June 8, 2009
A unique day with elephants in northern Thailand
It’s not everyday that you have a chance to talk to an elephant, let alone that you get a response. Yet that’s just what we offer our travelers during a private, hands-on day of working with and riding domestic elephants in the forests of northern Thailand.
During this special activity, our travelers visit a private elephant camp and are assigned their own personal pachyderm as their charge and companion for the day. As a mahout (elephant keepers)-in-training, travelers learn many fascinating things: how to care for, feed and clean their elephant; how to approach the elephant and read the elephant’s mood; and how to mount and ride the elephant. (The entire experience is overseen by real elephant trainers.)
Above all, this is a unique opportunity to bond with an elephant. Our travelers rave about the fun of bathing their elephants, but be prepared to get wet as the elephants like to return the favor by spraying water from their trunks! Another highlight is climbing onto the elephant’s back and guiding it with spoken commands—and yes, they really do listen to you—through the forest to a waterfall where a picnic lunch awaits.
Our travelers also learn about the cultural relevance of elephants in Thailand. The national animal, Thai elephants (or chang in the Thai language), have traditionally been used as beasts of burden and symbols of prestige. A white elephant was considered auspicious and reserved for the king and royal duties. According to legend, if a king acquires a white elephant during his reign, happiness and prosperity will spread throughout the land.
Despite the importance of elephants in Thailand, the number of wild elephants in Thailand is declining. Less than a century ago, hundreds of thousands of wild elephants roamed Thailand’s forests. Today, there are estimated to be around three thousand or fewer. Deforestation and loss of habitat are key causes for the diminishing numbers. However, concerned travelers will be happy to learn that the private elephant camp we use is dedicated to increasing the Thai elephant population.
Children, adults and even older travelers adore this once-in-a-lifetime elephant experience. It’s perfect for active families, animal lovers or any traveler seeking a truly unique memory to take away from their Thailand tour.