A major highlight of our trip to Thailand was getting to ride elephants! Admittedly, I had mixed feelings going into it . . . I was hesitant to use a company that mistreated their elephants, or that was inhumane in any way. Originally, we planned on going up to northern Thailand to Chiang Mai for a few days, and had we done that, we would have visited the Elephant Nature Park, which is supposedly one of the best and most humane elephant parks. But, since our plans changed and we decided to spend all of our time in Phuket and going there was out of the question, we decided to pick another elephant experience. And, while much less of an overall caring-for-the-elephants and having a life-changing experience, we still had a great time and I feel pretty good about the company we went with for our trek.
We drove out to Kokchang Safari, which is high up on the cliffs, overlooking the ocean. We split up, Peter took the older two kids, and I took squirmy Bennett (and was somewhat terrified the entire time that he would wiggle right out of my arms!). Will and Clara were both a little bit nervous at first, and while Will got over it quickly, Clara was kind of a mess for the first few minutes! She was pretty terrified of the elephant and did not like the idea of being on top of it! But, once their trainer stopped and picked her a bunch of flowers to hold, she warmed right up and had fun for the rest of the time.
The elephant trainers live right on the property with their elephants; my trainer said that he'd been working with his elephant for 15 years! The elephant was unbelievably responsive to him and they seemed to have a caring and sweet relationship.
Our guides took us on a 30 minute "trek" up the mountain, which included stopping at a beautiful look-out point that was perfect for photos. After the trek, we were able to feed the elephants bananas and pineapple. This was absolutely Will's favorite part of the entire experience. He loved handing the elephants the fruit and got a kick out of them grabbing it out of his hands with their trunks.
This was definitely an experience that we will never forget!