The experience we had at Patara Elephant Rescue was by far the highlight of my trip to Thailand. As a tourist, you need to be mindful of the attractions you choose to participate in, especially with elephant sanctuaries, as there have been reports of abuse to the elephants with certain companies. Of course we didn’t want to support or experience anything like that, so Jess spent many hours (bless her) researching different sanctuaries and that’s when she found Patara.
When we first arrived at the sanctuary, we were able to spend some time with the baby elephants and their mommas. They were sooo cute and one was definitely a little cranky (he stepped on Sarah’s foot)! We were able to get up close and touch them, and then we watched them eat lunch and finally have a bath. It was so funny to watch the baby elephants rolling around in the tub of water – they absolutely loved it!
After our time with the babies came the fun part! Patara Elephant Farm offers a special kind of interactive experience with the elephants that’s called “elephant owner for a day” which is exactly that. Jess and I got paired up with an elephant and the two of us spent an entire half a day with our new buddy “Poon”. Poon was an 11yr old male and definitely had lots of personality. He was large and in charge and absolutely LOVED bananas.
We learned how to properly approach Poon, how to feed him, how to check if he was healthy, and communicate through different commands. We then learned how to get the elephant to lie down on its side (he was definitely relaxing) and we got to spend some time brushing all the dirt off his back. Once most of the dirt was off, we walked him down to the river and gave him a bath! We had to scrub down his skin and make sure all the debris was off so rocks wouldn’t get lodged in his skin and cause an infection!
After the river bath, we were then taught how to climb up on top of Poon. Some of the research that we did about elephant riding was that it is extremely painful for the elephants if the baskets you sit in are on top of their backs. The experience with Patara was a bit different in the sense that it was bare-back which makes it a lot more comfortable for the elephants. The thing I didn’t realize until I climbed on top was how tall an elephant sits! It’s crazy! Poon helped me up with his foot and Jess and I both got to experience riding him through the jungle. Poon definitely got distracted a few times went went off course trying to get some leaves to eat and brought us along for the ride – hitting our heads on tree branches!! He then was upset that his other elephant friend got ahead of him while he was off having a snack and decided to start running (off the course again) to try and pass the other elephant so he could lead the pack once again. It was quite the experience for Jess and I 😂😂
I’ve always been drawn to elephants but being able to interact with them and be that close has changed my perspective of them so much. They are such graceful, magical creatures. I felt as though when I looked into Poon’s eyes that he was actually seeing me for who I was. He moved with such grace and it was so wonderful to see them all play in the river and interact with each other.
The entire experience at this elephant rescue was amazing. For anyone travelling to Thailand or planning a trip in the future, I highly recommend this sanctuary. And if you are not in the area of this one, please please do your research and ensure you are choosing an ethical and kind farm.
As Patara states, “We encourage people to try, atleast once in their lives, to experience this very special and sacred animal that should be treasured. Give yourself an opportunity to share a once in a lifetime experience with the elephants; you will be touched by their beautiful hearts and will be brought closer to their special world”.