Volunteering at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Call me crazy, but this past February I used a week of my vacation time to travel half way around the world . . . to work! Granted I was on the beautiful tropical island of Phuket in southern Thailand, but still, I was not lounging on the beach and partying into the wee hours as many do at this popular tourist destination. (Ok, I did get half a day at Nai Yang Beach, plus an amazing Thai massage!) Instead, I was volunteering at Phuket’s first ethical sanctuary for elephants, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary (PES). Continue reading

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Bay Area Adventure: Exploring the Suisun Marsh by Train and Bicycle

The gateway to the Suisun Marsh along Grizzly Island Rd.

The gateway to the Suisun Marsh along Grizzly Island Rd.

The stretch of the Capitol Corridor Amtrak route between Martinez and Davis is one of the prettiest, and just looking out the window it’s easy to see that nature is alive and well here. Most passengers never experience this first-hand though as they zip past the Suisun/Fairfield station on their way to Davis and Sacramento to the east, or Bay Area destinations to the west. Continue reading

The Elephant Seals of Año Nuevo: A Conservation Success Story and Unique Wildlife Encounter in Northern California

IMG_9383In the early 1920s, elephant seals numbered in only the double digits after being hunted to the brink of extinction for their blubber that was used to make oil. Today, the elephant seal is a conservation success story. Continue reading

A Heatwarming & Humbling Visit to Elephant Nature Park

IMG_6524In an earlier blog post, I wrote about why our family would not ride elephants while vacationing in Thailand. At the time of that writing, we hadn’t yet gone on our trip, but my research into the subject revealed the dark side of elephants in the tourist industry. I learned about the cruel training methods used to make these remarkably intelligent and empathetic animals compliant enough to do tricks and allow humans to ride them. I also realized how tourists perpetuate this grim situation through a misguided desire to experience elephants in these ultimately exploitative ways.

As disturbing as all of this research was, it also led me to the discovery of a place where elephants are allowed to live freely and happily, and whose founder is working tirelessly to change the way elephants are treated and perceived. That place is the Elephant Nature Park, located outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Our one-day visit, booked months in advance, was for me the most highly-anticipated day of our three-week adventure in Southeast Asia. My expectations leading up to our June 21 visit were sky-high, and I’m happy to report that our actual experience soared even higher.
Continue reading