The Elephant Nature Park, Part Two

Words and photography by Pete Heck

There are few spots in the world that we have returned to, always preferring the excitement of a new experience over trying to rekindle the old.

But there is one place that we visited in the past year that we could both return to again and again and again. A place that epitomizes the word “special” like none other, not just for us fortunate human visitors, but for the vulnerable inhabitants it nurtures.

Spending just one day at the Elephant Nature Parkis simple and pure therapy for the soul. It is a heavenly sanctuary not only for elephants, but all sorts of animals included rescued dogs and cats, and even some pretty damn cute piglets.

ENP-rescue-puppy
ENP-rescue-kitty
ENP-rescue-dog

ENP-rescue-cat

The park sits in a natural valley and a river rolls gently through it. Acre upon acre of natural wide open vegetation allows the giants and smaller creatures to wander where they please.

Cooling Off

I had the opportunity to visit the park on two occasions. The first time I played tourist with Dalene where we just soaked in every second we could with each animal, learned how they arrived at the park, fed them bananas, watermelons and more, and even bathed them at the end of the day.

bathing-elephants
bathing-elephants-Thailand
Pete-and-Lek
Elephant-bokeh
Feeding-Elephants
Asian-Elephant

The second time I was invited by our friend Diana to just hang out and have the chance to meet Lek Chailert, the extraordinary visionary behind the park. I met all of the puppies and kitties, hung out with some of the volunteers learning more about each elephant, but mostly just sat and watched the elephants spend their day doing what they do. I was the visitor. I was in their home.

And I happily took my therapy, all the while learning a little more about the history of each elephant.

There was Jan Peng who was a beautiful old elephant rescued from a logging operation. She now wears a flower earring in her ear to fill a hole caused by abuse.

I met Navaan, the beautiful little baby who was curious about everything and loved to play.

Baby-Asian-Elephant
Baby-Elephant
Fuzzy-baby-elephant

There was Hope, nicknamed ‘Lady Boy’ because of his inability to grow tusks as a male.

But there was one elephant who captured my heart: Lucky. She was purchased from the circus where she worked for nearly 30 years and was blinded by the spotlights she worked under. Through generous donations Lek found a way to bring Lucky into the park and now Lucky has a much better life.

Elephant-in-Nature

I have a tough time writing about how special the park was for me. So instead, I am just happy to show you.

Eye See You
Post Bath

Ele and the Mahout
Elephant Butts
Dalene-with-elephant

Eye

How to do it

Huge thanks to the Elephant Nature Park for hosting both of us as guests to the park. If you are interested in volunteering at the park, or just visiting please visit their website for all the details. There are a multitude of things you can do to help support the park from sponsoring an elephant or dog, to becoming an elephant ambassador.
40 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • January 30 2014

    Oh, I am still so sad I just missed you! Your photos of course are just out of this world. And I love the photo of the dog sleeping on the bench — I remember him because he reminds me of my dog!

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      So close we were to crossing paths, another time. I loved that puppy just snoozin’ the day away. Thanks Abby!

  • January 30 2014

    I am kicking myself I never went to ENP while I was in Chiang Mai. I even did a white water rafting trip and it passed right by there! Those photos are stunning as usual.
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..This is Not a Hotel Review: @Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Raymond, I’m certain you’ll get there when you’re back in CM. Every travel blogger goes back to CM right?

  • January 30 2014

    You know what’s crazy? We have a 40,000-acre elephant sanctuary right near where we live in Tennessee. They house about 30 elephants from Africa, Asia, etc. and also many that are retired circus animals. Apparently, the mild climate here in the TN hills (well, this winter aside) is very comparable to their natural habitats in Asia and Africa. Sadly, though, you can’t just visit it like you can some of the ones overseas.

    Great photos!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Traveling with Office 365 (+ a Chance to Win!)

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      My aunt mentioned this to me as well, she visited a few years ago. I’d love to come down and see that one too. Wonderful that these places exist πŸ™‚

  • January 30 2014

    I love how you start this post with a photo of puppies and kittens. As if elephants aren’t cute enough!

    But really: your photos are stunning. Reminds me of my day there as well. Thanks for sharing
    Travels of Adam recently posted..What I’ve Learned During Two Weeks Studying Spanish in Seville

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      πŸ™‚ With all the puppies and kittens and elephants I’m surprised anyone actually leaves. Thanks Adam.

