Elephants World is a nonprofit organization located near the city of Kanchanaburi. This is where tourists and volunteers take care of old, sick, handicapped, abused or rescued elephants. They offer a day program, overnight program and mahout program. CLICK HERE for more info on Elephants World.
Elephants World is located 35 km (21 miles) from the city of Kanchanaburi and 180 km (111 miles) from the city of Bangkok.
My friends and I decided to experience the overnight program with the elephants and are thankful we did!
The motto at Elephants World is, “Where you work for the elephant and the elephant not for you.” It is a place where rescued elephants live the rest of their lives in peace, in their natural environment.
“I want to ride an elephant!” I’m pretty sure people have said that out loud or mentally when planning a visit to Thailand. I get it; it’s an exciting activity to add to a Thailand trip. Feeling that way is normal, but I got curious, and decided to dig deeper. I wanted to stress the importance of researching and being informed on elephant cruelty beforehand.
The information you may find is disturbing and some people are completely unaware of what elephants in tourism are put through. Once you do some research, you can make the best decisions based on your morals. Check out the post I dedicated to my spirit animal, in hopes to raise awareness on elephant cruelty.
I’m pretty sure the gentle giants would be very grateful, knowing you care enough to support them the right way.
Here’s some important information everyone should know about elephants and the importance to research the elephant “sanctuary” before you go.
1. Logging elephants is illegal, making them carry and transport logs.
2. Using elephants to beg or make money is illegal.
3. Trekking with elephants, riding on them, is sadly still LEGAL. Please don’t support this.
RED FLAG ALERT: If the “sanctuary” you go to is offering or making elephants do tricks or carry you etc., more than likely, you are NOT supporting the elephants.
We watched a short video informing us about elephants, teaching us about their intellect, and how they have a great memory. Many claim they can recognize people of his/her past. We learned the types of food elephants eat and don’t eat. To learn more about elephants click here.
COOKING FOR & FEEDING THE GENTLE GIANTS
The first interactive activity we got to do with the elephants was to feed them watermelons, sweet potatoes and corn. Some were picky eaters, only wanting the corn, specifically, without the husks LOL. Others preferred the juicy watermelon.
Next, they put us to work. We all helped chop up yams and took turns stirring it with rice in a big pot, with big wooden ladles. We made sticky rice balls about the size of a large soft ball, to feed a geriatric elephant, named “Aum Pan,” who had no teeth. The other elephants liked to eat it as well.
BATHING ELEPHANTS IN THE RIVER
Bathing the elephants in the river was very interactive and memorable. I met my favorite elephant, Krating Dang (Redbull) in the river and bathed her, using brooms as scrubbers and buckets to rinse her. I called her my favorite because there was almost an immediate sense of safety when I first approached her in the river.
Naturally, I felt a little scared as these animals are huge, but around this specific elephant, I felt safe. It was almost as if she was welcoming my presence. All the elephants had different personalities, which was fun to witness. Some elephants, like Nemochi, LOVED the water. She would submerge herself completely under water and blow bubbles, so I named nicknamed her The Snorkeler.
A highlight of choosing the overnight program is that during the second day, I got to bathe some of the elephants in a river again, but separately from the others that were doing the one-day visit. It was much more private and I definitely felt like I had more time with the elephants too. I’m not sure if it was supposed to happen that way, but I am thankful it did.
Everywhere we went we noticed each elephant accompanied by another person. We found out that they are called Mahouts, and care for their one specific elephant, dedicating their lives to caring for them. What an awesome job!
Towards the end of the day, I had the chance to walk my elephant, Krating Deng, with her mahout, to the jungle where she sleeps.
Krating Deng loves to hold things in her trunk while she walks. She grabbed onto whatever she could wrap her trunk around, usually branches or leaves. I learned that she did this because she used to pick flowers and give them to tourists when she was in captivity. It was a habit for her, which is sort of heart breaking.
Her Mahout didn’t speak English, I didn’t even know his name and there definitely was a language barrier, but he could tell I adored his elephant. He allowed me to walk next to her, showed me how to guide her as she turned corners, and told me what to yell to make her walk faster, since she loved taking her sweet time. This made her the last elephant to get anywhere. I didn’t mind, though. I could walk with her all day!
Krating Deng with her mahout
There was a specific moment where Krating Deng and I were walking straight towards scattered pieces of crap on the dirt pathway. I wasn’t sure if I should move her or if she would dodge it naturally. By the time I was trying to process what to do or not do with her, with precision she stepped over and beside the crap, never stepping in it once, because duh she is so smart.
MY SPIRIT ANIMAL CONNECTION
I walked besides her, resting my hand on her side. She met my eye and for that moment I swear I could feel how wise she was. I bet if she could, she’d tell me her whole life story, I was sure of it. I would have listened to it all, the good and bad. Instead, I enjoyed the moment, observing this wise creature walking with me.
It was always one of my dreams to meet my spirit animal and it was happening! We were hanging out, going for a stroll in the jungle together, like no big deal. It felt like I was walking next to a dinosaur… so surreal. I walked beside her in admiration, had a silent conversation with her, and thanked the universe for bringing me to her to experience that exact moment.
We finally reached her tree, where there was hay for her to eat until she fell asleep.
The overnight program for an adult is $132. It includes, transport to and from the city of Kanchanaburi, two lunches, one breakfast, one dinner, drinking water, coffee, tea and a hut (with restroom) to sleep in.
Since we chose the overnight program, we had another full day to bond with the elephants (woo hoo!). The huts were cute, and reminded me of the bahay kubo (small huts) I’ve seen in the Philippines.
The huts had electricity and fans, but no AC. Surprisingly, the fans were enough to keep us cool the entire night. We were very thankful for the mosquito nets, which formed a barrier between us and the creepy crawlers.
Our hut with two twin sized beds and a private restroom.
Our bathroom and shower. Definitely brought back memories of my visits to the Philippines.
The night included hanging out with the mahouts and volunteers in the common area, drinking Thai beer, scaring each other as we walked back to our huts in complete darkness, and screaming at all the huge moths sleeping on the bathroom walls.
HIKING TO THE ELEPHANTS
In the morning, some of us took a hot, humid, one and a half hour hike to pick up some elephants in the jungle. The rest of the day consisted of more river baths for the elephants, water fights with the mahouts, feeding more elephants, and talking with the volunteers and mahouts about their personal experiences.
No elephants crossing, time for a quick freeze!
I was able to witness a volunteer trying to give an elephant a durian fruit. Supposedly they like them, but with one sniff the elephant quickly backed away, trunk up and ears flapping, as if to say “You think I’m gonna eat that?!” It was hilarious I could not stop laughing!! The mahouts, however, devoured the durian happily.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye. I decided to give Krating Deng a parting gift since they say elephants have a great memory and I was hoping she would never forget me. So I gave her a special treat for elephants, a coconut. Her mahout made her say “thank you” to me. With excitement she took it from my hands with her strong trunk, put it in her mouth, and then accidentally dropped it HAHA. I handed it to her again and with her powerful jaw, she cracked it right open, drinking the juice and eating the whole entire thing.
This experience with the elephants proved to be so short! But it was definitely life-changing. Connecting with Krating Deng is something I will never forget. If I return to Elephants World, I would love to do the mahout program, next.
I’ll end this post with a quote that is so true,
“They say an elephant never forgets, but what they don’t tell you is, YOU never forget an elephant.”