Friday, February 6, 2009

Elephant Bath!

I don't think any of the McDowell clan would challenge my claim that visiting the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary was by far the best thing we did in Malaysia. I had been wanting to ride elephants since Thailand, but Ian and I found that most places offering rides to tourists were overpriced and treated their elephants poorly. Not wanting to support elephant abuse (by now you know what dedicated elephant activists we are), we decided we'd wait and visit a reputable sanctuary. Unexpectedly, we learned that such a place exists a couple hours' drive north of Kuala Lumpur. Richard, Debbie, Ian, and I rented a taxi for the day to take us to Kuala Gandah, stopping to see some lush jungles and small villages along the way.

The sanctuary cares for injured elephants as well as elephants that are being transported from farming villages (where they were eating the crops and angering the farmers) to Temara Negara National Park, where they will be able to roam freely. Admission to the sanctuary is free, though donations are much appreciated. Visitors have the opportunity to feed and ride the elephants, as well as bathe them in the river. For a good account of the sanctuary's work (as well as fun accounts of their Southeast Asia travels), visit Richard and Debbie's blog at

It was fun to feed the elephants again, especially because this time we got to put fruit directly into their mouths. That is one big, wet tongue! Ian and I enjoyed our bareback elephant ride until the elephant started acting up and wouldn't follow the mahout's orders. Fortunately, the ride was brief and we made it to the ground safely. Without question, the highlight of our visit was playing with the elephants in the water. The four of us rode a large elephant into the water, and the mahout directed it to turn on its side and dump us all into the river. There, we got to bathe two baby elephants. Bathing baby elephants!!! This was so unbelievable and fun and unforgettable that I can really only describe it with cliches. After tearing ourselves away from the babies we were very eager to take up the staff's offer to use the sanctuary's showers. Baby elephants = cute + smelly.

Ian feeding this gentle lady some papaya.

Mmmm...sugar cane.

About to be dumped into the water.

Elephant bath!

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Awww - I wanna play too!!