Elephant Riding in Bali

The Elephant Safari Park, nestled in the rain forest of Taro village (about 20 minutes north of Ubud), is home to 17 magnificent and seemingly happy elephants ranging in age (3.5 to 31 years old) and size. Since taking over the park about a year ago, Bali Adventure Tours’ owner Nigel Mason has transformed what was once a muddy rice field into a manicured and accessible park. Visitors are greeted in a tasteful reception area with an informative display about the animals and can browse through an elephant-packed gift shop.

The elephants are immediately on view from the reception area, across a small hedge that camouflages protective concrete barriers. A flat grassy area is covered in concrete circles that look like UFO landing pads, but are actually each elep
hant’s private abode. Some elephants are quietly ‘parked’ while others are driven about by dedicated mahouts, mostly from Sumatra as well, who lead the tourist-carrying elephants through the jungle and park or into a man-made lake for a refreshing splash. Visitors are welcome to sidle up to the water to touch and hand-feed the animals a generous helping of chopped coconut leaves, which seem to be a well-received and favored dish.

Visitors to the park can opt for a quiet view and pet of the elephants or climb atop, settle into the teak-wood, park-bench saddle and go for a jungle tour. I was introduced to Olin, a 22-year-old stately and solid female, as I stepped on to her thick-skinned, sparsely bristled back from a fenced platform designed for easy mounting of the elephants. Mujik, the Sumatran mahout, spoke freely of his long relationship with Olin and how he accompanied her from Sumatra, while gently tapping the sides of her head with the wooden handle end of a small pick to steer her along.

The perspective from atop certainly lends a better indication to an elephant’s size than viewing from ground level where, at first glance, they don’t seem quite so big. I found that viewing the world from Olin’s back was a bit of a surreal, but thoroughly pleasant, experience. As we strolled and swayed through the jungle area, branches and leaves, quite out of reach if standing on the ground, gently breezed past our heads. As did the alang-alang roof of the reception area, which I reached out and touched as we gently thumped past. Looking down on her giant tree-trunk sized legs inspired a deep sense of awe for Olin as she picked her way along the jungle path, negotiated the muddy terrain and quickly put the park area behind us despite her seemingly slow and thoughtful gait. The ride through the jungle area, with its distant views of rice paddies and short road-side amble, past a series of bright yellow elephant crossing warning signs, took about 30 minutes before we re-entered the park compound and Mujik steered Olin to the pond for a drink.

Once dismounted, guests can continue to stroll around the pond to admire a baby elephant enjoying a playful splash and feel as excited as the toddlers and children running about shrieking with delight at the sight of these peaceful and majestic animals. The Elephant Safari Park is a must for families and animal lovers of all ages. Bali Adventure Tours offers a Park Visit Tour with lunch and hotel transfers, a Safari Tour which includes the ride and hotel transfers, or you can make your way to the park by your own means and choose one of their long (approx. 40 minutes), short (approx. 20 minutes) or children (10 minutes) tour options. There are snack bar facilities and plans to open a full restaurant withinin the next year.

1 comment:

Reuben said...

Please consider the lives of these "seemingly happy" elephants, who are forced to live on concrete circles rather than roam freely on soft ground. Where did they come from? Stolen from their families in the wild, no doubt. Please google the words "training crush" to learn how they were broken to submit to the will of man so that they would give you a nice, gentle ride. That "pick" that they were tapped gently with the wooden handle of ? They will be hit hard with the sharp end of that if they misbehave in any way - which is to say, if they act like nature intended elephants to act. They should be roaming free - and if that is not possible, then they should at least be off concrete, away from chains, and not
forced to give rides or otherwise serve the whims of selfish people. Animal lovers should know better.