Volunteering at ENP is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Yes it was hard work, yes it was tiring but here’s why it was worth it:
- Not only do you get to be near elephants but you get to see them as they should be: playful, family-oriented animals enjoying life.
- I’ve (ashamedly) been on an elephant ride, but I can honestly say that this is a much better way to be near Elephants. You feel closer to them because you can touch them, look them in the eye, feed them, wash them… and clean up their poo. On a ride you can’t even see the animal you pay to be near as you’re sat on it… and more often than not it won’t be happy about it.
- You get to spend tons of time outside in the sunshine, talking and laughing with your fellow volunteers. Just think of the added vitamin D.
- You learn so much about elephants, not just what they like to do and what they like to eat and who they like to hang out with, but also about our history with the animals and why it’s time the Pajan (using hooks and weapons to break the Elephant’s spirit) became illegal and positive reinforcement became the norm.
- You will meet some amazing people, both the other volunteers and the staff at ENP.
- You will discover so many different ways to prepare and cook tofu… seriously who’d have thought it could mimic Peking duck?!
- Despite the physical labour, you’ll feel relaxed and happy. They say that a bit of exercise is good for the soul, but I think what they really mean is shovelling elephant poo is great for your physical and mental wellbeing.
- You’ll actually be at one with Thailand. You’ll understand the culture, the history and their political situation. You’ll learn about their social and cultural problems and about Lek’s problems with local authorities and communities who want to stop the park. You’ll learn about how she’s trying to convince them that tourists don’t want to ride a sad elephant on a dirt track and her bid to change the way Elephants are trained and used in Thailand.
- You’ll see some elephants.
- You’ll see even more elephants.
Ok so the last two and the first few are much the same, but it really is a spectacular experience. And you don’t have to volunteer to get close to the elephants. Even on a day trip you will have more contact with the elephants and see more of them than you would on a trek. Like the volunteers, you get to feed the elephants, bathe them and get up close and personal on a walk of the park to see all the different elephants.
If you go, say Sawadee Mr/Mrs/Baby Chang to the elephants from me… but don’t tell me about it. I’m not sure I can take the jealousy.