Now, before you jump to any conclusions on elephant treatment in Thailand, as I did before I committed to the idea of riding an elephant, Patara’s belief of, “extinction is forever,” has propelled their conservationist philosophy and their pursuit of teaching tourists the proper and respectful way to interact with an elephant. Patara’s elephants have it made. Adoring tourists coming to their home, to feed, brush, wash and love them on a daily basis shows just how wonderful Patara’s elephants are treated.
So what does it mean to be an “elephant owner for a day?” Well, basically it means, you pay $175/person, to do Patara’s job for the day. Good business model? I think yes.
Step 1: Gain the trust of your elephant aka bribery – In order for your elephant to trust you and build a connection, you first spend time
feeding bribing them with sugarcane and bananas. “Bon” is the command for your elephant to open their mouth.
Step 2: Brush their backs -Throughout the day, elephants throw dirt on their backs to protect themselves from sun exposure and bugs, so before you can ride them, you must brush off the dirt from their backs to avoid friction and causing irritation while they carry you.
Step 3: Wash them – After feeding, brushing and giving your elephant water (and checking their sleeping patterns and the health of their dung – yes I purposely chose not to share those photos!), next you and your elephant jump in the water to wash them off!
Step 4: Your elephant’s turn to return the favor!
Step 5: Getting up – There are multiple ways to get onto an elephant, and the method all depends on where the elephant was raised. Pang, the elephant I worked with, preferred the leg method!
Riding through the forest on our elephants was an amazing experience. Getting to travel to Thailand with the love of my life, and my parents AND getting to ride elephants with them is something I will never forget. I will also never forget watching my Dad and Ryan struggled with their elephants babies as they were paired with new elephant mamas. Those babies were so mischievous, sneaking bananas, and so clumsy running around! It was just hysterical watching the baby elephants get into trouble, and their moms saving the day – and Ryan and my Dad, struggling to manage through it!
I cannot more highly recommend Patara Elephant Farm when visiting Chiang Mai. I would advise booking as soon as you know you are going to Chiang Mai, as Patara Elephant Farm books up fast!
We are currently in Vietnam, follow along on Instagram!