Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant. -- John Donne
What is it about an elephant that causes awe?
They're majestic, yet earthy. Unpretentious but commanding respect.
I remember the first time I saw an elephant in real life. It was at local fairgrounds where children clambered onto it for rides around a small circle.
I was a young girl in awe of this giant beast and imagined myself the Queen of Sheba as I rode on it's back (with a handful of other kids.)
Too young to understand the tragic irony, I now realize there was nothing majestic or queenly about this elephant's circumstance. It was a beast of burden, used to earn profit by walking in circles at fairgrounds in the U.S., not even it's native continent.
My next encounter with a live elephant was not until I was an adult and living in India with my husband and four children (and expecting our fifth).
We visited a Hindu temple in the town of Pondicherry where a sacred painted elephant would give 'blessings' in exchange for coins. (You can see our original YouTube video here).
Again, not the best circumstances for a wild animal. But standing in its presence produced a sense of awe and majesty. It was so LARGE and commanding. I actually felt blessed when it laid its trunk on my head.
At another Hindu temple a few weeks later, I climbed onto the back of the resident elephant, shocked by the needle-like hairs which pricked through my pants into the skin on my legs.
It looked 'circus-like' with its painted face and trunk. But I still stood with reverence and high regard for this seemingly suppressed yet formidable creature.
With this growing love for elephants, as I plan the couples' trip to Thailand, I knew we would have to see them.
But how? And where?
I know there are plenty of touristy places where you can climb on top of them and take a ride. But I'm also aware of the process required to 'brake' baby elephants.
Matt from ExpertVagabond says:
Wild elephants generally won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit.
The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”.
It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move.
The baby elephants are then beaten into submission with clubs, pierced with sharp bull-hooks, while starved and deprived of sleep for many days.
This isn't the experience I want to continue promoting. I want to show elephants the respect they deserve and to support companies that are treating them well.
I wanted to find something more humane, something that respected the elephant's magnificence and allowed them to live in a more natural state.
So I was stoked when I discovered Elephant Hills -- a luxury tented camp that provides up-close-and-personal encounters with elephants in a humane, sustainable way.
On their website they write:
At Elephant Hills, we do not offer any elephant rides to our guests. Besides ethical reasons, we also found that our unique elephant experience offers a much higher value for money to our guests, as you will get to feed, wash and interact with them. This intimate encounter is much praised and appreciated both by humans and elephants alike.
As part of our Thailand Couples Trip itinerary, we will be spending 3 days and 2 nights at Elephant Hills, with a day trip to their floating Rainforest Camp on Cheow Larn Lake:
1st Day: The Amazing Elephant Experience
Transfer to Elephant Hills Camp in Khao Sok (rainforest).
Elephant Hills Elephant Experience: Feeding, washing and interacting with Asia’s largest land animal. A really touching experience in an almost untouched environment.
Canoe Safari down the Sok River. Sit back and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Khao Sok.
Evening Activities: movie presentation, dance performances, and cooking demonstration.
2nd Day: Spectacular Cheow Larn Lake
Visit a local market in Takhun to experience Thailand’s rural lifestyle.
Boat Trip. Sightseeing in a traditional longtail boat on Cheow Larn Lake.
Lunch and free time at the floating Rainforest Camp. Self paddle canoes are available to explore the spectacular surrounding.
Return to Elephant Hills in the late afternoon.
Evening Activities: movie presentation, dance performances, and cooking demonstration
3rd Day: Fabulous Rainforest.
Jungle trekking by foot through Southern Thailand’s unique rainforest environment.
Return to Elephant Hills and onward transfer to your next hotel or the airport.
Here are some photos of what to expect at Elephant Hills:
You do NOT want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Because we are booking for a large group we're able to get this experience at an unbeatable price, and we're passing that onto you and including it as part of the Thailand Couples Trip