“Meplong! You have to shout it out load: Meplong!”
Finally the young elephant bent his knees and sat on the ground where we could get off safely.
This first part of the day was all about giving the elephant instructions. Instructions on when to start walking, to stop, to move backward or to sit down (“Meplong!”). To our kids this day at the Yogi Mahout Elephant Camp was the highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai!
There are a lot of elephant camps to choose from in and around Chiang Mai. You have to do a bit of research on which elephant camps are really taking care of the elephants, rather than badly exploiting them. It truly is a beautiful experience however to really get close to one of the most majestic creatures on this planet.
Lots of new experiences that day! We hugged our elephant and looked him straight in the eye. We cuddled the baby elephant (only 3 months old) and washed her mother while in the river. We rode the elephants not on one of those terrible iron seats, but on the bare back (I have to admit this was quite scary in the beginning as you have no grip but to try to press your legs around the huge body of the animal). When we moved from the mountain down to the river we almost fell off, right over his head. “No worries”, our elephant trainer told us, “just lean backward, a LOT!”.
Mahout is the Thai word for elephant trainer. At Yogi Mahout Elephant Camp we learned the basics of being an elephant trainer: preparing his daily medicine (with herbs and vitamins which he found so tasty he ate it with his trunk before we were even finished!), cutting the sugar cane, feeding the elephants with vegetables and fruit (they don’t eat meat, so don’t worry if that trunk moves towards you!), training them to learn to listen to commands and washing them in the river. We even got kissed!
Elephants adore the water! The moment the river came in sight they started ‘running’ towards it…..and we thanked them for a great day by throwing water, hugging them some more and really brushed their tough skin.
Elephant camps are not cheap, but worth the money. You should not forget that elephants eat hundreds of kilos of vegetables each day…. They are not cheap pets to cater for. More information about Yogi Mahout can be found here. Yogi Mahout promises to take pictures during the whole day and you do receive a CD-Rom afterwards. However, the quality was rather poor, so don’t forget to take your own pictures.
Did you ever ride an elephant? I want to know about your experiences, so make sure to leave a comment below!