Day 11/72: Elephant Hills!!!November 7 in Thailand
So. Today we woke up early in Phuket, got a rushed breakfast from a cafe (although reeeally nice bacon omelette) and got picked up by a man and a minivan from outside our hostel at 7:45 sharp. We then drove the 3.5 hours to Khao Sok national park, where we reached Elephant Hills Jungle Lodges (which I booked for Tom's 21st birthday). Having been greeted with a welcome drink, we found our luxury tent (complete with bathroom, shower, electricity and WiFi, but completely open besides a Mosquito net to the jungle outside).
At 12 o'clock the lunch gong sounded and we headed to get a lovely meal of rice, stir fries and fresh fruit. Then we headed over to the elephant camp. That was where we met the lovely elephants, and we spent the next few hours watching them swim, learning about them, washing them down with hoses and coconut hair scrubbing brushes, and preparing food for them and feeding them! (And also hoping you weren't too close when they decided to throw mud over themselves). It was an absolutely incredible experience; one that we will never ever forget.
The elephants have one mahout each; the mahout is the man who looks after one elephant all his life. Since elephants live to be about 80-90 years old, they will grow old together. At elephant Hills you can watch the mahout follow the elephant around, and the elephants in turn follow the mahout when the mahout wants.
These elephants live in the very best conditions possible: open fields to roam in, lots of swimming holes for them to swim in, and muddy pits for them to fling mud over themselves in. They use the mud on their skin as sun protection.
While we were washing one of the elephants, we could only wash her for as long as she wanted to be washed for, they stand still for about 10-15 minutes and then start to walk away as they have learnt that this is long enough!
The food for the elephants consisted of pineapples, bananas, grasses/leaves tied into bundles, sugarcane, and their vitamins which had to be hidden in a banana leaf parcel to get the elephants to eat it. The elephants then take the food straight out of your hands with their trunks, and start searching around for more when it's all gone! It was great to see because even if you gave one the vitamin parcel and a couple of bananas in the same trunkful, they'd eat the bananas and carefully drop the parcel on the floor!
Interestingly (and if you don't want to learn more about elephants skip this paragraph), Asian elephants are much easier to train than African, and have been used in the logging industry for years. When Thailand put a ban on logging due to deforestation, it left many elephants unemployed, so Elephant Hills takes them in and have won many awards for their sustainable and humane approach to keeping elephants. African elephants have 4 toes on their front legs and 3 on their back legs, while Asian elephants have 5 at the front and 4 at the back. They also have a much more love heart shaped head. Elephants communicate to each other using sounds too low for humans to hear up to 70% of the time.
We were both very sad to say goodbye to the elephants, however we walked 100m down a dirt track and all got into kayaks with a guide paddling us down the river while we sat and looked around the rainforest and the dramatic hills towered overhead. Our guide pointed out all kinds of wildlife- a sleeping (thankfully) mangrove snake, which our guide ensured us was only a little bit venomous, lots of big frogs, a tiny squirrel, and 3 white monkeys! (the monkeys are apparently quite rare to see and on our return to the camp this evening every other group was very jealous to know we had seen them).
From the river we had an amazing view of the elephant hills of Khao Sok Park, thus named because they look slightly like the humped backs of elephants... The sounds of sicadas washed us down the river.
This evening was filled with traditional Thai dances from the local schools in the area, a cooking demonstration on how to make Pad Thai (seemingly you should already know exactly what you're doing and put all the right ingredients in the wok in the right amounts at the right moments...) and a delicious buffet style dinner of rice, curries, stir fries, chicken wings (and tiramisu for dessert!!!).
Right now, we are writing this blog post lying on the King sized bed, listening to the sounds of a tropical rainstorm on our tent, and the sounds of the river and the jungle outside, agreeing it was probably one of the best days ever, and hoping that no mosquitos manage to find their way in.Read more