Traveling is not always rainbows and butterflies. Certain things you come across are not easy to confront. We had a chance to visit an elephant sanctuary and learn the heartbreaking story of these fascinating creatures. Learn more about our elephant experience in Mondulkiri, Cambodia!
What you should know about the elephants in Asia
Are you one of those tourists that have always desired to ride an elephant or have even ridden one? If the answer is yes, we feel the need to tell you what’s behind this touristy activity. During our travels we have noticed that elephant riding is slowly becoming a taboo in Southeast Asia.
The reason is that more and more people become aware of what it takes to tame and train an elephant. They get captured in the jungle and spend their lives in chains. Torture is not rare. Even if all the elephant riding gets prohibited all of a sudden, it doesn’t mean all the elephants in Asia are saved.
The fate of elephants not only in Cambodia
We visited the Mondulkiri Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary close to the village Sen Monorom in Cambodia. They are currently taking care of four elephants and their fates are similar. They were captured in the jungle and trained to work in the fields and carry heavy stuff through the areas where no car can enter. One elephant usually belongs to one village, which are often around 40-50 families.
The owners gave the elephants to the sanctuary under one condition: The money they make from tours have to sustain the families. If the sanctuary doesn’t make enough money, the elephants go back to work. That is the main reason why the sanctuary for now cannot accept more elephants. Unless they start to receive regular financial support from abroad, things will never change.
Elephant experience in Mondulkiri
We booked our tour to the Mondulkiri Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary. We were hoping it would not be something extremely touristy full of tourist traps. It was quite the opposite. First of all, you should know that the elephants here are free to go wherever they want. There are a few so called mahouts, meaning elephant caretakers. They keep an eye on the animals and make sure nothing bad happens. In the end, the elephants are huge and could hurt humans when stressed.
Want some sugar cane?
In the morning we start our hiking in the direction of the sanctuary. After a few minutes we spot the first elephant. We wait for the mahout to reach us with the elephant. Our guide gives each of us a sugar cane stick. The reason is simple: Elephants simply love it. This one is extremely greedy and all the sugar cane disappears in the blink of an eye. After all the food is finished the elephant kinda loses her interest in us and walks back to the jungle.
We continue hiking for around thirty more minutes until we arrive to the camp. The weather is hot and we feel grateful for the hammocks all around. We have lunch in the main hut: All simple and tasty meals. After lunch two more elephants arrive. The guide explains to us that these two gals are big friends and are almost always together. They are both really sweet and look like they enjoy our company. An important part of the daily routine is getting close. Washing the elephants is a part of the elephant experience in Mondulkiri.
No bikini needed
It’s useless to say that most visitors look forward to this activity. The elephants head to the creek and we follow them. The first elephant enters the water without hesitation and in his playful movements we can see that she is enjoying her afternoon bath. Although the current is pretty strong, the whole group is determined to help the mahout with the challenging task. The other elephant is just watching us indecisively and in the end decides not to join her friend. The guide tells us that the previous day it was the other way around!
Our elephant experience in Mondulkiri is coming to an end. We see that all the participants are deeply moved and see the elephants in a completely new light now. The solution for these lovely creatures is not easy and a lot of money is needed in order to recover as many of them as possible. However, we can all do our part.
Avoid elephant riding and do not visit elephant sanctuaries in huge groups. The respect towards the elephants should be your absolute priority and never forget the fact they are wild animals. Their home is in the jungle, but this kind of sanctuaries is a less painful substitute of their freedom.
What do you think of our day with elephants? Would you do it too? Let us know in the comments!
To check more ideas on outdoor activities check our Outdoor Adventures section.