Elephant-riding is something both of us were really keen to experience. I mean how often do you get to see the world through the eyes of the world’s largest land mammal?
On the other hand we’d heard that some places, especially in Chiang Mai, Thailand often mistreat their elephants by beating wild elephants so they will perform tricks for the sake of the lucrative elephant tourism industry. We had no intention of encouraging such practises. Fortunately, when we thought all hope was lost for an authentic and ethical elephant ride, Luang Prabang came up with the goods.
Some could call the All Laos Service Elephant Camp a ‘diamond in the rough’ but we just stuck with the All Laos service Elephant Camp…
We were insistent from the get-go that we wanted an Elephant Tour that had the utmost respect for the giants and it seemed they were on the same wavelength. By the banks of the Nam Khan River, these 15 protected Asian Elephants are only ridden for a maximum of 3 hours per day which is split evenly between the early morning and evening. These short rides allow them to have exercise to keep them healthy and active. Most of them had been rescued from a life of logging and the welfare of the animals is the main priority of the camp.
The itinerary for the elephant camp was as follows:
- Minibus to the remote riverside elephant camp
- Introduction to your elephant
- Sit on the back of the elephant for a 45 minute walk as the guides direct the elephants (the elephants are directed only with words by the trainers.)
- Feed bunches of bananas to the elephants
- Bathe the elephants down in the river as they splash themselves with water and you wash their backs
- Arrive back at the elephant camp where they are allowed to eat greenery to their heart’s content and return to the jungle for the rest of the day.
They followed the itinerary to the letter and more importantly did not hurt or shout at the elephants at any stage. Our elephant called Ta Kon was actually quite disobedient and decided he’d make several food stops along the way, showing that they have a good relationship with the trainers and that they are not in the slightest bit fearful. Crucially, the trainers just wait until the elephants have had their snack and eventually decide to carry on.
From our experience elephant-riding can be a really fun and guilt-free trip, just make sure you do your homework on the company beforehand!