Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Elephant adventure

One of the things we wanted to do in Luang Prabang was an elephant adventure. On our first day we shopped around and looked for green and eco/elephant friendly companies, to know for sure that our experience also is for the good of the elephants and environment. Laos is called ‘the land of the million elephants’, it was used to be known for its amount of elephants. Nowadays there are only 600 elephants living in the wild and 1000 elephants in captivity, and the species is threatened to die out. We ended up booking our trip with Elephant Village, because it is known to be saving elephants from people who miss treat them in captivity and they work hard to save the species.

After we were picked up and driven to the elephant village we learned how to climb up an elephant. We were in a group of 7 and one by one we climbed up the elephant for a short ‘ride’ and a basic mahout training. A mahout is a person who trains and watches over the elephant; they mostly stay with one elephant for years, sometimes its life long relationship. It was a strange feeling to climb up an elephant, pulling on his ears, setting on his neck, but the mahout and the guide explained that this doesn’t hurt the elephant. The elephant didn’t seem to bother at all and was continuously eating while we were climbing up and down and riding her. They eat 10% of their body weight every day (meaning 150-250kg), so they are probably continuously hungry :-).

The daytrip also included the visit to the Tad Sae waterfall, which we would normally end the day with, but because it was so busy we switched it to an earlier stage. The Keh Sea waterfall does only exists in the wet season and was very impressive with many places to bath and we could climb up and down the ‘trays’ of the waterfall.

With a small boat we were brought to the elephants resting place for a 1-hour trekking through the woods in a basket on top of the elephants. The elephants are so sweet, careless, relax and always hungry and grabbing food everywhere. Our mahout was sitting on the neck of the elephant giving the orders and we were enjoying the elephant and the scenery. At a certain point our mahout jumped of the elephant and took over our camera and made pictures of us :-). It was good to see that the elephant continuously moved her ears, which is a sign that she is enjoying her time and likes what she is doing.

After a very welcome and delicious Lao style lunch in the elephant village we were picked up again with a boat for the grade finale of the day: ‘bathing the elephants’. They were already waiting for us on the other side of the river and after we gave our cameras away to the guides for the pictures we each hoped on our own elephant (with a mahout of course). The elephants walked in the water and while some of us (like Iris) could really clean the elephant, others (like Rino) were constantly sprayed by the elephant by orders of the a little more humorous mahout. The both of us had a lot of fun!

After the elephant bathing we were brought back to the elephant village for some relaxing time at their pool and later back to Luang Prabang. We both found this day an incredible experience and absolute adored the elephants. We learned a lot about the species which we didn’t know anything about before. What a marvelous and massive creature!

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