Lux­ury with learn­ing is the big way to go

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

A SMALL sa­fari re­sort in north­ern Thai­land — Four Sea­sons Tented Camp Golden Tri­an­gle — has a new Ele­phant Whis­perer pack­age that in­cludes the op­por­tu­nity to join a be­havioural re­search team, spend­ing time with a spe­cial­ist ele­phant vet and as­sist­ing with a sim­ple health check of one of the res­i­dent jum­bos. You could call it ‘‘lux­ury with learn­ing’’, and such hands-on ed­u­ca­tional travel is quite a trend, with a firm fo­cus on learn­ing about an­i­mals in the wild.

Africa is the con­ti­nent for se­ri­ous sa­fari and at Sanc­tu­ary Stan­ley’s Camp in Botswana’s Oka­vango Delta guests can meet a real ele­phant whis­perer, Doug Groves. I par­tic­i­pated in his Ele­phant Ex­pe­ri­ence a decade ago and am de­lighted to hear from read­ers it is still go­ing strong, with Jabu as the star; he was ac­quired by Groves as part of a cull from South Africa’s Kruger Na­tional Park, along with two fe­males, Thembi and Morula. The three are no doubt con­tin­u­ing to tear at mopane trees, us­ing their trunks as ef­fec­tively as mo­torised tools, and con­sum­ing up to 230kg of herba­ceous mat­ter a day.

In Sri Lanka re­cently, I re­vis­ited Pin­nawala Ele­phant Or­phan­age, be­tween Colombo and Kandy, started in 1975 with five calves; mother ele­phants are mostly killed by farm­ers as retri­bu­tion for tram­pled grain crops. The fa­cil­ity is now a thriv­ing suc­cess, also hous­ing dis­placed or injured adults, and twice a day ma­houts take the jum­bos to the river to bathe. The young­sters slip and slide, us­ing their trunks as hoses and thrilling on­look­ers. Good­ness, what’s not to love about ele­phants.

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