FULL DISCLAIMER: I went to Taro elephant sanctuary in September 2016 and I enjoyed my day. However, 3 years on and having done a lot more research – I absolutely would not visit another elephant park or sanctuary in Bali.
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. The website stated that 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 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, and the exit leads you right into the part where the elephants are being kept.
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.
At the time of this trip I genuinely believed that the Mahouts were very knowledgeable as they explained to us about 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’ – and young or elderly elephants never took part in this sort of work. I was drawn in by the glossy photos and what we were told during the trip seemed so genuine and honest.
I don’t actually regret heading to Taro Elephant sanctuary – it gave me the motivation to do more reading, and educate myself on the issue. However I would not recommend spending your money here or encouraging these types of parks.