Travel Report • 1 day with elephants in Thailand
(Vlog to the travel report)
Edwin Wiek, a Dutchman, sits in his car. He drives down the street, happy with his life. After all, he is wealthy, has a fancy car in which he sits and works successfully in the fashion industry.
And in the next second he suddenly looks death in the eyes. Car accident. It crashes, it clatters. He is lying. He opens his eyes, looks around.
What he does not know: That this is the moment when he wakes up in his new life. The moment when he opens his eyes and says, ‘I … have only one life. What am I doing here … ‘
It had to be a car accident that he realizes to himself, ‘That’s not what I want to do with my life.’ He overruled his fashion career with the decision to give his life a 180-degree turn.
His wish: to help animals. Finally, to follow his love for animals, which he has always had. Do something good. Give something back to the world.
The time had come, and with that in mind he set the building block for the organization, which we would love to visit years later … and report on it today.
Yes, it sounds like the storyline of a Hollywood strip
But it gets even better.
Now his wish was to take care of monkeys from captivity and pimp them up again. First and foremost, it should be monkeys who have been tortured and tortured to give tourists their amusement and home photos that say, “I had a monkey on the beach on the beach!”.
That’s why Edwin went to Thailand. The first needy monkeys were quickly found, he used them at home, but stated: “Damn, I need room for the animals!”
He went to a temple and asked monks for help. They listened to him, nodded and said, “We have room for you.” Whoever believes in karma, Curtain up: The monks gave him untapped land. The piece of land, however, was not just a small pasture behind her temple. But a several hectare area including forest and small lakes. It was made for it.
And here it was, where the Dutchman could now fully romp. His childhood dream became reality bit by bit, building his own monkey rescue station. At least he thought. Because monkeys became more monkeys and more monkeys became elephants. Add to that a bunch of bears, some big lizards and even a crocodile.
And that’s exactly where we wanted to go!
“Somewhere here it must be!” – “Do you have scho .. ELEFANTEN!” The brake pulled from the moped, we stopped first and digested the sight of three of the gray giants. In front of us in the distance we saw the first big elephants. Okay, two big ones and one little one:
However, we missed the entrance, including the main building, and stood directly in front of a big “enclosure”. The elephants looked at us curiously, as we puzzled around, and would have liked to say: “Nene, you have turned wrong, we’ll see you later!”
We drove back a bit. And tada, there was a small path on the right that led to a few buildings. We have overlooked the sheer elephants in the head.
Some of the volunteers who were about to take us around here welcomed us directly, and even the first visitors sat in the open canteen of the organization and, like us, were ready for the day trip and lots of elephants!
“Her name is Bunmi!”
The first elephant lady at the headquarters was introduced to us. Their story is that of a typical elephant, seen on a visit to Thailand on the many posters and flyers of the Elephant Camps. A prime example of the need to organize and educate tourists who want to experience elephants in Thailand.
“Bunmi is 7 years old. Before she came to us, she was in one of the elephant camps that Thailand tourists carried in a basket on their backs through rivers, forests, etc. Elephant rides. Her back has been dented inward by the weight of the basket, her legs have become weak and sick, and besides many scars she has a long tear in her right ear. There, the tip of the elephant rod had hooked and tore open the entire ear. The same staff responsible for making sure the elephant lady in her left eye is blind. The leader had misjudged and pointed her head in the eye. “
That’s why we put ourselves on their right side with the bananas we were allowed to feed them with. Only then could she see us and the food in our hands.
“Hold the banana in front of the bottom of the trunk. That’s the best way to grab her. “And then she rolled her trunk in and picked up the banana. The banana was gone, elephant schnapps, goose bumps and a huge grin remained.
We felt the first time elephant skin. Rough, big, fat, so tight. For them it was a small snack a day, for us a small highlight that made us radiate! We felt the first time elephant skin … literally … up close.
Sunscreen without microplastic
Many talk about plastic bags and straws in the sea – and somehow you forget quickly that the sunscreen is full of microplastics, which you carry into the sea. In Hawaii, sunscreen is already banned for this reason. We personally travel with ecoCosmetics * (no cooperation or anything), a sunscreen without microplastic and healthy for the skin! Maybe an alternative for you too. The sea thanks!
“Why do we save the elephants?”
This was explained to us after Bunmis banana snack. Wild elephants would never let a human close. However, one would like to earn money with them in Thailand, let tourists have their fun. Therefore, their will is broken.
Often, this happens directly to the kittens, who are snatched from their mother and go through the Phajaan process. The “traditional way” to get obedience to elephants.
“Process” is a nice term for “torture” here. The elephants are dragged into a tight bamboo cage, tied up and beaten and stabbed on all sides with sticks. Days, weeks, months. Just until they have lost their will and fearfully do everything the owner has in mind with them. Among other things to perform on streets dance steps, loads or carry tourists on their backs through Thailand.
In the typical trekking camps (elephant rides) the animals usually get only little food, can not swim because there is no lake nearby, maybe they are sprayed at most before they stink in front of the tourists, have little shade and even less space. And usually they are chained up. Until they eventually get exhausted and die.
