Tuesday 13 September – Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand
Oh man I loved today! My heart is so full!
This morning Jessie wanted to go to kids club for an hour, so Craig and I walked down the beach into the village to pick up some things at the Minimart – it was a really lovely wee walk – quite a cute wee beach village – and we’ve decided tomorrow we’ll take Jessie down there for some exploring.
We then went back to our room to pack things for the afternoon’s tour, and pick Jessie up – she was a bit disappointed to not be staying for the cookie making class this afternoon, but we managed to coax her away.
We were picked up just before lunchtime by a taxi, arranged by Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, to head to the location not far from Patong – it was about 15-20 mins drive around windy roads with minimal aircon… suffice to say I was feeling preeeetty green when we arrived. Fortunately we had a bit of a wait a before the rest of the afternoon’s group arrived, so we were able to rest under the fans for a bit.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket is one of several locations (Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Phuket x2) where they rescue elephants from abusive situations (whether that’s a location where they’re being ridden, or performing in circus-type acts). I’m sad to say I have ridden elephants in Thailand a couple of times in the past – people just weren’t aware of what the real situation was (abused by their trainers and kept in conditions that just aren’t suitable for these amazing, intelligent creatures), but since then it has become more widely known that’s this isn’t ethical practice, and more of these kinds of rescue sanctuaries have popped up – Thailand made using elephants for logging illegal 30 years ago, but they are still considered a form of transport and therefore riding continues and so do performances.
The money paid for the experience we had today goes into caring for them (they eat up to 300kg of food per day each, which must be a huge expense). We first made some food for them using a mortar and pestle – I guess like elephant bliss balls – with banana, rice, fibre pellets, and pumpkin, and then took them over to the elephants along with a basket of freshly cut up watermelons (which Craig and I decided would be like $100 worth of watermelons per basket in New Zealand). They brought out four (of six) elephants and we got to say hello and give them a bit of a pat (Jessie wasn’t sure about this, but came around to it eventually) and then we fed them the watermelon and bliss balls.
After they’d finished eating, we went to look at how paper is made from their poop (something Jessie is very excited to talk to her pre-school friends about), before getting changed into our togs.
There are two large pools on-site, a mud pool, and a clean pool – first the elephants got into the mud pool and sat themselves down, and then we got in with them with some plates to scoop mud into, and once we had some good mud ready we rubbed it all over them – my girl looked to be in utter bliss, closing her eyes when we rubbed the mud onto her trunk and face. Jessie wasn’t too sure about this part, but she enjoyed watching.
Once they were nice and coated in the mud we all walked together with the elephants and got into the clean pool with them and washed and scrubbed off the mud with brushes (Jessie was happier to do this part) before moving to a shower to further wash off the mud – this is all a several times a day process for them, regardless of visitors, as they can’t sweat and need to be cooled down and have their skin protected by the mud.
After we’d showered and dressed we had a Pad Thai-making demonstration, which Craig helped with, and then a buffet (of which Jessie would only eat French fries).
My Dad had given Jessie some Thai Baht to spend over here, so she picked an elephant souvenir to spend some of her money on and she’s very excited about it.
It was so sad to hear some of the experiences these elephants have had in their previous lives, but it’s so heart warming that they’re now so well looked after – obviously it’s still not the ideal life for an elephant, but these guys can’t be released into the wild and this is a much happier and more ethical life for them – the people running the sanctuary very obviously have a lot of passion, and care about them a lot. I highly recommend this experience.
After another carsickness-inducing ride back to our resort, we’re ordering room service tonight and are well ready for sleep!