Saddle up your benches boys and girls and go ride an elephant!
Elephant rides are pretty common here in Asia. However, many of the elephants are not treated well and/or don’t live in very favorable conditions. So even though we have had many opportunities, we have not visited with the elephants until recently.
I found and read rave reviews about an elephant conversation park in the Krabi area (Nosey Parker’s Elephant Camp).
First we visited a pregnant elephant. Did you know they are pregnant for 2 years? Did you know their babies weigh around 260 lbs when they are born? (120kg)
Even though she is due in 3 months, I could not even tell she was pregnant! I talked to the owner of the elephant camp and he said he did not think she looked pregnant either. However, he said the veterinarian came this week and assured him she was very pregnant and due in about 12 weeks. I guess it wasn’t hard for him to miss a 200 pound baby elephant…
The mom was such a sweetie! Greg was delighted with her, but he kept a little distance, he’s usually (except for ducks and geese) a little more cautious with animals at first. Can you see her about to poke him in the chest? “Give me your bananas!!!”I immediately snuggled right up to her!We had so much fun feeding her bananas (she didn’t seem to mind the peel and she was happy to eat 3 or 4 at a time.) Did you know in Thailand elephants eat $500 USD per month of food! (An wild adult elephant consumes 300-600 lbs (140–270 kg) of food in a day (less than that if they are in captivity)! That’s a lot of food! They also live 50-70 years!Of course I had fun checking out her mouth and teeth. (My mouth/teeth interest isn’t just limited to humans!) Also notice she has hair! (Look at the brown fuzz around her head.)
While we fed the pregnant elephant the handlers lounged around. Look at how comfortable they are on top of an elephant!Next, we went over to a stairway and climbed up onto a platform where we were at equal height and able to climb onto the elephants back where a bench was waiting!
Then off we went out into the jungle. Nope, no seatbelts here…
First we crossed a stream.
It was so different than I expected. Each step covered so much ground and therefore even though we were just walking we moved much faster than I thought we would! (It felt like about 10 feet or just over 3 meters per step.) Also, on the uneven terrain it was not a very smooth ride. Every step made us lean far one direction and then the next step we’d lean far the other direction. Downhill just felt jerky, jarring and scary! Any second we were thought we could slide right off the bench and fall 20 feet (6-7 meters) to the ground below!
Which is why downhill was my favorite!
After 10 minutes or so, Greg got to climb off the bench and ride on the elephants head/neck area.He didn’t feel very stable (he blamed his shoes, I was barefoot). He almost always had a tight grip with one hand on the bench behind him (which made him lean in a weird way and made me nervous for him too).Then Greg climbed back up on the bench and it was my turn! It felt 100% natural for me! (Thanks mom for giving me horse back riding lessons as a kid). I loved it! No death grip on the bench was necessary. I spent most of my time hugging and petting the elephant! I instantly felt “this is how you are supposed to ride an elephant—not on a bench!”I got to spend a lot of time on the elephant’s neck.
The best part was going down hills. It must have been obvious by my ear to ear grin that I was having a blast so the guide started taking us off the trails that all the other people were on and just randomly going thru the jungle. I think he could also tell I was especially enjoying the hills, (did my squeals of delight and giddy giggles give me away?) because he found quite a few hills for us to go down!
I also loved going down a hill into a stream! Are you nervous for me? Don’t be, I was SO HAPPY and smiling so much my cheeks hurt!With the elephants sway and how much ground they cover, they don’t feel sure footed especially when my mind was telling me, “that’s a super slippery smooth wet rock we are about to step on” but each step was firmly planted!We loved our elephant guide for taking us off trail, for his funny jokes, for taking our photos and for almost always using vocal commands (instead of the metal poker on a stick). We really didn’t even like seeing the metal poker on the stick… It reminded me of what my dad used to use to turn the wood in our fireplace when I was a kid. Those type of tools should only be used on inanimate objects.
After our ride, we got to feed our elephant pineapple (no problem with skin here either).Feeding our elephant a thank you treat was as much fun as the ride! I was AMAZED by his amazing and dexterous trunk. The way he grabbed food from me was incredible. I never knew their trunk has opposing thumb like ability. He had an incredible sense of smell and could follow and find fruit easily and bend and curl his trunk in multiple directions. Then he could close the end of his trunk around fruit it and grab it. HOW DOES HE DO THAT? Wikipedia says, “the elephant’s trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a single blade of grass, yet strong enough to rip the branches off a tree.” When I watched the monkeys I wanted a tail…now I want an elephant trunk too!After his tasty treat, we stayed for two elephants who needed baths. This park dammed the stream so there was a large, deep pool for the elephants to walk into. They were having so much fun, it was hard for me to resist jumping in to join them! The handler would stand on the elephant and then tap him when he wanted to go down….Then he’d come back up…It was an elephant elevator. Except wet elephants must be a little slippery, because he almost fell off twice… Or perhaps this elephant has a sense of humor and this was intentional? Maybe with his much better than human sense of smell he thought, “You think I need a bath? You do too, you smell worse than I do! Afterall, you have been riding around on me all day.”When the elephants started taking a shower the handler stood on the nearby log. Do you wonder how they take a shower? Why they use their own spout of course! At nearly 4 gallons (14 litres) per spray it’s pretty efficient. In the wild after a shower they follow up with muddy water because it is a natural sunscreen!My advice, don’t get into a water fight with an elephant unless you are prepared to LOSE! Even if they clean you well with water, they might start spraying you with mud after. With the best of intentions of course! You can’t be too careful with the hot Thai sunshine!
I can’t wait to go back with my sister & niece this summer! Especially since we’ll get to see the baby elephant!
When I used to see elephant stuff everywhere in Asia I always thought, “no thanks”. Now I see it everywhere and I love it! I have joined the elephant obsessed! What amazing creatures!