The idea of an Elephant Sanctuary on Bali is a bit odd on the face of it, because they have no elephants there. However, you can do pretty much anything you like if you are a foreigner with money, so a local businessman set about “rescuing” work elephants from Sumatra and setting them to work pleasing the tourists in Ubud. We went to visit them at the Mason Elephant Park.
The elephants – over fifty of them – seemed happy enough with the deal, and some of them were breeding with the ornery old bull that they kept chained up in a corner of the large and very pleasant grounds.
Bronwyn and I have ridden and swum with elephants before (most notably in India), but this was a first for our little daughter so we purchased the “wash, feed and ride” option.
We gave our elephant a good hose-down and scrub, which she endured stoically until I found a nice bit to brush behind her ears.
At the feeding station, you can purchase baskets of cut fruit for a line-up of ever-interested animals. The large ones were a bit daunting for children, so Berrima got to feed a baby elephant.
Then it was time to saddle up for a ride. Bronwyn and Berrima went on one elephant, and I went on a much larger one. Ensconced on a hard wooden howdah only thinly disguised by blankets, we ambled slowly around the extensive grounds, pausing to look (at eye level!) at coconuts and jack fruit hanging from the trees.
The ride of an elephant is not jarring but there is a fair amount of side-to-side sway. Occasionally both mahouts would stop for a photo opportunity, posing each animal in the obligatory tourist pose that we have seen the world over, with the trunk curled and raised.
At the end of the ride, we found ourselves by the rather thick green waters of the bathing pool. We have swum with elephants before, and knew to some extent what to expect, so we had declined that particular package. However, we stopped to watch a number of brave souls get submerged on top of their elephant. It was very noticeable how the mahouts tried very hard not to get fully immersed in the water, from which full-time staff were continuously fishing large floating turds.