So glad we chose this program to visit! Had a fantastic day one of the best all holiday! Pick up from hotel was on time and transfer to the home was about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. When we arrived we were given clothes to change into and then sat around a big table for an elephant talk, Joe then explained as much about elephants and the home as was possible in the time alllowed, he explained that the elephant numbers are dwindleing, how expensive elephants are to keep and how elephants must work to earn their keep, why it was neccesary to use the bullhook as elephants are big animals and you need to be able to control them and why the home does not use baskets, this talk was very informative and answered all my questions, joe then ran through the 5 command words we might need, up, down, go, stop and turn ! Then we made offering to Ganesh the elephant god before collecting some sugar cane and banana to give the elephants.
Meeting the elephants for the first time was the most nerve racking as they spotted the food and came striding over to get it, we were given a quick demo on how to get on and off before being let loose 3 at a time to practice, we each got on walked around the paddock and then got off again while accompanied by a mahout,then we were assigned out own elephant and we mounted up and headed out. Riding the elephant was the strangest sensation, especially when the elephant stopped for munching!! The track to the lunch stop wound up and down through the jungle and was very beautiful, we trekked for about an hour and then stopped for some tasty pad thai we took photos, ate lunch, fed the elephants the leftovers and then helped cover the elephants in black mud in the "elephant spa" (we also got covered ourselves) the elephants loved this- one point blank refused to get up afterwards. After this we got back on and trekked back to the river - this was my favourite part after dropping our bags off on the far bank we went back in and the elephants lay down and let you wash them off and they splash you and lie flat in the water with their trunks out, after this it's about 20 mins back to the home. When we got back we had a shower and changed clothes before having a foot and hand soak if we wanted, tea and coffee were available, we were all given a free t shirt, framed picture, DVD with over 500 pics on as well as more info on the home and elephants in general before we jumped back in the van to return to our hotel.
Overall I cannot reccomend this place highly enough, you need to book in advance because it's very popular, I think that if you are going to do something like this it's worth spending the money to do it properly and support the places who are trying to do things the best way for the elephants.
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