Even if tourists always sit on elephants in pictures, in films and on flyers: their backs are built in such a way that they can not even carry ONE person without the elephant feeling pain.
Hence her crippled back, aching legs and scars as they leave the path and are “steered” back with the elephant staff.
Admittedly, that was hard fare. We already knew a few things before, but getting them explained to an elephant that was rescued from such conditions while we see the scars, the blind eye, the broken leg, is still real once a completely different number.
However, not only elephants are found at WFFT
It went on through the large terrain. And it was almost like a little safari. The first enclosures we passed were Malay bears. As a baby caught or bought on the black market, the owners wondered how big their pets have become. Others were rescued by “street artists” who made the bears dance on the street.
On a tree sat two giant lizards. Other animal, same story. Bought and dumped on the black market when they suddenly cracked the one meter mark. Actually, they come from Costa Rica, but where they do not want to resume. In Southeast Asia, they would not survive. Now they are sitting here trying to give them the best possible life.
The police gibbons scream like police sirens as we come to their enclosures. They were all rescued from captivity in Thailand. Partly for tourism purposes and partly the same game: “My pet was much smaller and sweeter as a baby!” The animals have forgotten how to be a monkey and partly do not even know how they communicate as a monkey at all with other conspecifics. However, a number of them are already well on their way back to the wilderness, others still have to go through the monkey school. But even with them the chances are good.
Anyone who has traveled through Asia will know them: the macaws. They are the ones who want to steal your food, drink, sunglasses or cape at tourist places in nature. Mostly successful.
The macaques here, however, also come from captivity. Danced for tourists, walked on two legs or brought coconuts from palm trees.
What few, however, know: their hind legs are too weak for them to walk on two legs or even let them dance. Moreover, they never climb high enough to get coconuts. Except: tie their hands behind their backs for months, put a rope around their necks and let them stand on their hind legs until they are muscular enough. Eaten what is left of the master – if something is left.
Last but not least, we came to a small concrete pool. There was a crocodile in there. You can imagine it: owner had no idea, thought it was a small Asian crocodile that does not exceed one meter.
It was not. It was a crossroads and has grown loosely two meters. The government actually wanted a place in the wilderness for the crocodile. That was 20 years ago. “I do not think they will contact you yet …”
As you can see, each of the animals here in the organization has its own story and destiny. And with each story you became inwardly somehow grateful that there are people like Edwin, who put all their heart and soul into an organization to prevent even more and, above all, worse destiny stories.
It was noon now.
Together with all the staff and volunteers of the organization, we also had lunch in the canteen. Unbelievable, how many hands help here and help: There were certainly 100 employees gathered here.
Some work here permanently, others spend their holidays here for a few weeks and others work here for months and have been here several times before to help the animals and the organization. The age of the helpers is just as different as their CV.
“I’ve been here a year ago and honestly? I have not seen anything from Thailand, except this one. I love it here. When I come to Thailand, I always come here. “
“Oh, the tattoo on my leg? Yes, that’s Bunmi. I just love her, I took her so much into my heart, looked after her when she was saved and … had her head tattooed. “
“I am here for the fourth time. It’s like my second home! “
What unites everyone here is the will and the desire to help the animals and to give them the best possible life. We also asked if they are actually in contact with trekking camps. she nodded.
“Definitely. We try to teach them that the traditional way to torment the elephant is not necessarily the right one. We try to maintain a good contact, to stay in touch with them, to give them something. Because it would not help if we only accused them and we would never have a chance to bring the elephants to us or to rethink the camps. You just have to understand that it’s a tradition for them … “
“Only every 10-15 steps a bit – otherwise we will lose our food!”
We stood on a dusty road, beside us the lake. We received the briefing, what we should look out for, what to do.
- Watch your feet, go with their pace.
- Do not give too much fruit. If they went empty, the elephant lady would turn back and run home.
- The rest of the group runs away in front. Elephants do not like too many people around.
All right, understood. We stood there and waited for the elephant – to go for a walk with him! We looked into the distance. “Here she comes … she is wonderful … blue eyes. Take care … “the volunteer said with a smile and we all watched as one of the mahouts came running with an elephant lady.
It was so unreal.
We were actually about to go for a walk with an elephant. The elephant came closer. “Ok, who is the first one?” I did not hesitate, got the bucket into my hand and went to … an elephant. He immediately spotted the fruit bucket in my hand and came to me. He grew taller and taller, with big, huge steps he came next to me, looked at me first, then the fruits. It was indescribable … He just walked next to me.
Without restraints, without leash, chains or elephant sticks. Even the mahout had only one tiny bamboo straw, with which he carefully guided the elephant in the right direction. Or, what he preferred, he literally put his hand on his hand and gently pushed the gentle giant back on his way when he sniffed at branches and bushes like a dog.
He walked over branches that broke under his foot as if it had been a salt stick. Huge footsteps, he walked one, we had to go several to keep up. Again and again the trunk on the own hand. In between, the look in her blue eyes. Whatever they had to see and join in: He forgave us humans and let us take a walk with them.
The bucket alternated in our group and everyone was allowed to lead the elephant through the forest. Until he finally had enough of the fruit, ran faster and left us alone in the woods. She went home again.
