Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Crozier

Amanda Crozier is from New Zealand and is currently working for a non-profit in London. She is a global jet setter, and has spent the last 5 years abroad, traveling and living in different countries. She likes watching documentaries, slowly developing her blog, and singing along (badly) to her favorite music.

elephant food preparation

Morning: My mornings in the northern Thailand Jungle outside of Chiang Mai, were always filled with anticipation and excitement as to what tasks my day will involve. The volunteers upon arriving at the Nature Park were split into 4 groups for the 2 weeks where we would take turns at various tasks including preparing the Elephant food, cutting sugar cane & grass in the fields, and collecting elephant dung. Each morning I would inspect my hut to ensure there were not cats, rats or lizards of some kind that had joined me during the night. The mosquito nets served as a double purpose in keeping me safe. I would meet my other volunteer companions for breakfast out over the park land, discussing various travel stories.

It was always fascinating watching the elephants go about their day from up there, they form families and groups of friends like humans, and surprisingly pay their respects to those who have left them. Upon meeting our minders to hear the day’s journey, we would all scoot of in a buzz of confusion, as we were completely dressed wrong for the task a head of us. The next few days will be like no other.

Afternoon: Our afternoons where much the same, filled with hard work to keep the park operating. After a full and delicious lunch, prepared by the families of the mahouts (elephant minders) we would have an hour spare time, which I would spend sitting high above the reserve at the viewing platform reading and watching the elephants go about there day. The main hub of the park is beautifully built in traditional Thai style architecture, open area decks and high standing platforms. About this time of the day it turns into a buzz of festivities as the elephants approach for bathing time in the surrounding river. We are handed a bucket and approach the giant creatures to help cool them off in the heat. This time of day is the most fun, everyone is happy and giddy with excitement to be up so close and engaging with the elephants.

Don't go near if you want to stay dry, you come out of the river absolutely soaked, both you and your elephant. One of the young male and adventurous elephant has swam across the river and run away from his mahout. The cat and mouse chase becomes a laugh for all spectators, as this particular elephant likes playing games. But he cannot venture too far out of the park borders; neighboring villages are not all as welcoming as others. We have just enough time to make for our huts to dry off and be back to hear what our next job is.

bathing elephants volunteer

Evening: The evenings at the park were always so relaxing after a hard days work. They park kitchen staff always prepared a feast fit for kings and queens, with a beautiful assortment of tasty Thai delights. The banquet filled the bellies of the hungry volunteers. A group of friendly professional ladies offer wonderful Thai massages at very good rates on site through out the evening. They always had their hands full as volunteers book up the appointments quickly. With beautiful music and surroundings you cant help but feel very relaxed. I would practice my Thai phrases with my new friends and them their English. Often they would share stories about their village and their lives in the Jungle. Afterwards there is always a group of people eager to hang about and play card games, talk and hear tunes from the guitar. Add a few beers and its the perfect way to spend the warm temperate evenings in the Thai Jungle watching the sun set over the park and our lovely elephant friends.

Highlights: The most rewarding day of my volunteer experience was working with the vet at the Nature Park. I spent the day with her caring for the elephants and other animals in living in the park. Not only do they have various herds of elephants living there but they were caring for dogs, cats, horses, a 3 legged donkey and a bear. We cared for a number of elephants who had previously stepped on land mines before arriving at the park, their wounds were bad and needed daily attention to prevent infection.

We also squeezed the biggest 'pimples' I’ve ever seen, out of irritations in a couple of the elephants faces. The puss came out in think white gooey streams with the antiseptic fluid we used to help prevent infection. The medical equipment is a large cost for the park, most of the animals when arriving are very ill and need treatment to help them recover for a better quality of life