Elephant Nature Park, Thailand. How I celebrated my 30th birthday

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand. How I celebrated my 30th birthday

Elephant tourism in Thailand is enormously popular, but it has a dark side. Many times elephants are treated cruelly by their handlers, shortening their lifespans and damaging their physical and mental health.  This is why when I visited Thailand for my 30th birthday, I chose to visit Elephant Nature Park  – a sanctuary for abused elephants.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park

The truth about Thailand’s Elephants

I used to believe, like many other tourists: we ride horses, why not elephants? The fact is, the training of these gentle animals relies heavily on abuse. In some cases, a young elephant is separated from his/her mother and put under physical and mental stress. Hooks, chains and ropes are used to hurt and intimidate the helpless creature. Some animals will  try to commit suicide during the process.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0008Before meeting the elephants at Elephant Nature Park, I was shown a film showcasing elephant cruelty in Thailand. It was difficult to watch, but important to understand. Some tourists had to look away from the film. We were all affected.

In Thailand, elephants are used for labor and entertainment. Logging elephants are injured on the job. Trekking elephants are overloaded and forced to march for miles a day. Circus and street begging elephants lose their eyesight at a young age and can become crazed.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0002

This elephant worked for the circus and was blinded by the stage lights

Elephant Nature Park purchases injured elephants and brings them to the sanctuary. Many of the elephants at ENP worked for decades, but now they enjoy an all-you-can-eat fruit buffet, daily baths and plenty of room to roam!

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0001 (1)

A half day visit to Elephant Nature Park costs 2,500 baht  ($73 USD).

On the tour, I spent five hours walking and playing with the elephants. I fed them fruit and felt their long sloppy trunks wrap around me. After a traditional Thai lunch, I bathed an elephant in the river. Seriously, who am I? Bathing elephants on my birthday?! I was happier than Kristin Bell with a sloth.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0012

The Story of Kabu at Elephant Nature Park

The elephant I bathed is named Kabu. She is 30 years old, and I felt an immediate connection with her because of our age. Basically, she’s my BFF. Don’t make fun of her weight or her limp, or I’ll f*ck you up! Ahem… where was I?

Before being rescued, Kabu worked as a logger until she broke her ankle on the job. A trekking company then purchased her, and she carried tourists on her back, even with a broken ankle.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0010Ironically, having a broken ankle saved Kabu’s life. She was rescued and will never work again. Even after years of abuse, Kabu does not hate humans. She is a loving, gentle creature with bright brown eyes. I will visit her again one day, when we are both old ladies.

I strongly suggest visiting an elephant sanctuary in Thailand!

Please don’t ride the elephants in Thailand. I was able to connect with the animals, far more than I ever thought possible, while standing firmly on the ground. You will fall in love with these intelligent creatures.

Thailand Elephant Nature Park - 0009Kabu thanks you for not riding the elephants.


  1. August 22, 2016 / 8:21 am

    Beautiful story … Thanks so much for sharing this! One of the most majestic animals on earth. So glad to hear of this sanctuary.

  2. Deidre
    August 22, 2016 / 1:07 pm

    I LOVE that you did not ride them!! I also visited ENP while we were in Thailand!!! My husband said he had never seen me so happy!! ? I love those beautiful creatures!! Thank you for explaining to the public about the cruelty that exists for them!

  3. Kathy Grey
    August 22, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    What a great way to celebrate! Sounds awesome!

  4. Lucinda Gendreau
    August 22, 2016 / 9:59 pm

    Just finished reading your journal page from ” Mt. Hood Tiny House Village!” Wow have been following your journey, small world. First night in “Atticus” testing out tiny living,so far drafting modifications that would make the model into my dream home. Safe travels, be well. Future Tiny home owner.

  5. Trina Chong
    August 23, 2016 / 8:58 am

    great post!

  6. August 23, 2016 / 10:43 am

    That is a beautiful story…thank you for sharing it!! I shared it on Facebook, so others will read your important message.

  7. intan trenda
    September 11, 2016 / 5:05 am

    please come visit indonesia, you guys have to see Raja Ampat Island and orangutan at Borneo :))

  8. mamaseldompicksincorrectly
    October 6, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    THANK you!!!

  9. Valerie
    March 26, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing! This place is amazing and I’m so thankful they’ve set up a sanctuary to protect the elephants.

  10. Ana Perez
    August 1, 2017 / 3:42 pm

    I’m going to Thailand in November en will definitely be visiting ENP! Do you have any tips on where to stay in Chiang Mai? Thanks!!

    • August 2, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Book ahead! I just showed up and ended up staying in a guest house, which was fine, but nothing special. If you can’t sleep in extreme heat, book a hostel with air conditioning.

  11. August 3, 2018 / 10:59 pm

    Good to see you with the herd..

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