by guest writer Mark Louie Maycong

When I visited Chiang Mai last year, I was not able to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. Little did I know that my unexpected trip to Phuket was the perfect time to visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket.

Like my random trip to the island, booking my slot for the Sanctuary was random as well. I just had a quick glance of the website just to check the price, the list of things to bring and of course to see the elephants in the pictures. The booking that I did was late at night and I’m so lucky that someone picked up my phone call and instantly listed my name for the next day’s afternoon itinerary.

The day arrived!

Riding the mini jeep towards the sanctuary in Nai Thon takes about 40 Minutes from where I am staying in Kathu.

The moment we reached the sanctuary I immediately saw some elephants. I was very happy to see them free!

At the dining area our volunteer guide, Syaza Koh from Singapore, told us very heart wrenching stories about these beautiful creatures; some of the elephants worked as loggers, performers or providing rides for tourists on their backs.

After hearing a list of Do’s and Dont’s in the sanctuary, here we go! We prepared the food for the elephants – bananas, sugarcane and watermelons – and carried them to the elephant feeding area. Being up close and personal with the elephants is so overwhelming; you’ll feel very different emotions as if you are riding a roller coaster or flying an airplane for the first time.

After we fed them, we went straight to change into our ‘swimming attire’. At the mud pool we played, swam, laid down, ran and crawled with them. But my sentimental favourite was cleaning their enormous bodies. The happiness of giving their trunks a scrub whilst having eye to eye contact was a priceless feeling.

No need to worry about taking pictures, there are photographers on site to take all the photos you would ever need, and that’s free of charge.

To all fellow travellers, Phuket is not just about beaches and parties, explore the island, do some research and find these hidden gems that many tourists will never get to experience. For sure you will learn and enjoy like me!

To all my Thai friends, you are so blessed to have a wonderful country, full of beautiful places and people. I hope that creating and building sanctuaries for animals is just the beginning; I hope there will be more in the future.

These creatures are blessings not just in Thailand but for the entire world. They have rights to be loved and respected like everybody else. Compassion towards living things great or small should be equal and that is something we need to remember.

Thank you so much, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket for educating us and providing an unforgettable experience I will remember forever.

Khop Khun Krub!

You can read the original article HERE.

Mark Louie Maycong is a pre-school teacher, yoga teacher and writer living in Singapore.

- Tanutam Thawan