Once in a lifetime you get the chance to experience something one could only imagine. Yesterday I was granted the opportunity have that rare moment. With the help of my friends at Audley Travel, I experienced a life-long goal of my to ride an elephant. Although this may sound silly since there are chances to do this back in the States, I wanted to do it in the animal’s natural environment and so I could feel like an “Elephant Princess”.
Patara Elephant Farm allows visitors to experience this magical moment in a way that others do not. Upon arrival, guests are immediately greeted by one of the handlers. Unlike many tourist attractions around, the farm will not allow more than twenty guests to be at the farm at one time. There is an orientation discussing what Patara does, ranging from rescuing, conservation, research and health. Afterwards the group is split into half and paired with an elephant for the rest of the experience and the elephant’s owner. My elephant’s name was Bang. During this time all visitors have alone time with their elephant and the owner as it is important to gain the animals trust.
This is where the fun starts. The owner teaches the commands and how to feed the animal. The idea of putting my hand in the mouth of an elephants whose mouth is bigger than my head is a bit terrifying and exciting at the same time. We are then taught about the health of the elephant. I was the lucky one to demonstrate how to inspect the elephant’s health. With the assistance of the owner, I was asked to count the number of droppings Bang had in one of the piles and to pick one of them up. At first I thought it was a joke, but ironically it was not. So I did as I was asked, I picked up Bang’s poop and inspected it. While the owner spoke everyone observed to see that the coloring was right, the smell was not too strong and when broken apart that the dropping was to fall apart easily. Concluding the inspection I was to clutch Bang’s poop and see if any liquid would fall, this act shows that the vital nutrients and water intake is stable. This was an exceptional moment.
After concluding the health discussion, we were to follow the elephants into the local lagoon, where we would get in the water with them and bathe them. This part of the tour really separates Patra from the rest. It’s not everyday you can say, “I bathed an elephant. “
To conclude the tour, everyone hops on the backs of their elephants to return to the base camp. Riding something so large is very surreal. You realize that you will never look at a wild animal the same and you come back appreciating the size of these beasts and the power they hold. I would recommend anyone visiting Chiang Mai to reserve his or her spot at Patra Elephant Farm.