When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining

As part of my Chiang Mai adventure with Paleo Nick, Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo and a whole gang of culinary ninjas, I had the opportunity to not only meet the gentlest giants of the animal world, but also to fly through the trees suspended by little more than unwavering faith in steel.

Bonding with my elephant at Baanchang Elephant Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

For an incredible elephant encounter, we did the 1-day Mahout training program at Baanchang Elephant Park. The park is a not-for-profit organisation all about elephant rescue and rehabilitation and is situated in the pretty jungle-y hills a fair way outside downtown Chiang Mai.

Elephant kisses at Baanchang Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

While I was warned by friends back home not to wear short shorts (apparently touching a hairy elephant with one’s upper thigh is not so pleasant) we got to wear these darling 100% polyester suits instead (which I swear just about hit melting point in full sun).

All jokes aside though, this was a great experience which went above and beyond what I was expecting. Once we’d learned the commands and gestures to work with the elephant (including what to do if it bolted. Tip: hold on tight!) we went for a bareback jaunt around the expansive park. Each elephant’s real mahout (they stay together for life!) was never far behind us and my elephant’s mahout even made me this delightful hat out of a teak leaf while we meandered along.

Teak leaf hat at Baanchang Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Our other exposure to the rainforests of Chiang Mai came in the form of a trip out to the Flight of the Gibbon ziplining park. Similarly to the elephant park, it’s quite a way out of town and – warning to anyone with motion sickness – is located at the top of a very windy road. Here we are (looking like the new cast of Survivor!) hanging out on a made-for-group-photos ledge over a waterfall in the wilderness surrounding the park.

Thailand Culinary Adventure team 2014 | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

After we strapped into our harnesses and helmets, it was time to take on the course of 33 platforms, 18 ziplines and 3 Indiana Jones-inspired bridges. The idea of putting all your trust in a steel hook certainly had some of the team quaking in their sneakers but once we’d nailed the first few, it was an exhilarating way to experience the tranquil (other than the occasional squeal or Tarzan bellow!) surrounds.

Just hanging out | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

I’m sure some, probably my mother included, may be a little suss on the safety and quality of something like this but I didn’t feel unsafe at any point. Our “Sky Rangers” looked after everyone and were great at supporting even the most fearful ninjas to step outside their comfort zone enough to make it a memorable challenge (rather than a memory to be repressed!)

Mick on the staircase | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Me hanging out with Steph | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

The bloke on the left in the shot below was one of our Sky Rangers, Woody. He works at the park 6 days a week, lives onsite and told us that other than cooking, he has no real hobbies beyond zipping around the rainforest. It doesn’t get much closer to lives-and-breathes-the-job dedication than that!

Flight of the Gibbon - Sky Ranger Woody | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Other than the photo of me with the teak leaf hat & the one where I’m copping a big neck smooch from a little elephant, photographer extraordinaire Anderson York captured these moments. The above shot was even taken while he was flying along, mid-zipline!

Have you ever got up close & personal with an elephant? They’re such incredible creatures!

One Thought on “When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining

  1. Pingback: Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | Liz Niland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Post Navigation