After reading wonderful reviews on TA the mahout experience was a must for our trip to Hua Hin, We had been to the Foundation several times before on previous holidays but this sounded like an opportunity to good to miss, luckily we booked in advance as I believe bookings are solid for coming months! I pleaded with Jo to allow me to bring my 12 year old daughter (children not generally allowed) I felt it would be educational and a wonderful experience, we were allowed after giving assurance I would take full resp for her well being - shes same size as me and very capable. The day finally came around and we were not disappointed, Jo and Will are an English couple dedicated to the Foundation and gave us a wonderful insight to the day to day operation and the workings of the Foundation. We were greated by Songkran and oh how she has grown since we saw her 12mths ago!, she is playful and interactive and seems to genuinally enjoy all the love and attention she receives (and boy she gets a lot!!). Yes she does a show but we were reassured that her training operates on a reward policy just like you would train a dog. Her Mahout Jackie adores her and she him this is obvious to see.
Our day was filled with "firsts" for us we got to administer medication, take a hopefully pregnant Tong Kam for a walk and see her enjoy a good scratching under a mango tree - a sight to behold! how the tree continually withstands 3 tonne of pushing and rubbing is beyond me! We prepared food, fed the elephants, washed the elephants and got up close and personal with them all.
Jo and Will are amazing, a wealth of information and love spending there days with these gentle giants.
From a photography perspective you don't get much better opportunities than this, I rolled off 280 shots and will surely find something to grace our walls at home to remind us of the wonderful day we had.
My opinion is that the 600 baht per person this cost was 100 times better value than having an elephant ride (costs the same for about 30 min ride), the money goes directly to the Foundation to support the elephants - the cost of feeding and medicating these huge animals is mega! and especially in a country where the average monthly wage is about what we would spend on a weeks groceries - if that! Due to their sad backgrounds all the elephants here have special needs and the foundation and people like Will and Jo ensure these needs are met - sometimes at their own cost.
From a 12 year olds perspective..... my daughter found this day inspirational, educational and totally hands on - she was a little apprehensive at times but then it pays to be when dealing with large animals like this be they in captivity or not.
Thank you Will and Jo, if I am ever in a situation to sponsor a worthy cause this would be my choice, its endearing to hear stories of these gentle giants who have in one way or another been submitted to lives of cruelty and now have found a safe haven to live out their days. Good luck to you all and I cant wait to stay tuned for the much anticipated arrival of Tong Kams baby in the upcoming months...... thanks so much for the experience of a life time and if anyone reading is visiting Hua Hin if theres one thing you do this must be it!!!
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