Luxury with learning is the big way to go
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.