  • January 30 2014

    I really enjoyed your photos. I would LOVE to get to an elephant park one day to volunteer.

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      I hope I have the chance as well to volunteer here, such an incredible place.

  • January 31 2014

    Oh, goodness. Those photos are probably some of the most stunning I have seen which capture the park and the animals. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping to raise awareness about not only the park, but Lek and the foundation.

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Of course Diana. We will obviously keep spreading the word raising awareness. Thank you again!

  • Renuka
    January 30 2014

    Incredible photos of Elephants. I’d love to visit the nature park and spend some time with my favorite animal. I recently got to know that it’s not good to ride on an elephant as their backs are not designed that way. I support the cause to preserve Elephants in whatever way possible.

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Renuka. And all we can do is educate others that the riding of these beautiful animals is oh so wrong.

  • January 31 2014

    This is just such a peaceful way to spend time with these creatures. To be amongst them must be a very special feeling! Beautiful post with superb captures.
    Arti recently posted..A Travel Blogger’s Guide To Melbourne’s Tram Car And Myki Card in Australia

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Arti, it certainly ranks as one of my top travel moments.

  • Tina Davis
    January 31 2014

    I too fell in love with Lucky and was able to visit her & the rest if the herd at ENP in November 2013. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs!

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      It’s pretty hard not to fall in love with Lucky, she’s pretty special. And you’re right, they all are.

  • January 31 2014

    Your photos bring tears to our eyes with their beauty. Absolutely gorgeous! Elephant Nature Park holds a very special place in our hearts, and this post is a wonderful tribute.

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks guys, happy to hear of others tales as well πŸ™‚

  • January 31 2014

    1) Your photos are stunning!
    2) I must go here
    Laura recently posted..How to Choose a Bed and Breakfast in Ireland

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      πŸ™‚ thanks Laura. I hope you have the same experience if/when you make it there.

  • Be still, my heart. These photos are incredible, I feel like I was there!

    Happy travels πŸ™‚
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted..Photo of the Week: Colorful Santa Monica, CA

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Very kind Lauren, thank you.

  • Angi Lewis
    January 31 2014

    Really awesome photo’s, thank you for. Posting them…..

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Angi!

  • Brenda Beveridge
    January 31 2014

    oh! my this took me back to when my daughter and i visited this magical place! so beautiful, serene, with amazing caring people and elephants who are in heaven these pictures truly capture the essence of E N P and the heart of Lek this amazing, inspiring woman i loved this!

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Lek is truly incredible. And thank you for sharing your thoughts on this magical place.

  • Diana Williams
    February 1 2014

    Thx for shaing fab photos. Such a soulful place. @2muchmedia

  • February 1 2014

    I absolutely loved my day at the park and would go back again and again. It sped by and I was disappointed when it ended πŸ™‚
    Your pictures are amazing!

  • February 2 2014

    We were there in November for a week with the family. It was amazing for all of us! We have been traveling for 5 months already and if you ask any of us what our favorite experience has been, ENP is in the top 5 for all of us. It was incredible.

    Your post is amazing and your pictures have totally summed up the experience. Lovely!

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      So lovely to hear. I think it tops a lot of people’s lists πŸ™‚

  • February 2 2014

    We have yet to even step foot in Southeast Asia. I know Shaun is all about the possibility of the ENP. Great photos guys!

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Erica. You guys would love it there, I’m certain of it.

  • Amanda
    February 3 2014

    Can’t wait to go and stay at ENP …. your blog just confirmed how special we thought it was going to be ……so excited. Thanks for sharing

    • Pete
      February 4 2014

      Look forward to hearing about your experience there, please report back πŸ™‚

  • February 11 2014

    I can see why this park is so special to you. The photos are so powerful. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for sharing.

  • February 14 2014

    As always guys, you’re photos are stunning. Elephants are such beautiful and special creatures with so much soul and intelligence.

  • July 24 2014

    These are some beautiful pictures. When I set off on my trip I’m going to avoid riding elephants, instead I’m going to look into visiting somewhere like this.

Join the conversation…

CommentLuv badge

css.php