Bathing with Elephants

22 Nov

Before we even arrived in Thailand we knew at least this–we were going to ride an elephant.

So, the morning after we arrived in Khao Lak, we wandered around investigating the grounds of our hotel complex and then decided to locate the Tour Desk. Within a very short space of time we’d organised two trips–an elephant trek for the afternoon and an island tour for the next day. We even managed to get a special price as it was a private tour and there were four of us. Score!

I can’t remember entirely what the options were for elephant trekking but I remember that there was some um-ing and ah-ing about whether we wanted to go bathing with the elephants. We eventually decided that we would go bathing with the elephants. This ended up being a fantastic idea because it was honestly the highlight of our trip.

First of all, wearing sneakers was probably a bad idea. The word “trek” sort of implies actual walking on rough ground, so all of us donned our sneakers before going for the short drive to the place where the elephants were. We got into three pairs–a couple joining us from Melbourne, my two cousins, and then Symone and me–and sat atop our elephants. And off we went, lolling down the track (which we didn’t need our shoes for). Symone and I had a lovely handler sitting on the head of our elephant. He only spoke about five words of English, but he still got his message across. We were heading towards a waterfall, but along the way we saw what I think were rubber plantations as well as a lot of other beautiful scenery.

Once we got to the waterfall, we got off our elephants and had a brief wander around and then got on again to head back to the start of the trek. On the way back, our handler got the elephant to pick a palm branch off a tree for him and he spent his time creating a bird for Symone and a cricket for me out of the leaves. We were touched. This is also when we discovered the error in our ways regarding wearing sneakers. Our handler pointed into the distance and said, “rain”. We didn’t take much notice at the time, but did see that the other two couples and their handlers had put on their ponchos. The next thing we knew, we were sitting in a torrential downpour and scrambled to put on our own ponchos. Then we watched with sadness as our shoes became totally saturated and regretted our choice in footwear.

When we got back to the start of the trek, we had a brief snack of pineapple and coke and then hopped in the bus again to head off to the next part of the elephant experience–bathing with them.

The rain was bucketing down at this point and we were about to get very wet anyway, so we dispensed with our shoes, socks and ponchos. I got cold so I used my cousin for warmth until we got into the water.

We were basically told to sit behind the elephants’ heads while they bathed in the water. I think these elephants were a bit cheeky because they would dip right down and lean from side to side, making it just a little bit difficult to stay on. Symone and I got very up close and personal as we both gripped on to the elephant to stay upright.

I don’t rightly know how to describe the experience of sitting on the back of an elephant in heavy rain in the middle of nowhere with only a few other people. It’s surreal. I laughed uncontrollably and felt completely elated. I didn’t care that I was definitely sitting in elephant excrement-filled water, or that it was raining so heavily that my eyes were squinting to keep the water out. It just added to the whole incredible experience. It was one that I will never forget.

Love my facial expression in this one.

If I ever got the chance to go back and bathe with an elephant again, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say yes. It was a wonderful, amazing experience. I really love elephants–they’re truly beautiful creatures.


2 Responses to “Bathing with Elephants”


  1. Farewell 2012, Hello 2013. « bearinthere - 31/12/2012

    […] wonderful trip to Thailand. Though it was short, it was filled with some amazing experiences, like bathing with the elephants and going to the Tiger Temple again. Man, I love that […]

  2. A tour through the Islands | bearinthere - 03/04/2013

    […] day after we went bathing with elephants, my three travel companions and I went on a boat tour around Phang Nga Bay, which is in the Andaman […]

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