Day 79: Jess is a Wanderer headed out into the countryside of Luang Prabang to Mandalao elephant sanctuary. Having only been open a year, the business is new and seeks to promote healthy and responsible tourism between visitors and elephants. No whips, no chains, no hooks – just freedom to roam and a whole lot of food! To see the full gallery, click here .
When visiting the sanctuary, you’re able to get up close and personal with the giant mammals. They come from the freedom of the jungle to the ‘canteen’ where a ginormous breakfast is prepared. It’s possible for guests to feed bananas to the elephants. You have to be quick with breaking them off from the stalk as that trunk just keeps on reaching for more! Then (if they want to) they will go into the river to bathe and visitors throw water over them. We also throw water over ourselves in the proceedings and yes, it’s all filled with elephant poop so that’s a lovely experience! Mandalao gives everyone special boots, sun-cream and mosquito repellent if required.
After the feeding and bathing, everyone embarks on a 2km walk alongside the elephants. The guides know where to overtake in order to get ahead so you can view them from the front, side and behind. You walk through fields, a village and across the river at several points. It’s incredible to see the elephants just going about their normal lives. There are also opportunities for elephant hugs too. If the elephants stop walking, that is. It’s not guaranteed but it is lovely to just appreciate these gentle giants. But also to realise they could snap you in half with one flick of their trunk!
It was lovely to get some close-up photos and to see that elephants have this little ‘finger’ on the end of their trunks to help with grabbing things. It was also pretty gross!