Cooling Off With Rescued Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Elephant Nature Park is only 90 minutes from the city of Chiang Mai, but feels like elephant heaven. Unlike so many "parks," there are no exploitative elephant rides, elephant paintings, or elephants playing soccer in this idyllic jungle sanctuary nestled between mountains and a small river. Instead the park’s 34 gentle giants, many of whom were rescued from abusive logging and street begging work, roam freely without a care. But oh, are they cared for! Guests spend the day feeding and bathing them—there may be no greater respite from the Thai heat than a dip in a river alongside an elephant playfully dunking and rolling onto its side. Programs range from day trips to two-week volunteer stints (overnight guests stay in rustic private cabins). Even without rides, you couldn't feel closer to these magnificent creatures.