For those that don’t know, we spent 2 nights at a beautiful elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand as a part of our honeymoon…and as soon as we decided Thailand made the cut for this trip, I KNEW I just had to go back and see these magical creatures!
We spent 5 days at the sanctuary this time – Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, or BLES for short – in the Sukhothai province of Thailand. Almost moreso than last time, we loved every moment we had with these beautiful animals.
So, to give you an idea of our “typical” day…we had breakfast around 8:00 and got to watch some of the elephants come into their morning areas and eat some of the corn or banana trees we had chopped down for them the day before…then after breakfast, we took a walk with the elephants. Stopped to watch them just “be elephants” and then found some version of a “tree house” to sit in and watch these beautiful elephants just exist for a few hours.
We watched them explore their dynamics as individuals and groups…we watched them test out new relationships with others…we watched them trust and interact with their mahouts (human partners) and we got to enjoy pausing for a few moments in time to watch them just…be. It was magic. Then we had lunch in treehouses (while watching the elephants, of course!) and walked the elephants back to the sanctuary. Our afternoons were spent doing projects to help the elephants – chopping down banana trees, chopping down corn, building “enrichment” opportunities for the elephants to find the next day…
Everything about this sanctuary is focused on the elephants – their safety, their existence, their happiness. They’ve been rescued from everything from illegal logging to forced breeding to tourist camps…and they’re all learning how to “be elephants” again. It’s really beautiful to watch. There aren’t quite words to express how wonderful it is to watch them. Pictures hardly do it justice.
This was a special place, with special meaning for us, and we were so grateful to go back. Everyone in Thailand seems to have a different perspective on how best to care for rescued elephants but this place really makes it feel special. We were so grateful to get a second visit to this place and to “see our elephants”…
Fun facts about the elephants!
- Elephants don’t instinctively know “how to be elephants” – when they are raised in captivity and trained to do things for humans that aren’t natural to them, it takes time to actually learn how to be an elephant. We met a stunning bull elephant named Sappriwan with long, beautiful tusks who was born and spent his life on display at a Thai resort…when he was finally rescued, he didn’t understand that his tusks were essentially dangerous weapons and that he had to carefully “play” with the other elephants. He accidentally hurt another elephant with his tusk because he had never been around other elephants – so he has to learn gradually how to be part of the herd. It was very sweet to watch him learn.
- Unlike African elephants, which are typically viewed as harder to train because of their size (almost twice the size of Asian elephants!), many Asian elephants in Thailand deal with sad conditions like illegal logging, forced breeding, poor conditions at “tourist camps” or owners that simply can’t take proper care of these beautiful creatures and also feed their families. Sanctuaries like BLES are places these rescued elephants can spend the rest of their days peacefully being elephants.
- Elephants are vegetarians!
- When it comes to tusks, not all males have them because the elephant has to have the gene for it. AND some female elephants can have small tusks because they carry the gene!
- Foot care for elephants, especially elephants in any version of captivity, is critically important to the health of the elephants. Their sweat glands are in between their big toes and unlike elephants in the wild, elephants in captivity – even at a beautiful sanctuary like BLES – need regular foot care to ensure their health stays optimal.