I love elephants. I love the sheer magnificence of these creatures, their intelligence and the way they look deeply and soulfully into your eyes. So, when the opportunity arose to hang out with the elephants at the BMP Elephant Care Project near Chiang Mai in Thailand, I jumped at the chance. 

The very first time getting up close and personal with these gentle giants can be a little daunting because you’re not really sure if it’s as safe as they tell you… but when you’re laden with bananas and sweet bamboo shoots, trust me, the elephants here approach you with happy, smiling faces!

Wearing ‘mahout’ clothes so we smelt more familiar to the elephants also helped. You have to let these creatures get used to you before walking with them, so a happy half an hour was spent getting acquainted. It was a novel experience even if a few of our group did appear a little apprehensive at first.

            Any feelings of caution were short-lived though, and everyone soon found themselves shrieking with laughter and cuddling up to the elephants. What happy little fellas these animals were!

As for the babies, they were just too cute for words!

The love between the elephants and their ‘mahouts’ (the elephant’s carers) was touching to witness. It was also wonderful to note the elephants are chain-free by day. At night though, for everyone’s safety they have to be chained up because if they were left to roam the sanctuary freely, the damage they’d cause would be considerable.

The mahouts live alongside the elephants and the relationship between them is quite extraordinary – there’s a common language between them for sure! Check out the line of the stick and the tail;

Once we were all familiarised it was time to walk with the elephants through the stunning, lush green terrain. The dark, murky skies added to the drama of the moment.  

The elephants decided the pace of the walk and we followed. When they wanted to veer off the path and wade through the river to feast on the succulent leaves, nobody stopped them.

We sat on the river banks and marvelled at the scene before us. No rush. It was totally mesmerising and we were captivated and completely lost in the moment. Nobody spoke. We were at one with nature and we loved it. 

Next stop was the watering hole – not that the elephants were very keen about getting in. Apparently, the water was a bit too cold for comfort for them!

Walking through the forest was a much better option. Here they roamed and munched away to their hearts delight – and blatantly enjoyed it!   

While the elephants were filling their stomachs the mahouts sat down and puffed contentedly on their cigarettes. They also lit a small fire in a tree stump to keep the mosquitoes at bay. These guys are really laid-back and relaxed and I found myself sort of envying their uncomplicated way of life.

They kept a watchful eye out for the elephants and if any of the elephants misbehaved, the mahouts were there speaking their private language again… amazing!

It was an awesome yet humbling experience hanging out with these elephants. So exhilarating!  

All too quickly it was time to leave the forest and to learn about Thai herbal medicine. Our guide had us mixing up and pounding the herbs and ingredients to make the medicinal food-balls for the elephants to eat.

The fun part was feeding these organic delicacies to the animals. They knew what was coming and couldn’t wait to eat them. Can’t you just feel the love?

                                                       Sadly it was time to say our farewells and we watched as the elephants and their mahouts trundled out of sight over the hills. This was a truly magical day where memories                                                                                                                                                                                                   to last a lifetime were made. I think we all left with our hearts bursting from happiness – I know I did. It was wonderful seeing the elephants being treated with so with love and care. Thank you BMP Elephant Care Project!

BMP Elephant Care Project is situated in Northern Thailand near Chiang Mai and offer 1/2 day, 1 & 2 day tours. Accommodation is also available. For more details check out their website: http://www.bmpresidence.com/elephant-care 

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