So Happy to Be Back at BLES

Trip Start Oct 15, 2009
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Trip End Dec 15, 2013


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Where I stayed
BLES Elephant Sanctuary
What I did
Elephants, Si Satchenalai Historical Park & Rural Thai Life

Flag of Thailand  , Sukhothai,
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Room With a View & Up Close and Personal With Lovely Amazing Elephants!

This week I am at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Si Satchenalai near Sukhothai Thailand.
This is my 3rd lovely visit to the BLES family. Katherine and Anon, the Mahouts, the staff, and of course, the family of now 14 rescued elephants, welcome only a few guests at a time and integrate us into the daily life of the sanctuary. BLES has already been named one of the top 10 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the world. Katherine Connor, it’s founder, is widely recognized as one of the most effective and knowledgeable elephant caregivers in the world. Most of the lovely elephants, were rescued from abuse or neglect. In a few cases, their owners agreed to surrender them for better care at BLES. You can read each of the heart wrenching stories at: http://www.blesele.org/

BLES is different from every other elephant camp in Thailand. At BLES, the majestic beasts are respected and treated to a life as an elephant. There are no shows, rides or forced breeding programs. The mahouts of the female elephants don’t use hooks or prods. Their charges respond to kind words. The bulls (males), each who nearly died before coming to live at BLES, are so healthy now that one or the other is nearly always in musthe, requiring extra careful tending.

Since my last visit in December 2009, Maa Boon Mee has died. Boon Mee was in her 70‘s or 80‘s and enjoyed her last years at BLES. She died peacefully in her sleep in a spot that she chose. I had a special connection with Boon Mee and I have hung a bell in her memory in the beautiful Ganesha shrine that Katherine and Anon have built.

I am enchanted with the all of the “new” arrivals over the last 2 years. For over a year Tong Yui and Bong Beng have been off the streets and her mahout and family have integrated well into the life at BLES.  Tong Yui and Bong Beng like to hang out with Wassana and have become great friends.

Wassana, a lovely girl who has a bad permanent injury to her foot from stepping on a land mine. Now at BLES she no longer is made to work under painful conditions. You can always tell where Wassana is as she is very talkative and she speaks her own squeaky dialect.

I call Miss Lotus the "house elephant." Because of her foot injuries from conditions before she was rescued, she cannot go on long walks with the others. And I think that she is most comfortable around humans because she was always around people (tourists) before she came to BLES. She never had the privilege of being part of a social group of elephants, her own kind, and she is tentative around the others, preferring to stay by herself. Lotus has her own supply of fruit just next to the shady sala (lanai) where we eat breakfast and lunch. Lotus likes our leftover fresh fruit, especially the sweet mango and papaya. And she loves to be hand fed if she happend to warm up to you!

Pang Dow has a skin problem that to date has been resistant to treatment. Katherine is on top off it, and consults with world experts. (Katherine is quite the expert herself already too.) Pang Dow asks to be touched and patted, and while I wish that she will soon recovers from what can't be a comfortable rash, she wears her bluish spots like a beautiful robe, shimmering in the sunlight.

Pang Suay is as beautiful as her name. She is a large girl and she likes to hog the pond bathing herself. It's a really big pond, but just watch when Pang Tong and Lom and Mee Chok come down for a dip. Pang Suay will go roaring at them.  Pang Suay is funny, She likes to stay cool in the water but she'll stand half wet, and nuzzle up to the guests for hand fed bananas and leftover fruit. You will see from my photos that she really played with me!

Mee Chok, the baby boy that Katherine most recently rescued has brought so much joy and laughter to the Sanctuary. Pang Tong acts like his mother and Lom has grown up to be a doting big sister. Katherine works daily with Mee Chok and his mahout to train him to respond to the commands necessary to live in the sanctuary, The lively little boy is making progress and is beginning to respond to his Mahout as well as Kat.

Katherine and the Mahouts think that Pang Noi might be pregnant. They can’t be sure as to date there are not any reliable urine hormone tests for eles. A new baby for Pang Noi would help fill her loss of little Star who was killed by lightening in a freak thunderstorm. 

The 3 bulls look great too. Tong Jai is his rowdy self in musthe and we don’t go near him. Seedor Yai must also be in musthe as I didn’t see him close up either. Somai, who was badly burned in a forest fire before he arrived at BLES looks great and I gave him a hosedown on my last morning at BLES.

That’s the elephant update! Be sure to go through the photos and trya and put the faces to the names.

I would describe this to visitors as a homestay resort in the midst of a specatcular nature preserve. The 3 guest cottages, each in a separate location from the other, sit amongst lush trees and flowers. This morning I was listening to the sounds of birds chirping, when an elephant trumpeted her call on her way down to the shower area for a morning scrubdown. From my window, or from the lovely cottage porch, I can quietly watch the mahouts. If I want to participate, I will be welcomed to get wet and give an ele a scrub! This afternoon when I came in for a cool bath and a rest, I saw an ele and exotic birds outside through the clever one way glass window.

Two lovely guests from Australia, Pixie and Natalie were here with me. Yesterday, we went to the nearby Si Satchenalai Historical Park, and rented bicycles to explore the Temple ruins. On the way back, we stopped at the market in town and looked at all of the exotic (different for us) fruits and foods. Our meals at BLES are simple healthy fresh food, served at a communal table, or during the day, in the shade of the lovely hut from which we can watch the elephants bathing or grazing. Every guest at BLES leaves a mark on BLES. Just before I came, an artist named Connie was there. Connie designed and brought an exquisite glass mosaic round mural which she installed on the wall of the new first aid room. She also painted the bathing station ramp a pretty aqua. Then Natalie made a stencil of an ele and aded luminous gold elephants to the ramp.

I have been privileged to watch the elephant family and Katherine and Anon’s family grow and to see the evolution of this spectcular nature preserve. Thanks to Katherine’s unusual drive and dedication, her family in England, and her supporters worldwide, 7 additional elephants have been rescued since my first visit in 2007. More land has been acquired, trees have been saved, crops and food for elephants have been planted, stables, a first aid room and a viewing tree house, and other structures have been built. Fundraising has begun for the Star Elephant Clinic. That will be the first elephant clinic/hospital to provide care for elephants in this region of Thailand. Currently it is a long treacherous truck journey for any injured or sick elephant lucky enough to have the opportunity to make the expensive trip north to seek necessary medical attention.

If you love animals and nature, and you want a chance to be up close and personal with elephants, then you will treasure this place, and the BLES family, as I do. BLES’s location is definitely off the beaten tourist track. Those who make the effort to come out here will be truly rewarded.

Enjoy My Photos! I had so much fun taking them.

PS: You can read my travel blog entry about BLES from my first visit at:
http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/nsevers/1/1240602300/tpod.html

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Comments

kevix on

I can only imagine what its like to visit such a place. Real animal acting kindly most of the time and speaking to the visitors in their squeaking, roaring tones. Walking amount living giants.

nsevers
nsevers on

Yes, a visit to BLES is a rare treat! The entire BLES family is amazing. I believe that because these elephants are living such a happy life, I learn more and see and hear more natural social elephant behaviors here than any other place i've visited! Thanks for checking in and for your comment! Nancie:)

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