The Elephant Nature Park, Part Two

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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 β€œspecial” 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.


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.


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.


There was Hope, nicknamed β€˜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.


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

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.

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  1. 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!

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

  2. 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!

    1. 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™‚

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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.

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