant Park. The price is reasonable, they pick you up from and drop you off at your guest house or hotel, cook up an awesome lunch, and have showers for you to get cleaned off after all the activities.

  • danniellek

    omg, elephant cuddles sound like the best thing ever. I do agree with you, with as many elephants that are mistreated, I think getting fed and cuddles is a more favourable way to live.

    • The elephants were HUGE but so gentle. Loved the cuddles and I was really happy with the interactions I saw between the mahouts and the elephants.

  • They’re so cute! I’m glad you picked the most ethical elephant park. I’m sure that makes it the safest as well!

    • I never felt in danger even though the elephants were so big! They were really calm and gentle

  • My goodness! This was the cutest thing ever. The only impressions I have of elephants are that they are really big and stink, but I only ever see them in zoos. It’s almost refreshing to see this! I want to visit an elephant park now!

    • Even though we were at an elephant park with loads of elephants I wasn’t bothered by any smell like you are when you approach any elephant exhibit at the zoo! They seemed to really take care of the elephants here

  • I would cry from happiness if i got to experience such a beautiful encounter with elephants. it looks like you really got to interact with them and get a beautiful day out of it. you are truly blessed. thanks for sharing!

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed this post! It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.

  • How lovely! It was also reassuring to read that the elephants get to do normal elephant things, rather than painting or doing tricks. It seemed to be a good mix of tourist interest, but also getting to look after them. It would have been perfect if they were not chained at certain parts of the day, but I understand, that for the safety of the visitors, they have to be.
    Great post!

    • I have friends who visited other parks where the elephants are forced to do tricks or are led on rides with painful ice sticks that poke them to get them to turn and follow directions. Very sad and I’m glad that I didn’t have to experience that

  • Pingback: Chiang Mai Tiger Kingdom : New Kid on the Loch()

  • Hi, Pristine,

    I’d love to talk to you more about your elephant experience — especially given the project on which I’m working in NW Thailand.