Since riding a camel in Egypt, I’ve always wanted to ride an elephant…so I went riding elephants, India style! And not just the tourist way, on an elephant up to the Amber fort, but really up close and personal. Here’s my story…
I had read about Elefantastic on Trip Advisor and was intrigued. The thought of spending time really getting to know an elephant before riding him or her was right up my alley. Mr. Vijay, our driver from India by Car and Driver was great as it wasn’t originally on our itinerary, but he made it happen anyway.
I had heard all sorts of things about how cruel the elephants were treated etc. But that was not my experience at Elefantastic. When we arrived at the park we got a tour of their accommodations, large clean and airy stalls right next to a small home for their handler and his family. Did you know that the handlers live with their elephants throughout their life?
We then got to feed our elephant. Our elephant was Sampa. She is 34 years old and sort of the matriarch of the camp. She and her best friend take their riders on tours always together. They communicate with each other with a rattle deep in their throat, sort of like purring, but on on a much larger scale if you can imagine it. Much like humans she had her own distinct personality and responded to our voice, touch and love.
I found out that you can tell a happy elephant because they sway. They swing their ears, trunk, leg, tail or all of them! I would chant to Sampa, and when I stopped to talk to someone else, she would gently bump me with her head, and when I started up again, she would start her swaying. You can see it in the video below!
While we saw elephants on the streets of Jaipur, and of course at all the tourist attractions, it was the intimate interactions I had with my friend at Elefantastic that was pure joy. While Indian elephants are smaller then African elephants, it helped that I was tall. We could look each other in the eye, so to speak.
I can give you all the facts, like they eat almost 300 pounds of food (grass, bark etc.) per day and drink tons of water. But it’s the personal contact and things like the fact that elephants actually grieve the death of a loved one, and console each other in times of distress that move me more.
And yes, because it’s colorful India, even the elephants are decorated and stand quite still while you use small bamboo flattened sticks and water based (read very safe for everyone’s skin) paints and then…you decorate. They are very patient with us humans!
While I do not consider myself an animal person in general, I am totally in love with elephants…perhaps it was a past life? Who knows! But for more pictures of my 5 hour visit with Sampa check out the video below. And tell me, do you like elephants?