In the morning we woke up early for a big day. We were going to the elephant enclosure today. We got packed and set off for the one hour drive to the elephant enclosure. It was a long ride.
When we got there I got out to see my first elephant! Technically it wasn’t the first elephant I saw in person. I had seen them in nature shows and at Angkor Wat. This was the first time that I saw them up close.
They were Asian elephants. They were grey and had small ears, a long tail and, of course, a trunk.
We had to change into mahout clothes, before we could work with the elephants. The clothes were all the same. They were long shorts and short-sleeved shirts made from blue jean-like clothing. They had to be the same, so that the elephants would not get overwhelmed by all the different colours that we normally wear.
We got to feed the elephants sugar cane and bananas. It was actually easy. You just put it near their trunks. Then they grab it with their trunk, put it in the mouth and eat it. You could also ask the elephant’s mahout if you could directly put it in the elephants mouth… which I did.
For those that don’t know a mahout is the caretaker for the elephant.
The second lesson was how to command the elephant. The elephant sat down to the command “Non Long”. To get on the elephant you step on to their leg and crawl up on their back. When I got up on the elephant, I found his back was really rough and his hair very tough. The rest of the commands were like this. Go is “Pai”. Down is “Non Long”. Stop is “How”.Turn is “Gwai”.
Then we had lunch….
After lunch we got to ride the elephant on a dirt road that went all over the camp. My Mum and I shared an elephant named Tohn San. Emma and my Dad rode an elephant named Thong Dee. When it was time, we got on our elephants and started riding them. We rode them on the dirt path through the jungle. We had to constantly give them commands because there was lots of food on the sides of the path. They kept wanting to stop and eat.
We went two times around camp. The scariest parts were when the elephants went up and down hills. It was difficult to hold on sometimes.
Then we went to bathe the elephants in a huge muddy pool. I scrubbed and my Mum threw water on top of the elephant. Then we had a water fight and our elephant started spraying water.
At the end of the day I was wet and cold, so I changed into my normal clothes. They where warm and cozy.
We rode home in the mini-van very happy. It was really fun! The most fun thing was feeding the elephants.
Mike: Riding elephants in Thailand is very controversial. Whether you ride them or just feed them, is a personal choice. There are a lot of captive elephants in Thailand and they are expensive to keep. They need tourist dollars to keep these animals safe.
Whatever you do decide, please do your research on the company. We saw some very poor conditions in places that we passed by. The Thais are driven by the tourist dollar, so our choices will have the greatest impact on their elephants’ wellbeing.
They are amazing animals and need our support.