I have been dying to share this with all of you! We shared the MOST INCREDIBLE day with the good people at Rantong Elephant Save & Rescue in Chiang Mai. We’d heard that most of the elephant “sanctuaries” weren’t sanctuaries at all and actually mistreated the animals. We came across Rantong by a recommendation from a friend and we were so happy to see such a great place with ethical practices. There are actually two camps at Rantong. One is for new moms and their little babies and the other is for the adult elephants and visitors. We didn’t get to see the “nursery” since its pretty special and they try to avoid any disturbances for the new mamas. You’ll see one little guy and his mom in the video above and she actually has an interesting story. She was separated from her other babies while working with a performing circus so she has a large fear of separation. So… even though her little guy is basically a teenager, they keep them together to help her heal! They moved them to the “older” camp to help her regain her social skills with other elephants.
We got to spend the day with Wanwiza and her Mahoot. (I have no idea how to spell that…) The Mahoot is specific to one elephant and they will spend their entire lives together. The Mahoot builds trust and does EVERYTHING with their elephant. It’s their whole life and they become like family. To witness their day to day tasks with the elephants seems like a pretty amazing job. They live on site so their elephant is like a child they are responsible for. We learned a great deal about the rescue effort and what practices are safe/unsafe for an elephant. We got to feed, bathe, and ride Wanwiza and I was ready to take her home with us. I don’t know what it is about an elephant, but we felt this special bond with her all day. There were moments when she was taking us up a steep hill and I could feel her grip my legs with the back of her ears to make sure I was safe. I could be totally dreaming that up, but I will say there was something magnificent and magical being that close with one of gods amazing creatures. What I really loved is their were no metal hooks to push and prod them, we went at their pace where they wanted to go. If you are making the trip to Chiang Mai, I highly recommend this place. Do your research and make sure you aren’t supporting a tourist trap that doesn’t end up benefiting the animals at all! I hope this gives you just a small taste of the best day of our lives (so far)!