When I was a girl my dream and item on my bucket list was to ride the back of an elephant through the jungle. This dream came true in 2013.
Elephant Trekking in Krabi, Thailand
My husband, Denny, and I did a local elephant trekking with a half-day package. The activity was discounted because we booked it through our hostel. The two items I wanted most to do was: ride and swim with an elephant.
Our Half-day Package included:
- pick-up and drop off
- a trek on an elephant’s back for about an hour
- a show
- swimming with the elephant
What to bring:
- a hat
- a camera
- a towel
- (wear) swimwear
Cost per a person: $24
I had heard about elephant abuse and so while picking a tour package I was trying to be careful. My husband said that we weren’t near an elephant sanctuary so there was no way to guaranteed the elephants we visited in the local area would be 100% treated well. I talked to other tourists in Krabi and they said at the trekkings they did, the elephants seemed they were treated well. I read mixed reviews on what is abuse towards an elephant. I guess the safe way would be to do a sanctuary where you have no contact with the elephant (no rides and no shows).
[box] “One place where you can ride elephants in Thailand in an ethical environment is Baan Chang Elephant Park a relatively new elephant camp north of Chiang Mai.” [/box]
The truth is we did not make it a priority to go out of our way to the few sanctuaries that are in Thailand. If there was one in Krabi I would have gone in a heart beat. I have mixed feelings on whether elephant trekking was ethnical and because of this I did some research.
Some of My Research
To the facility we did go to the trainers used a bullhook to guide the elephant. When I saw this at first, I was really leery, but if you as a human are going to ride one it’s important to have a safety measure. Our trainer never hurt the elephant during our excursion. From what I could tell during our visit, the elephants at our facility were treated well. These elephants didn’t have any wounds or rockiness (signs of mistreatment). I also noticed during our visit that the elephants had free and fun time. Before our 1 hour trekking I watched an elephant swat grass on a post for quite sometime. He was a having a hay day!
Trekking Through the Jungle
Our adventure consisted of us riding through a forest of rubber trees and treading through some water. The trainers had the elephants spray us with water while we were on the elephant’s back in the water. We rode on a trekking chair, it’s also known as a Howdah. The ride felt a lot like riding a horse but higher and cooler hair that prickles your legs. During our trek our elephant was really hungry. He was constantly pulling wild grass using his truck.
It’s recommended if you are to ride an elephant to ride the neck. This was not an option for us at this facility. However, I definitely would have preferred riding the neck of the elephant. If you are to be at one of these facilities I would recommend insisting on one person per a trekking chair because then the weight is better for the elephant. As you see below, the elephants get quite the work out.
With our limited communication with our elephant’s trainer we gathered the name of our elephant. I don’t remember the name now but that it was of course a Thai name (go figure). I do remember thinking it was interesting seeing how the trainer interacted with the elephant. It reminded me of a man and his best friend, a dog, but being able to treat your dog like a jungle gym. Our trainer swung on and off our elephant with no problem; it was second nature for him.
This is where the trainers live. They live on the elephant’s camping grounds.
I snuck a picture quickly inside one.
Dumbo in Real Life
There was a show. I had no idea what to expect. Honestly I really didn’t care about it but it was still neat seeing it. Like I said I was there for the ride and the swimming experience. The trainer had the elephant play basketball, hula-hoop and the harmonica.
The harmonica was the coolest aspect of the show.
Swimming With an Elephant
For some reason I imagined this swimming experience to be a lot like what I saw on the movie Tarzan but trust me when I say, the elephant are that much larger than you and you wouldn’t want to open your eyes in that dirty water.
Denny informed me that the elephant pooped while I was sitting on him. That’s comforting and natural right? It was really peaceful sitting on the elephant’s bear back in the water. When the elephant stirred he made me feel like I was on a moving boulder that was alive. It was an out-of-this-body experience…really cool. It was really peaceful and impressive sitting there on his back, stroking his (what appears as baby fuzz) black course hair. God made this grand animal and me. WOW.
Crazy fact: It takes 171 people to equal the weight of the heaviest elephant.
And that was what I was sitting on. That blows my mind.
Traveler’s TIP: I personally liked the swimming part the most. I was able to be closer and I don’t think this experience could be unethical. The only downside is that I got really sick (ear and sinus infection) from the dirty water. Remember that large turd? Ha. Well, make sure if you really want to swim with this grand mammal (because it’s worth it, even if you’re sick for a week) do it on your last day in Thailand so you don’t have to miss out on what Thailand has to offer.
This experience was truly awesome being able to be that close to these magnificent mammals.
Don’t forget about the elephants.
They won’t forget about you!
Would you like to ride or swim with an elephant? Why or why not?
If you have, where did you go? Would you recommend that place to future travelers?
10,000 Smiles is a photography project that I am doing for the year 2013. Read more about why I am doing this project. You can vote for the picture that makes you smile by listing the number of the picture in the comment box at the end of the post.