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Published: October 31st 2018
Days 39-45 – Elephant National Park – A Full Review:
I thought it would make more sense to review this in one big go. Purely because I’m lazy and want to write about this in one big go as oppose to 6 separate incidents.
We arrived at the ENP at about 11am, located very close to the rafting company we had used. After being checked in, receiving a free t-shirt water bottle and holder, we had lunch and an orientation before being shown to our accomodation.
Purpose – The ENP is home to 80 elephants which have been rescued from various poor living situations, which include but are not limited to logging camps, trekking camps, elephant shows and circuses. The majority of the elephants here were “Broken”, a system where elephants are tied up for weeks on end and mercilessly abused until they lose spirit and will to fight, allowing the humans to take control and enslave them. This means that the older Elephants will no longer be able to function in the wild. On top of this a lot of the elephants have suffered horrific injuries. Several walk with broken or stumped legs, having stood on landmines on the Myanmar border, or slipping due to exhaustion of being overworked. Here they are semi-wild, being able to roam where they would like during the day before returning to pens and enclosures at night. Mahouts, who are “in charge” of the elephants, are each given an individual elephant to work with and simply walk around with the elephant, making sure all is well and preventing any potential calamities from occurring, there are no chains or hooks involved.
The park itself almost hosts a plethora of wounded dogs, that require walking every day, which is done during free time in between tasks. Again many of the dogs are wounded, some even requiring wheels to enable the simulated use of their hind legs. An army of cats also live in the park as well as water buffalo and horses.
Accomodation – Bunks were in the form of 1 or 2 person rooms. Obviously, having paid together me and Meg were given a double room in a 4 room hut, with 4 showers specifically for us. There was a large mosquito net protecting us from creepy crawlies, of which there were an abundance. Our shower was home to a HUGE huntsman spider who took great amount of joy in flying around the floor in the late evening, forcing Meg to seek a different bathroom at every opportunity. The rooms themselves were large enough for us to do our exercises in without dousing the room in sweat and stink. This was a lot better than what we were expecting in fairness.
Food – Meat freaks beware. There is none here. The whole place is vegan. Thankfully I live with a vegetarian so am used to (although not particularly fond of) going long periods of time withour a big slab of chicken. That being said, the food is excellent. Large buffets are served at 7am, 11.45am and 6pm, always prompting a mini earthquake as everyone floods to be the first one there. IT’s not the same food every mealtime either. Of course rice and noodles are readily available but the curries and other such food are prepared differently and tasted differently. One of my particular favourites was a BBQ Soy styled like sticky ribs.
The best option here is just to dive into it. Try everything. It’s all really good and unless you’re allergic to something (in which case you can speak to the staff) then you’re going to have a great time. The only downside is the sheer amount of food means you probably will end up gaining weight over the week. At time of writing I am yet to weigh myself (I haven’t since Koh Samui.) So won’t know for sure but I feel heavier following gorging on 3 meals a day for the first time in 6 weeks.
Jobs – At the start of each week the volunteers are split up into 4 groups. These four groups are then assigned different tasks for the first 5 days. The tasks are as follows
1.) Elephant Poo – No prizes for guessing what this entails. One shovel each and a walk from night time enclosure to night time enclosure. The group leaders follow with a truck which is loaded with leftover food, and the aforementioned faeces, by the willing volunteers. This was one of the more physically exertive tasks presented to us, but it’s basically mucking out the stable of a big horse.
2.) Clean up Park – effectively Elephant Poo but in the afternoon outdoors. This involved walking around the park, trusty shovel in hand, cleaning poo from the open spaces, usually found underneath the mushroom huts set up to offer shade to the Elephants at their eating points.
3.) Enrichment – This consisted of decorating the younger elephants enclosures with watermelons, corn, bananas and other treats. This is done because the younger elephants aren’t always particularly pleased to come back to the enclosures at night, so a bit of temptation goes a long way until they are older and aware of the procedure.
4.) Elephant Food/Kitchen- making food for elephants. Initially we loaded watermelons (literally hundreds of watermelons) off a delivery truck which took the majority of the time off the task. There were others making rice cakes, but we were not party to this. After this we were rewarded by feeding the elephants.
5.) Elephant walk – This was not a job. Our guide took us on a walk around the park, showing us all the elephants and giving us information about them.
Free time – There is a large amount of free time, with each job taking a couple of hours, giving us a couple of hours more to spend to ourselves. The internet connection was weak, only really working from the main platform. Each evening hosts a different activity, such as a movie night, local performances and culture and dancing evenings. Meg and I did not watch any of these, too busy with Netflix and sleeping (as well as allowing cats to sneak into our room.) Everyone seemed to be having fun though. There was alcohol for sale, but there were signs actively discouraging partying, for keeping the animals up all night. There was even a sign telling us not to follow our tour guides if they instruct us to party.
“Cat Kingdom” is just outside the platform and is, as expected, where a large amount of cats lie around waiting for people to come in and make a huge fuss out of them. As cool as this was, there were literally hundreds of cats all over the park who were always game for being made a huge fuss off. We could also volunteer for dog walking at 10.15am and 3.30pm. This involved taking your dog, which ranged from recovering from injury to having no use of their hind legs and using a doggy wheelchair, down the road and back a few times. We were told to not let any of the dogs interact with one another as most were to be treated as if they were wild dogs. These are the dogs that end up being adopted and I could understand this process, almost like a trial for each prospective owner. Clever.
On the final day we were taken on a walk with Derrick, the husband of Lek, who is the visionary behind the project. He tells us about all the elephants in greater detail than previous guides an takes us to the river where the elephants he has a great bond with (a family of 12) come and walk with him back to their enclosure for the evening. Derrick was very knowledgeable and for the most part was very nice. The only downside of this particular activity was his final speech. I really wanted to say he was a phenomenal human being but dammit Derrick you just had to go and be preachy didn’t you? Meg and I disagree but I stand firmly by my belief that when someone says “It’s not for me to say what you do BUT…”, that a speech and a life conversion is forthcoming. We were gently reminded that you don’t have to have kids, as human population is ruining the environment as much as agriculture, which then led to a nod about becoming a vegan. Meg has since pointed out that the people spending a week at this kind of place are those who have at least some concern about the environment, and that were these people not to reproduce and promote these teachings to their own children then surely there would be less environmentally friendly individuals in the next generation.
All in all: 9/10. Damn you Derrick.
Steps:10,166. 18760. 8102. 14486. 11601. 13462. 13500.
Total steps: 458,789
5 Genuine tips:
1) It is WAY more expensive than you think it is. Granted I was basing my estimations from tne years ago but still…
2) Avoid Koh Lanta and surrounding Islands before November.
3) Even if you go for a day, go to the Elephant Nature Park
4) The Grab App will help immensely with transport, however it does not work on any of the islands.
5) I haven’t got a fifth one. Would just in general recommend coming here.
Tot: 2.389s; Tpl: 0.044s; cc: 9; qc: 44; dbt: 0.0414s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.3mb