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“Great day!”

Reviewed 6 April 2018 via mobile

I’ve always wanted to spend a day with the elephants and I knew I wanted to do it while in Chiang Mai, me and my boyfriend found it at a reasonable price and booked in advance. We were picked up from the hotel at around 8:30am and it was around an hours drive to the sanctuary after picking other people up. Our guide (nickname as Lee) was lovely, she was very bubbly on the journey there. Once we arrived we were given shorts and a top to wear for the day so we didn’t spoil our own clothes, you are then given around half an hour to walk around and feed the elephants and have your pictures taken. After this our group made the elephants medicine and fed it to them, then we had dinner. After dinner we all picked an elephant per couple and went on a 2 hour long hike with our elephants, feeding them as we went along. Eventually we got to what we thought was going to be a mud bath however it was just some mud on the path and we got to rub it on the elephants, it’s then a 10 minute walk to the river and once you get there you can go in the water with the elephants and wash them and take more photos, after this you can chose a small or long zip line and zip line over the river to where you can get showered before getting taken back to your hotel. The day was great and we enjoyed it from start to finish, we also made some great friends! The only thing is our guide wanted to add our group on Facebook so she could send pictures she’d taken, however that night she then blocked us all and added us back a couple of days later, not sure if she wanted a tip at first but we never even thought until after so it was too late to tip anyway, just a bit strange but might be thinking too much into it! Overall we had an amazing time!

Thank Molly E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 14 March 2018

5 of us were picked up at our hotel at 8-830 am and driven to the Sanctuary for our private group experience. During the ride, our guide Lee explained what to expect during our time, along with some tips about feeding etc. When we arrived, there were 2-3 elephants walking down the road ahead of us towards where we were going. They were not tied up, just walking along following the care givers with word commands. As we parked, we saw several elephants tethered around one foot and swaying back and forth. This surprised and bothered me so I asked Lee why. She explained that there are no fences here to contain the elephants and being foragers, they would wonder off in search of food if not confined. There are many nearby farms that the elephants could destroy if they wandered onto them, or worse, be hurt by farmers protecting their property. The sway can be a sign of distress, but it can also be a sign of their anticipation of having people like us there spoiling them with food and interaction. There were also several elephants in pens, others were in the "elephant bathtub". We changed into the clothing provided and headed with Lee to load up a shoulder bag with food for the elephants - bananas & sugar cane. She told us the name of each elephant as we approached them, gave us a bit of history about them as well, showed us the best way to feed them, the commands used for them to open their mouths, etc. One of them had had a broken back leg that had not healed properly and was turned sort of the wrong way. Apparently when she was in the work camps, she had been forced to continue working on it, so it became infected and didn't heal properly. Once rescued, she underwent intensive therapy and antibiotics to get it healed and she can walk on it now. Most of these elephants had been rescued from Myanmar logging camps, or worse.

We spent as much time with each elephant as we wanted to, feeding and taking pictures. We were introduced to 2 pregnant beautiful females, and a 2 year old calf - Jackie Chan. He was so funny and acted just like a precocious toddler!! Several times different elephants, along with Jackie Chan were escorted to the elephant bathtub to get cooled off and scrubbed.

We then washed up and went for lunch - fresh fruit, and delicious pad thai, drinks, etc.
After lunch, we were taught how to make "elephant vitamins" which we mixed up in a very large mortar and pedestal. We ground up rock salt, turmeric, cane sugar, bananas etc while Lee explained to us why the elephants were given each ingredient. We even tasted it ourselves!! We then wrapped up a scoopful into bamboo leaves until the entire mixture was used. We then headed out to each elephant, giving the adults 6 packets each. It was during this time that we noticed one elephant off by itself and questioned Lee as to why. She told us it was new to the sanctuary and not comfortable being with the others just yet. As my son stood beside her giving her the packets in her mouth, she leaned her head against his cheek/forehead, wrapped her trunk around his body and just stayed that way. He stroked her, and talked to her - it was such a tender moment! When she moved her head, we noticed she had tears running down her cheeks. We asked Lee why she'd be crying and was told she was showing her gratitude and happiness at my son. Choked us all up!

Once all the vitamins were given out, it was time to start the 6km walk. We were all given one elephant to walk with and we headed out. Raysa (sp?) was mine, and she started off at a pretty quick pace leading everyone else. We stopped at the water hole where she got a huge drink of water, and then off we went, way ahead of everyone else. The pathway was leading to the jungle and was so peacefully,except for the sound of elephant footsteps. She would stop and grab branches and leaves along the way, and I had to reminded to keep walking with word commands. She also tried at one point to wander into the forest so the carer had to speak sternly and tug her ears to get her back to the pathway. I was alone with her for quite a bit of the walk, trusting her to lead the way at the forks in the road. I had no issues whatsoever, except to be gently nudged from behind if I wasn't walking fast enough to suit her! It was very cute.

