We took a step outside of our usual travel activities and visited the Kui Buri National Park for some hands-on projects. If you would have told us one year ago that we would be in a jungle in Thailand with the opportunity to see wild elephants, we would have told you that you were crazy. But here we are, getting down and dirty taking part in reforestation and water source creation efforts as part of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s “Conserving the Motherland” project.
Kui Buri National Park is home to some of the last freely roaming elephants in Thailand. It is made up a picturesque landscapes and seemingly never-ending dirt trails winding through its thick jungles.
The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand. Unfortunately, most of the elephants are privately owned and held in captivity to work as performers in shows aimed to entertain tourists or as part of illegal logging operations.
As much fun as it may sound to some first time visitors of Thailand to go watch elephants paint or play music, the trainers at these operations often physically abuse the elephants as a way of forcing them to perform such tricks or shows. These types of shows should be completely avoided as it drives unethical tourism practices and elephant mistreatment in Thailand.
Kui Buri National Park is different because they strive to protect some of Thailand’s last free roaming wild elephants while still allowing visitors to unobtrusively observe them in their natural habitat. This, along with a select number of conservation camps are truly the only responsible and humane ways to see elephants in Thailand.
Water Source Creation at Kui Buri National Park
The Kui Buri National Park offers private tours that include riding and hiking through the park for a chance to see wild elephants. To encourage the elephant herds to congregate in safer locations, the park officials began a program to construct watering holes throughout Kui Buri National Park.
We were invited to be part of these activities. When we arrived, there was a large group of people already working on the basins, so we donned gloves and grabbed some tools and helped to mix concrete in large tubs. Chris ended up splashing the concrete mixture all over his pants and some of the pants of his fellow volunteers, but they simply laughed it off and gave him some extra room.
We smoothed out the concrete along the pre-dug areas to create gradually sloping watering holes for the elephants. These watering holes attract elephant herds in the early mornings and early evenings throughout the Kui Buri National Park.
Reforestation in Kui Buri National Park
We also helped with reforestation. Reforestation provides food and sustainable habitats for the elephants and encourages them to stay within the boundaries of the Kui Buri National Park. There is a growing problem with the elephants wandering into neighboring plantations to look for food. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in the elephants being hurt or killed in the attempts of the farmers to save their crops.
Straight trenches and single holes were pre-dug, so we planted small saplings in rows and watered them before moving to the next one.
We were given the opportunity to plant the first saplings of the day with the park rangers in charge of Kui Buri National Park. Everyone seemed very excited to have us as part of the group of volunteers. We had a good time meeting volunteers from a local high school, interacting with the Kui Buri District Chief, Mr. Pongpan Wichiensamut, and the Kui Buri National Park Chief, Mr. Preecha Wittayapan, and experiencing the vast untouched natural beauty that the park had to offer.
Because the primary goal of our visit to the Kui Buri National Park was to participate in activities that promoted well-being of elephants, we did not have time to go on a trip and look for elephants. Chris did, however, manage to peek a fleeting glimpse of two elephant butts as we were trucking through the forest, but wasn’t in a position to quickly be able to snap a photograph. It’s ok though, the backsides of elephants aren’t much to look at.
We did, however, see plenty of fresh elephant evidence…if you know what we mean.
Where is Kui Buri National Park?
The Kui Buri National park is located in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of southern Thailand in between Myanmar and the coast of Thailand.
View Kui Buri National Park in a larger map