Thursday, December 20, 2012

Elephant Trek in Phuket

Up early today and on the van to Siam Safari Elephant Trek by 7:30 AM!  Riding down the roads to the Safari area we are amazed at the way the locals have rigged their scooters and bicycles to accommodate carrying everything from family members to small food stands!  Necessity is definitely the mother of invention!

As we arrive at the hillside where we are going to trek, we notice the beautiful landscapes and vistas of the area.  Several times we are able to see over the hillside down into the valley and view the sea with boats and beautiful. 

We are soon loaded into bus like vehicles and transported to the first area where we are greeted by a lovely Thai woman who explains that there are only 30,000 Asian elephants left in all the world and that their population is decreasing for various reasons, including the removal of baby elephants too soon from their mothers.  Elephants have a gestation period of 22 months, and usually care for their young for at least 3 years.  Too many are removed too early, not cared for properly die as a result.  Since the gestation period is so long, not many are born each year.  Siam Safari works to educate people on the importance of saving these beautiful animals from extinction.  We are taken to a small area where we are shown how training begins for some of the youngest of the elephants here.  Each new baby is assigned a Mahut or trainer of his or her very own to remain with them throughout their lifetime.  Most of these Mahut come from the Thailand/Burma border.  These young boys and men become the most important person in the life of the elephant.  They are together all the time, even sleeping in the same area at night.  It is apparent immediately that these elephants are loved and well cared for. 

The Mahut shows us how they use a dull hook to assist them in teaching the elephant to turn right/left and back up.  Then they proceed to put on a show where the elephants paint pictures, put hats on the trainers' heads and even play harmonicas!  Amazing.  These elephants love to perform and love their trainers.  After the show we are transported to a staircase to mount up and head up the mountainside.  Our Mahut is already aboard when we climb atop the huge beast and we are strapped into a frame atop the animal for our trek up the steep mountainside and into the jungle.  We have read that the elephant is extremely surefooted, and are happy to see how carefully he chooses each step up the very steep incline.  It is a bumpy ride and a bit scary at times, but so much fun that we soon forget all our fears and relax for the climb.  Our Mahut talks constantly to his charge and you can feel the loving relationship that exists between man and beast. As we begin to climb higher and higher on the mountain, we begin to catch glimpses of the sea below...amazing views.
At the top of the mountain we pause atop our elephant to enjoy the breathtaking vista below.  What an amazing adventure this has been, and we have learned so much about the elephant.  If you are ever in Thailand, Phuket in particular, you MUST MUST take the Siam Safari Elephant is definitely not to be missed.  There were young children as well as adults on this trek and all of us gained a new appreciation for the elephants and their trainers.  What a wonderful way to teach your children about the value of each and every animal on this earth.  These animals used to be used to perform logging in Thailand, but they are no longer allowed by the Government to be used in this way.  It is imperative, therefore, that places like Siam Safari are supported so that the elephant will not disappear or become only an animal seen in zoos worldwide.

Melanie and I purchased some hand carved elephants to bring home and all the monies raised in the sale of these carvings go toward charities for children and support for the Siam Safari adventure.  We are also amazed as we return from the trek into the main area of Siam Safari to see a HUGE white Budda atop the mountainside.  We would have loved to trek up the hill to see the Budda, but our driver was not allowed to take us there on this trip.  Perhaps another time! 

Phuket's Big Buddha is one of the island's most important and revered landmarks. The huge image sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and at 45 metres high it is easily seen from far away.
The lofty site offers the best 360-degree views of the island (think sweeping vistas of Phuket Town, Kata, Karon beaches, Chalong Bay and more.) Easily reachable via a six-kilometre road leading from Phuket's main artery, it's a must-visit island destination. 

We actually noticed the Budda while driving the road to the Siam Safari.  I only wish our time had allowed us to visit the site.  As you can see, it is amazing as much of Thailand is. 

Our elephant trek was amazing, and the day was only half over as we headed back to the Resort to enjoy the rest of the day.  Again, if you visit Thailand, you must ride an is a bucket list experience that you will never, never forget!

GOD BLESS - Peace, Love and Joy!

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