Sadly I only made it a little over 2 kms of the trek before my feet and back gave out, along with my sister and daughter-in-law. Lee told us she would send someone to pick us up. She continued on with our elephants, the other guides, my son and my brother-in-law. We were very disappointed that we wouldn't make it to the mud bath or the river to bathe them, but knew it was the right decision to stop.
When we were picked up, we were driven to where the boys would finish up oly we were on the opposite side of the river so we were able to watch the elephants bathing in the river and really enjoying it, just as much as my son and brother-in-law were. One elephant did not want to lay down in the river to get the mud off and really had to be coaxed to lay down. BUT, once in the water didn't want to get out!! When the bathing was complete, the carers herded up the elephants to walk them to where they spend the night in the jungle, free and doing what elephants do at night - eating and sleeping - and the carers stay with them during the night. In the morning they are walked back to the camp where we first say them.

My son and brother-in-law and Lee took a zip line across the river to where we were. and where they could shower and clean up. We were all cold drinks and more wonderful fresh fruit before we headed back to our hotel.

This was an experience I'll never forget, and was made all the more special by our wonderful guide Lee!! I will definitely go back here should I get back to Chiang Mai again. I highly recommend the Chiang Mai Mountain Sanctuary and having Lee as a guide.

Thank Cathy S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2018 via mobile

We were in Changmai Mountain Sanctuary for trekking with elephants in the mountains. The whole trip was organised very good and we weren’t bored for any moment but I have many doubts. First of all - that’s not the sanctuary. That’s just a touristic attraction. Elephants there weren’t saved from bad previous owners but they probably were born in captivity. Moreover, they aren’t treated well by their keepers - they are afraid of stics and were forced to walk all the time. And I guess they were given too little food and water for the whole-day trip (since 10 am. till 4 pm. - we were said that adult elephant should eat about 10% of its mass per day and drink 200 liters of water and they didn’t get even 1/4 of that). On the other hand - they probably aren’t able to survive at large and maintaing them cost a lot of money that can be given by tourists... Neverthless, think twice before booking the trip there.

2  Thank alagil
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 March 2018 via mobile

Opted for the full day experience. Researched all of the elephant sanctuaries near Chiang Mai and picked this one.

Picked up in the morning in a relatively new van which was good, 45 minute drive to the Sanctuary.

Upon arrival, we did see all the elephants tied to about 2 meters of rope each, our hearts sunk at this. However they are still treated very very well. Fed a good diet and they are all definitely loved by the owner. You do understand the need for the rope to save time collecting them ready for the visit.

Wondering amongst the elephants with food was amazing, you really get a feel for being around them. You learn commands and how to make a type of food which is like a medicine to them.

The walk is long, bring plenty of water and make sure you stuff loads of sugar cane into your bags for the elephants. They do get very hot and use the cane for cooling themselves.

Overall, good visit. Walked away happy. Definitely once in a lifetime for us.

Thank Lewis H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 15 February 2018 via mobile

This elephant sanctuary is fairly new as I understood. We opted for a full day programme which included a hike through the jungle with the elephants (obviously all of us were hiking, not riding), giving them a mud bath halfway at the end of the trail a proper bath in the river. In between Thai lunch was served. I had done a day like this becore, but with another company, closer to Bangkok. Comparing the two experiences, this one is rather inexperienced and less informative. The information given was poor, no history on any of the animals, no attemps to place them back into a herd or natural environment or anything like that. We did make them a porridge wrapped in banana leaves and we were given plenty of bananas and bamboo shoots to feed them and get acquainted with them, but the main goal of this operation is to get enough money to keep them going and not to set the elephants free as much as is possible. I did enjoy the day, the animals were treated well and seemed to be relaxed and happy. But they are tied down until they can go for that walk.... and there seem to be no real background information available per animal, which is a huge contrast to what I experienced before. Or perhaps there is information but it wasn't shared. The caretakers each have their own elephant with which they came to the organisation and they stay with them. I couldn't find out if these animals were used in the tourist industry or for labour, the tour guide didn't seem to know or didn't want to share. It is always great to spend time with these gentle giants and I would certainly recommend it. If I hadn't had the previous superb experience with Wildlife Friends of Thailand near Bangkok.

Thank Marieke K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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