Chiang Mai, Thailand
‘Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing’ – John Donne.
During my time here, I was fortunate to visit The Chai Lai Orchid – an elephant sanctuary. There are many of these throughout Thailand causing it to be one of the largest tourism industries in the country. Unfortunately these popular attractions frequently jepodise the elephant’s welfare at the expense of the tourist’s requirements. Thus this industry is also one of the most corrupt. There is widespread unethical treatment of elephants through long working days, bull hooks and heavy metal chairs holding up to three people.
The Chai Lai Orchid, on the other hand, has an alternative view. The owner, through raising enough money, is able to rent these elephants each day where they are ridden bareback, played with in the water and cared for. Visitors are individually introduced to each elephan and feed them sugar cane before being hoisted into their larger backs and enjoying an amazing ride through the forest. Chai Lai Orchid is one of the only elephant camps in the Chiang Mai region that have adopted this humane method. In addition, the owner is also empowering local Burmese refugee women who have been trafficked in the past – every day these girls at Chai Lai Orchid are taught English, healthcare and are educated by volunteers teachers and doctors.
This sanctuary is absolutely incredibly and not only because of their ethical treatment of their animals. To add to your elephant experience are lush wooden cabins overlooking the river, stunning treks and scenery, gushing waterfalls and romantic bamboo rafting downstream. (Venice, eat your heart out). All whilst these beautiful creatures roam nearby, eager to eat and play. It’s a trip not to be missed and a breathtaking experience.
The sanctuary is currently trying to raise money to buy one of the elephants – baby DeeDee – so she never has to feel the weight of the chair or prod of a bull hook. For more information regarding the Chai Lai Orchid and their fund raising, please follow the link: http://chailaiorchid.com/