"the trusted voice of teens who travel"
September 6th, 2012
Elephant riding is one of the most popular things for tourists to do in Southeast Asia. It’s one of those things that’s on every travelers’ bucket list! To ride an elephant through the emerald green mountains of Thailand or India is an experience beyond compare! But there’s a few things you should know before taking an elephant tour yourself:
I know what you’re thinking: No, really? Elephants are tall? I would never have guessed that without you! Seriously though, it’s hard to register how tall an elephant is until you stand next to one. For those with a fear of heights, elephant riding may not be the recreational activity you’re looking for. It’s rather like sitting in the top of a walking tree. But for those of us who are not bothered by heights, elephant riding is a wonderful way to see the countryside.
One of the highlights of most elephant trips is the visit to a nearby river or lake. The elephants will gently shake you off their backs into the water, and are sure to hose you down with their powerful trunks. Plan ahead and wear a swimsuit, unless you don’t mind soaking your clothes! But be warned, some swimsuits aren’t considered acceptable in other cultures. For example, wearing a bikini may offend one of the locals. Be sure to keep this in mind when packing.
This is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when going on an elephant tour. Not all elephants receive the treatment they should. Many organizations do not feed their elephants adequately, or simply do not give the elephants enough to do during the day. Elephants are by nature very active animals. They can get bored, and this can make them unhappy. They are also often beaten with poles, whipped, and chained aggressively. When looking for a place to ride these beautiful creatures, be sure to find an organization that cares for its’ animals reliably. As always, it’s important to do your research!
One of elephants’ best features in my opinion, is their love of music. Upon hearing live music, many of them will begin to sway back and forth, swinging their legs and flapping their ears in time to the tune. Some elephants have even been taught to play instruments like the harmonica! For fellow traveling musicians, may I recommend bringing your instruments along on the tour. Watching an elephant dance to your music can be the experience of a lifetime! These creatures make for a very gratifying audience!
For those with a fear of heights, you may prefer to have the mahout (elephant driver) put a seat on the elephant. This option is a little more secure than riding bareback, and is probably more comfortable as well. But nothing quite equals the feeling of sitting directly on the elephants’ back. The best seat by far is its head! From here, it feels as if you’re sitting on top of the world! You may want to bring a pair of long pants. Elephants have thick, bristly hair that can be quite uncomfortable on bare skin.
Nothing quite compares to wandering the jungle on an elephants’ back, just like the Asian Emperors centuries ago. For every traveler who longs to enjoy the experience of meeting an elephant face to face, without bars or moats between you, Southeast Asia is the place to be!