True to the motto: “The will of the animal comes first!” If the elephant lady no longer feels like she has no desire anymore. No matter who paid how much for the day or where he came from. The volunteers go three to four times a day with the elephants through the forest areas on the site. And during one of the walks, tourists are there.
Route guide Thailand
Tobi and Marcel are travel bloggers and have been living in Thailand for years. In their book they have summarized 8 exciting and varied itineraries across Thailand! There is something for every taste!
In the trekking camps, the elephants failed to be elephants.
Yeah, that sounds weird, but that’s just the case. Some of the elephants do not know how to protect themselves from the sun with sand or that they are really good swimmers or even snorkelers. In any case, they have very little opportunity to learn or live in the camps.
That’s what other elephants, who have not forgotten, or the staff here at WFFT have to show them. As long as the volunteers take care of this job and scrub the elephants a few times a day. And once again with the day tourists.
So a few of our group got a hose and scrubber in their hands and it was called: Elephant laundry. It was like a little elephant spa. He stood there, his trunk in a basin of fruit pieces, practically a punch, and all around him scrubbed and spilled it.
“Does she enjoy it?”
– “And how!” Said the volunteer, almost laughing.
The last program for today took us on the back of a pickup truck through the whole area
We sat in the back of the benches and drove off. And only then did we realize how big the terrain really was. And we did not even see everything. It went past more elephant enclosures. Among other things, to which we were already accidentally this morning.
The three elephants and their little baby-snail here are a small success of the organization, we learned. They managed to make the four act like a small herd again. Keep together and if the snout threatens danger, protect all three ladies by sealing it off and defend it. They know how to protect themselves from the sun and have a small lake to swim in, especially the little one was very fond of, as we watched them.
Next stop was at another elephant enclosure. Here also a lake for bathing and two elephant ladies. Both freed from captivity. One of them from a trekking camp with his back pressed in, the other a “movie star” that you may have ever seen on the screen, so her back was spared and looked like an elephant back should look like. For the first time we saw this violent change in direct comparison.
The last elephant enclosure to which we came today is inhabited by two bulls. One of them should be quite dangerous, because he is an accurate shooter with stones. Therefore, we waited until he was in the water, to go a little closer to the enclosure. Said stone thrower seems to be very talented athletic in general, because he also mastered the head in the lake, as we already announced, in perfection. The jury agreed: 10 points!
“By the way, this is our current project, into which all your money will flow for today.”
In the middle of the area we were standing in front of a fairly large new building. Outside, small cages, in which fits exactly one elephant and a tiny enclosure with concrete floor.
“This will be our elephant hospital!” Our guide told us today with pride. “It will be the biggest in Thailand!”. The cages are probably there to be able to fix and protect the elephant in minor interventions. After that, he can enter the enclosure with concrete floor, where he stays until the wound heals again. So it is guaranteed that he can not blow sand into the injury.
Apparently, only the elephant surgery tables are missing and the hospital can be put into operation. How these tables look exactly is rather hard to explain. But … they have to be big and built with a technique that keeps the animal’s balance, shifts the weight so that it does not harm the elephant and he has it comfortable. The biggest advantage: on the tables finally larger interventions with injured elephants are possible.
“The whole project is only possible with your money and it flows here. We can not tell you how grateful we are to every visitor who comes here! “She said. And suddenly you thought, “Oh man. The day cost 40 € per person. For this money, some buy a pair of jeans. Or a sweater. Or go out for a nice dinner for two. And here‘s the money to build an elephant hospital. “
Most of the time, it is on our journey around the world that we increasingly think about what we spend our money on. In the past, as well as in the future. And this example has just been a food for thought of many that we took along on the journey.
After numerous goosebumps moments, the day came to an end.
We were baffled, we were happy and somehow too … touched by all the stories and the love of nature that you could really feel here.
The arrival: The organization is located near the city of Cha Am, about 3 hours drive from Bangkok and those who do not travel individually can book a pick-up transport. We drove with a mini-van from Bangkok to Cha Am (have asked us at the station), stayed there * and are the next morning with the moped on their own!
Update December 2018: Currently (December 2018) WFFT still offers the day trip, but without going for a walk with the elephant. We checked why and the answer was that the elephants often ran too fast for the guests, so some were disappointed that they could not really enjoy and keep up. So they have taken this program out, but feed and scrub the elephant is still in the program! If you are traveling to Thailand and would like to see and experience elephants, leave the flyers behind and check out the three elephant farms down here. We have experienced WFFT ourselves, the other two we have found in our research for fair elephant camps:
Touring Thailand with children – Tips Thailand is an ideal family travel destination: safe, affordable, relatively well developed, offering a good mix of…
Plastic fasting: an experiment in 40 days. >> Green living. > Green living. height = 675 w > I’m still good at one of our beautiful beach…
lexicon A pagoda is a tower-like building that has several floors. On each of these floors is a kind of projection ahead. Pagodas are in Vietnam, China,…
Workshop H⚆wT⚇: Circular Transformers, Hacking Toys °° Summary / Summary GERMAN: “Circular Transformers” is a workshop where kids bring along old plastic…