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Review of Elephant Sanctuary

Elephant Sanctuary
Windhoek, Namibia
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed January 16, 2013

I must admit, I was a bit skeptical of the Elephant Sanctuary that my wife was so keen on visiting. I had visions of suburbian "touch feely" petting zoos crammed with whining kids in strollers. Well, as so many of the places in and around Tsitsikama, I needn't have worried. The place is professionally run by well trained and knowledgeable staff. The initial briefing was a bit on the hurried side, the guide probably had already done ten briefings by the time we arrived and the group a bit on the large side but ok, peak season time. We all loved the walk we each did with the elephants and by all I mean, my wife and I and our ten year old son and eight year old daughter. After the walk, we each had an opportunity to come really close to the elephants, note that the trainer never left the elephants side during these encounters. The elephant to whom we were seconded, Jabulani, a female African elephant from Botswana, took copious amounts of fruit treat from the kids and was pretty nonchalant at the humans stroking and staring in wonderment at her great bulk.
Good place, worth a visit.

Visited January 2013
Thank Rodrigo P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Grand Cayman
Level 3 Contributor
17 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“What an experience”
Reviewed January 9, 2013

This was a great experience. To be able to walk along side these big beasts and have them hold your hand with their trunk was amazing (if a bit snotty!) We were lucky that there were only a few on our tour so had a long ride on the back of the elephants and then able to give them a good brush. Fantastic to be so close to them.

Visited December 2012
Thank Shazza44_11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, England, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
27 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Unique and well intentioned”
Reviewed December 26, 2012

We decided to get up early and do the 'sunrise tour', where you brush, walk, feed, and ride the elephants.

You are greeted by a friendly and informative guide, who talks you through what the sanctuary does and how they make money to keep doing what they do. The nicest thing to hear was that once the elephants get to a certain size they are released back into the reserves, for reasons both to live out a natural existence and because they become genuinely unmanageable. The guide told us (I have not checked this fact thought) that at Knysna they have had problems due to keeping bulls despite reaching sexual maturity and getting too big to control.

Anyway, their five elephants consist of a few who are poacher orphans and a few who are rescued from circus existences. Obviously, they are still spending a lot of their days 'performing' in a way, but they do nothing more unnatural than walking, performing a few natural behaviours (shaking their heads, kneeling to dig for roots) and lifting legs and trunks to allow people to have a look at them and learn about them. The guide also assured me since they are fed fairly constantly during the tours, they are a big fan of people as people mean food!

Yes, the handlers themselves come across as somewhat indifferent, but they are knowledgeable enough and the elephants respond well to them.

It was a beautiful personal experience as no one else was crazy enough to get there for 8am for the sunrise tour. It was lovely to brush them and be so close to them, they were very gentle and I never felt worried. The tour itself wasn't especially long so I'm glad we went for the whole shebang, despite the expense. It was actually comfortingly expensive, as I think this should be a special thing that you save up to do, rather than being an easy commodity. They are special animals and shouldn't be taken advantage of. It was especially nice seeing them after we were done, getting into the pool and having a nice mud bath!

If you love elephants and want a special experience, I would recommend getting up early and doing the sunrise tour. We bought the DVD they made of us, seeing as it was just us in it and it's quite well edited for being done on the spot! They also sell beautiful prints of the elephants feet on paper made from their dung. Not as gross as it sounds!

The Elephant Sanctuary is a small, well run and thought out operation. I felt privileged to get so close, and to help in keeping them safe. Savour each moment!

Visited December 2012
2 Thank Joanne D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East London, South Africa
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Wonderful experience!”
Reviewed December 25, 2012

Had a wonderful experience with the elephants, great value for money. What stood out was the staff, they are so knowledgeable and interactive, they are really passionate about their work. It was our first time with Elephants so I didn't know what to expect, a grear overall experience.

Had to spend a couple of hours waiting for locksmith as my son locked the car keys in the car, it wouldn't had been so bad if there was a coffee shop or a restaurant.

Thank Ayanda N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“A unique experience”
Reviewed December 20, 2012

My husband and I visited the elephant sanctuary in November 2012. We had a truly unique experience - the elephants were beautiful and our "tour guide" was informative and friendly. There are some things to consider before you go:
1) The actual elephant "handlers" who walk with you seem to be indifferent towards the elephants. One actually told us that he would rather be a soccer coach than doing what he was doing. I found that sad.
2) The elephants are "contained" in this environment and do the walking tours all day long. We saw tour after tour. When I left, I wondered....is this really the right place for these elephants? It seem unnatural and almost like a zoo without walls. Our guide told us that the elephants to into a barn at night. It just didn't seem like this was entirely right.
3) The "walk" with the elephants is very short and then the rest of the time is with the elephants "doing" things - like picking up their leg, showing you the inside of their mouths, etc. Basically, trained, rote behavior.
Those are just things that you should consider before going. If I had my choice, I would have spent the time on safari rather than this experience. However, it was unique and one that I will remember. The elephants are clearly well taken care of, well fed (you get to feed them at the end) and have a good life! It just isn't their "natural" purpose.

Visited November 2012
3 Thank hwsnow
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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