Our Elephant Experience ...

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
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Trip End Dec 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Baan Chang Elephant Park

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Friday, November 19, 2010

Ivor or Kate ... who would be a better Mahout (elephant trainer)? Ivor thought that it would be him due to the fact that he is African, thinks that he is Dr Dolittle and doeasn't have a banana phobia!

We wanted to go somewhere we could see Asian Elephants in as natural an environment as possible and somewhere they were not expected to paint pictures or perform in shows. Luckily for us we found Baanchang Elephant Park (www.baanchangelephantpark.com), a centre for rescued elephants. This was a wedding present (thank you everyone) so we opted for a two day training experience, an experience that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

We changed into our Mahout clothes and after a brief introduction to the park and what to expect from the experience, it was time to meet the elephants. There are currently 12 elephants including two babies and two (possibly four) that are pregnant. Each elephant has its own full time Mahout and in this case full time means all the time. These guys live with their elephants, calming them at night, getting up with them every morning at around 6am, feeding them, cleaning their sleeping area, bathing them and even checking their dung to make sure they are healthy. They almost never take a day off – in a way, the elephants are their own children.

After feeding the elephants a snack of around five full baskets of bananas (some take the bananas with their trunks, others prefer you to put it straight into their mouths), it was time to learn how to ride them.  We learnt some basic commands in Thai (down, right, left, walk, stop) and practiced getting on and off them.  Being on an elephant for the first time was incredible.  They are so big and because at this park they don’t believe in 'chairs’ you have to learn how to balance otherwise it is a long way down.  Commands and balance almost masterd, it was off to the jungle for a trek.  The group that we were with all had to pair up on one elephant but seeing that we were there for two days – we rode on our own.  The trek ended with bath time.  We were not sure who enjoyed this part of the day best, the elephants or us – but clearly one of the babies love it the most – diving under water and spraying all of us.

Suddenly everyone left and we realised that it was just us, the owners (Pom and Tina), the Mahouts and of course the elephants. Before dinner we went and had one and one time with the elephants getting to feed them, getting kisses (although in Ivor’s case – kissing or hugging / strangling!) and just watching them on their own. We were fed (like elephants) until we couldn’t eat any more and then treated to an evening around a camp fire, drinking beer, playing the guitar, singing songs (in English, Thai and Burmese), laughing, learning more about the park and letting off lanterns. We felt like part of their extended family.

The next morning we awoke to a loud elephant trumpet and were so excited that we lept out of bed. Getting out of bed, our legs and bums felt like they had done a thousand squats - Ahhhh yes – we had forgotten that we would have the ‘elephant riding’ aches and pains.  Walking like John and Jayne Wayne, we went down to the elephants and were each assigned our own elephant for the day.  We spent the morning with them, cleaning their beds and giving them their morning shower.  We had our first lesson in elephant dung – seeing Kate holding elephant dung was a sight that Ivor will never forget.   We trekked up into the jungle with them for a couple of hours and then stopped for lunch to let them rest and....... give them a chance to knock down a few trees! Fed and watered we climbed back on board for our lift back down the hill and then took them for their evening bath.

Pom, Tina, Thom, Coco, Mr Bat, James Bond, Sadam and the all other Mahouts: we can’t thank you enough for your kindness, warmth, patience and time. Spending so much time with the elephants is a memory that we shall keep with us forever. Our faces ached after two days of constant laughing and smiling. The love you have towards each other and your animals is contagious and we can’t wait to hear from you with pictures of the new arrivals.
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Comments

Mom on

What a wonderful experience, as you say nothing can take that away from you. Fantastic that there are people that really care about aninmalsas supposed to Africa were poaching is the order of the day. Well done to you both for finding such a wonderful,peaceful place I'm so glad you had such a great time there, Kate did you know that if you burn dry elephant dung it keeps all the nasty insects away? love to you both xxxxxxx

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