Right, okay. Let’s start by saying I love elephants. I mean, I adore them. So much so I have one tattooed on my right foot. When we booked our trip to Indonesia I had heard a lot about these Elephant ‘Sanctuary’s’… both good and bad. After lots & lots of research I settled that we would visit the Taro Elephant Park. All 30+ the elephants that live there are rescued from Sumatra (hence why it is a sanctuary, and not a park) and for the day trip I think we paid around £70 each (this included a minibus to and from the park).
It took about 45 minutes to get there from the centre of Ubud – the first glance I got of the park was a sign on the road stating ‘warning, elephants crossing’ this made us all laugh and the grounds that stood behind the sign were utterly breath-taking. We had pre-bought our tickets beforehand so we got through the entrance pretty fast with no issues. As you walk in, you wander straight into a fantastic museum. Now, this was really interesting, but come on guys there’s real life elephants out there I aint gonna waste any time looking around there than necessary.
As you head down toward the elephants you can see them being fed and other visitors interacting with them. 4 of the smaller elephants were stood by the barrier. There were no chains around these elephants and there were 2 Mahouts between the 4 elephants. In this area you could purchase a bowl of fruit for around £50k IDR (which is around £3). This is a complete rip off, most of my evening meals did not cost that much, however it’s a total must do! The elephants are so cheeky and if you stand too close they will literally steal and gobble up the whole basket. At this point you can feed and interact with the elephants as well as take as many photos as you like. There were no ‘professional’ photos there so there was no pushy sales and the staff were more than willing to take photos for you. One part of the experience I really enjoyed was seeing the bond between the mahout and elephant. You could see these men cared deeply for the creatures and although they would instruct the elephants to cuddle and pose with you, if the elephant wasn’t interested then they were never forced. We spent around an hour interacting with the baby elephants (the youngest of which was 3) before it was our turn to go on a Trek.
Now, I have read many mixed reviews online around elephant treks and if I’m going to be completely honest I’m still unsure of how I feel about it. It was an incredible experience and one I will keep with me forever. I’ve read a lot how it is cruel and unfair to the animals however the staff explained to us how much exercise the creatures would be used to in the wild and how the animals worked on a rota so they were never over worked. The Elephants that do the treks are considered the ‘workers’. The elephants work once they reach adulthood and then then they retire each elephant once it reaches a certain age. The Mahout was very knowledgeable and friendly – and had a complete fascination with England and English football! Overall, we had a fantastic day at the sanctuary and I would definitely visit another sanctuary on your next visit to Asia.
I would be really interested to hear others opinions of these sanctuary’s.