During our travels in India, my mum and I were lucky enough to have a full day in Jaipur to spend as we pleased and toyed with the idea of visiting one of the nature reserves. We’d seen elephants all over northern India, they’re almost as popular for transportation in some of the cities as horses and camels. We’d also come across the elephants at the Amber Palace that carry tourists up and down the hill from the city every morning. Having rightly chosen against riding any of the elephants we’d seen in the tourist traps, we set out to research if there were any ethical elephant parks nearby where we could get up close with these magnificent creatures.
I’d read about Elefantastic on a couple of blogs and seen nothing but positive testimonials about the knowledge of the staff and the welfare of the animals there. We booked an afternoon visit through our local Wild Frontiers agent and set off at around 3pm.
All the elephants were either retired working elephants or rescued from circus’s around India. Unfortunately the government and the majority of locals just don’t have enough money to help the elephants themselves so it’s down to companies like Elefantastic to entice tourists to donate money and help these gentle giants live out the rest of their lives happily and away from harm. They’re sometimes used by the government in to walk in parades and religious ceremonies, but otherwise each elephant at Elefantastic meets with just one group of tourists a day.
Arriving at Elefantastic it was clear that the elephants here were well loved. The reserve was large and clean, acres of trees and a giant, artificial lake for the elephants to swim in. Half the elephants were roaming around the lake and the other half were positioned under a large canopy, waiting eagerly for their afternoon feed.
We were introduced to our elephant Chaku, a majestic elderly elephant with kind eyes and a very friendly demeanour. She was quite clearly one of the ‘top dogs’ of the heard as when a cheeky young male tried to nab a trunkful of the plants we were feeding her she gave him a firm shove with her trunk.
Next up was the activity that my mum been waiting for, elephant painting! Not as crazy as it sounds, elephants are used in so many religious ceremonies in India for which they’re usually painted with natural chalk paints. Our elephant painting skills weren’t half as refined as the local’s, however, we had a go at creating our own design with the incredible natural paints.
After painting a very patient Chaku’s trunk with our rather childlike art, it was time for what was definitely my favourite part of the experience - bath time. At a whopping 38c Jaipur wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of whether, so both Chaku and I were delighted to be showered with the icy water.
As far as elephant parks go, Elefantastic is without a doubt one of the most ethical and friendly places I’ve heard of and I’m so glad that I had the chance to spend half a day there. Elephant experiences at Elefantastic cost around £35 a person, not including travel to the park.