Eco tourism is the new buzzword and this can take different connotations across the world. In Thailand, it’s usually associated with Elephant Camps and other jungle treks. For us, it was the former that was a huge draw … a treat for our then 4yr old. It did not take too much of an effort to find one as it’s one of the top attractions in Phuket (also highly recommended by TripAdvisor).
We went to Siam Safari’s site and made a direct booking, payment through Credit Card. The cab was right on time at our hotel, J W Mariott (you need to pay extra for pickup but it’s worth it and take the morning slot). We reached there to be warmly received by young smiling guides. After a welcome drink, we went off for a show that had 2 baby elephants, one aged 2 and the other four. Ridi squealed, for she was four too that time. But much to her confusion (and disappointment of course), the elephant that was four years old looked so much bigger than her!! “Papa, why did God make him so big and me, so small?” Ah that conversation is another story. The elephants showed off their skills in playing mouth-organs and playing with footballs; one of them was even a proficient painter.
A photo session with the elephants followed and then came the BEST part — feeding the elephants! 50 Baht a basket had both kids and adults all shouting in delight. The elephants were calm and gentle and ate from the hands and allowed us to hug and pat them.
After this was the scheduled elephant ride for 30 mins — this turned out to be a very interesting experience. About 5 mins into the ride, we saw baby lizards staring at us from a tree trunk. Then came a bigger surprise … the elephant in front of us carrying an oversized European lady (she was alone) went completely berserk seeing an animal that scared it to no end. It started screeching loudly and turned around in circles, visibly scared. The mahut (caretaker) called for help, scared too. Not to mention the lady traveler who went red and kept screaming in fear. The commotion scared the herd, and we were suddenly on tenterhooks – we held on to the railings praying that our carrier too didn’t behave the same way. A couple of fellow mahuts took an older elephant near it to calm it down, and guide it out. The agitated one finally moved on after much ‘cajoling’, much to everybody’s relief. Now guess what had caused him to behave in this manner? You cannot guess even if I were to give you a hundred chances – a stray DOG!!! Clearly, none amongst us tourist knew that elephants were scared of dogs!! Hilarious now, but got us praying then. Nature has its funny ways
After the elephant ride, we were taken to a Thai village setting where coconut milk extraction, Thai food sampling and farming was demonstrated. You could buy homemade Thai curry paste there which was so very different from the super market variety.
Post this, was a bullock cart ride!! The children did have a ball.
After about 2 hours of all of the above, we hopped into our vans again for a short ride to the Pier; a Junk boat ride was lined up with special Thai lunch. The one-hour ride took us into the beautiful blue waters. Food was average and a little cold, but fun nonetheless.
Would highly recommend this tour – especially to families with small children. Gets over by 1:30pm, which is nice since you can be back at the hotel for an afternoon nap.