You might think that after being on safari in Africa and with our extraordinary experience of witnessing over 100 elephants make their way down to the watering hole, that we have seen enough elephants – at least for now. Well, in our opinion, you can never have enough encounters with elephants!
Unfortunately, the majority of the encounters with elephants that you can take part in in Thailand involve inhumane forms of training for the elephants to be able to carry people on their backs and so on. Because of this, we had no interest in taking part in any experience that involved riding an elephant, structured bathing of the elephants or anything else that would be unnatural and harmful to these incredible animals. Luckily, while staying in Pai, we heard about the efforts of this brilliant conservation group, Conserve Natural Forests, and decided to pay them a visit.
The primary objective of this group is to do their bit to counter global warming and the effects of deforestation by planting trees. So far, they have planted 20,000 trees in over 100,000 square metres of land, and they have a target to plant a whopping 1/2 million trees in 2017! Every visitor to the conservation site can lend a had to achieving this target by planting their own tree in what may soon be one of the most beautiful areas of jungle forest in the Mae Hong Son Province of Northern Thailand.
Alongside their mission of nature conservation, Conserve Natural Forests have also taken on the task of conserving Thailand’s wildlife – and this is where the elephants come in! Kamjan and Maemoon are mother and daughter and they are inseparable. Kamjan, the mother, is 45 years old and in her 7th pregnancy; Maemoon is 36 years old and in her 5th (and she’s due any day now!). Both mother and daughter had been working at an elephant camp in Chiang Mai, giving 4-5 elephant rides, 8 hours a day since they were 3 years old – no life for a wild animal! By a stroke of luck mixed with relentless determination, Conserve Natural Forests were right on time to offer them a different life.
The team really do just want to provide a relaxed environment where people can come and chill for the afternoon and learn about their conservation efforts. We arrived at the site at 1pm and were able to spend the entire afternoon surrounded by the lush growing forest and feeding the elephants as much pumpkin as we could until 5pm! You can swim in the river, take a walk through the forest and the nursery, visit the tortoises (another of their wildlife conservation efforts), and enjoy some of their classic Thai dishes and you just MUST try one of their passion fruit Gin & Tonics!
What a day! Learning about the dangers that face the nature and wildlife of Thailand (and the rest of the world) and having the smallest part to play in donating to this group, taking the time to understand their mission, planting trees, and playing with elephants!