You've made the first step, you've decided to say no to riding elephants, and yes to visiting or volunteering with elephants in a sanctuary that promote health, freedom, and natural behaviour, now what? What should you know about being a volunteer? If you're visiting for a day, how should you dress or behave? What are the unspoken rules for interacting with elephants in a sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park?
As I sit in a wooden chair on the platform, surrounded by fighting dogs and cats that could care less about what is happening around them, I look towards the grounds of the park as the sky turns into soft oranges, yellows, and pinks; In the distance I hear the deep roar of an elephant, followed by a sharp trumpet from another.
In 2011 I paid to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park (located just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand) for a week. When I initially saw the cost for a week of volunteering, I wasn't sure. Four hundred dollars is a lot of money for one week in Thailand. Hell, if I was really good with my budget I could live for an entire month on four hundred dollars. So why should I blow a month's budget by paying to volunteer for a week at an elephant reserve?