Paying to volunteer abroad may seem like a backwards notion, but the experience outweighs the cost when it’s an opportunity to meet the love of your life. At Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, I fell for a pachyderm.
Elephant Nature Park is a small elephant sanctuary that specializes in the rehabilitation of abused elephants. These giants may seem big and intimidating, but they’re also gentle and soulful. After a few days at the park, you’ll quickly be able to recognize each spunky personality; we challenge you not to fall in love.
Each day you’ll participate in feeding the elephants. Machete in hand, you’ll feel like a true Thai mahout (elephant driver), slicing melons in half, and throwing them into the gaping mouths of the waiting elephants. If you aren’t careful, the babies will sneak up and extend their long trunks into your basket, stealing a cucumber or two.
The baby elephants in the park have the most personality. Spirited and wild, they don’t understand their own strength; when your back is turned, a gang of babies will shoot out of the tall grass and come running toward you expecting to play. It felt just like a cartoon when a baby elephant picked up my water bottle and repeatedly stomped on it. RIP Nalgene.
One of the best times of the day is bath time. Grab your buckets and scrub brushes and head down to the Mae Taeng River, it’s time to get up close and personal while you scrub down the elephants. Always remember to stand upstream—you won’t enjoy the stinky gifts the elephants are sending your way.
Even if you only have a day or two to spare, the experience is worth the trip to Northern Thailand. ENP offers everything from day trips to month long volunteer stints, and guarantees a soulmate or two; an offer no dating website can match.
It doesn’t surprise us that Victoria is a skilled elephant-herder on the side—she certainly knows how to wrangle any task around the office.