We are now in a great position where we are able to travel the world and experience many different cultures. Van elephant is something that many people dream about doing and our guide will highlight some of the best places to make this dream a reality.
However, just as the tourist trade has boomed, so our responsibilities as travellers have also increased. Elephant riding poses a difficult ethical dilemma: while the domestication and training of elephants often involves brutal treatment, beatings, and separation from their mothers at an early age, tourists’ unforgettable experiences with elephants also help bolster conservation funding, with tourism also supporting population numbers.
Whilst many camps and parks treat their elephants badly, there are others which use positive rewards rather than punishment to train their elephants, giving them plenty of time for rest, and avoiding the use of bull hooks as much as possible. Although it is ultimately up to the individual to judge what they deem to be ‘ethical’, at Teletext Holidays we would encourage you to do your research and only visit reputable camps which treat their elephants with proper care and attention.
Chiang Mai Province
The elephant is revered in Thailand and appears on old Thai coins and the country’s flag of 1819-1917.
There are several elephant camps in the Mae Sa Valley, north-west of the city of Chiang Mai. You can also take a trip near the town of Chiang Dao. Many excursions are combined with a river raft trip or a visit to a hill-tribe village.
Chitwan National Park
The park is one of the last undisturbed parts of the Terai region which formerly extended along the foothills of the Himalayas to India.
Bathe with the elephants in the Rapti river and give them a scrub. Ride with them through the jungle to the park’s elephant breeding centre. Along the way you may catch a glimpse of two rare animals: the one-horned rhino and the Royal Bengal tiger.
Many game reserves throughout South Africa offer the chance to leave the Land Rover behind and head out on an elephant back safari.
The scent of the elephants overpowers that of humans, meaning you have the chance to get really close to other animals in the reserve without scaring them off.
The Forest Department organises elephant rides in Thekkady and at the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Kerala.
With luck you may spot tigers, deer, monkeys and many kinds of bird as you journey through the jungle. Be aware that it is illegal to sell ivory and elephant tail hair, so don’t encourage poachers by buying them.
Chiang Rai Province
Take a boat ride along the Mae Kok River and watch elephants taking a drink. Then climb on to the bamboo seat atop one of these great animals and wander off into lush tropical jungle. Feed the elephants on your return.
The rides usually last an hour and a half to two hours. Many are organised through hotels and often include a meal and a visit to a hill-tribe village.
Take a ride on the mighty African elephant through this unspoilt delta of lagoons, channels and open grassland – one of the largest inland river systems in the world.
Most elephant rides are organised by private companies and it is advisable to book from home through a tour operator. When on safari, wear muted colours and avoid white clothing, so as not to attract attention.
Way Kambas National Park
Located on the island of Sumatra in Lampung Province, the park is home to 350 Sumatran elephants – a subspecies of the Asian elephant found only in Indonesia.
Elephant rides have to be booked a day ahead with the tourist office at Bandarlampung about 70 miles away. Visit the Way Kambas elephant training centre, set up for these homeless beasts.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Track the Bengal tiger on elephant-back. On your way you may spot leopards, wild boar, jackals, porcupines and a large variety of birds.
The park is named after a 14th-century fort, which towers above on an 800-metre high cliff. Visit the temple and cave shrines at the base of the fort. It’s very remote and there is a good chance of spotting a tiger from the safety of an elephant’s back.
The Great Circus Parade
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Travel to Milwaukee in July and see a recreation of a turn-of-the-century circus street parade. Over several days running up to the event, visit the circus showgrounds in Milwaukee’s Veterans Park and go on an elephant ride or a camel ride.
Watch the Royal Hanneford Circus under the big top, see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, get a sugar high on cotton candy and ride on the Grand Carousel.
Elephants have been returned to the island for tourism purposes, and there is a variety of outfits selling rides, especially around Patong Beach. Also check out the elephant treks that pass through the jungle and canals in Chalung Bay.
Elephants are so well trained that in 1998 they carried staff and golfers at the Johnny Walker Golf Classic championship, won by Tiger Woods.