Photo Essay: An Elephant Camp in Black and White

I have always loved elephants. Even from a young age I was fascinated by them when I saw them at the zoo, and I had always wanted to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. I finally got to do just that when I was in Nepal in 2009, and I had an incredible experience playing with a baby elephant at the breeding centre, and then bathing with the elephants in a river at Chitwan National Park.

My love for these incredible creatures had only grown, and when my wife and I decided to backpack through Thailand, I wanted her to be able to have a similar experience.

We booked a typical tour from Chiang Mai, which took us to an elephant camp where we got to go for an elephant trek and watch a show. It was a completely different experience to what I had in Nepal, and both my wife and I really didn’t enjoy it. The whole day was quite sad for us both.

I have sat down to try and write about this day on several occasions, and I simply can’t find the words to describe it. I think that is because I just don’t quite understand exactly what to make of the whole elephant camp thing. All I know is that I didn’t feel happy about being there.

Instead of using words, I have decided to portray the experience using black and white photos, as I think they say more than words can.

Elephants at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

A mother and her baby chained in a shelter

A baby elephant at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

A baby elephant next to it’s mother

man on an elephant at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

A Mahout and his elephant before the show

elephants marching at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephants marching single file

Elephant show at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

The show begins

Elephant with mouth open at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

A Mahout gets his elephant to show it’s teeth before giving it a bunch of bananas

Elephant moving a log at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

An elephant shows how they move logs

Elephants holding tails at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

The elephants hold the tail of the one in front as they walk along single file

Elephant with flowers at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

An elephant hands a lady a basket of flowers

Elephants balancing at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

The elephants show how strong their legs are

Baby elephant balancing at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

A baby elephant tries to balance on three legs

Elephant playing a tamborine at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

An elephant playing a tamborine

An elephant painting at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

An elephant painting a masterpiece

Elephant painting at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

The painting is finished and available for purchase by the tourists

Elephant riding at an elephant camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Some tourists on an elephant ride

I just want to note that I’m not telling you not to go to an elephant camp. The majority of the other tourists there seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly…it’s just not for me.

I later found out about the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai, which doesn’t have any riding or shows or anything like that. You can just go and watch, bath and help look after the elephants. Next time I go to Chiang Mai, that’s what I will be doing.

Have you been to an elephant camp? What was your experience like?

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3 comments… add one
  • Anne Jan 22, 2013

    Love the photos – they speak volumes to me.

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