Elephant activities on Koh Chang

Written by Frank on September 1st, 2011

© Frank P. Schneidewind

Elephants have been our subject in a previous report and our encounters with them were not always pleasant (see initial report). As we dug deeper into entertainment options for tourists and visitors in Thailand, we learned a bit more about these. Koh Chang, the Elephant Island (Chang = elephant) in the eastern province of Trat, is home to several enterprises dealing with elephant trekking and elephant rides. The one visited by us and our friends is located in Klong Prao, a center of Pachyderm activities on the western shore. Right between the touristic hot spots of White Sand Beach and Kai Bae Beach. Our friends were eager to experience the fun, but were selective in their task. We all opted for the operators of the Ban ChangThai after inspecting their offered itineraries and the environment at the camp's site. An all female herd appeared well kept and in a good shape, the planned trek was leading right into the rainforest interior on suitable dirt roads. No tusks were a potential danger to the riders and the saddle setups appeared to be animal friendly (generous padding, silicone covered chains and natural rope).

Leroy and Konstantin went for the 2 hour trek with the bonus splash in a nearby river, the fee of 900 Baht per person, included their pickup and drop off from their hotel in White Sand Beach (Top Resort). Ban ChangThai operates with 11 elephants, due to booking schedules and time management for the giants (work, rest, eat etc.) and the time gap between departures, advanced booking is recommended to avoid lengthy waits.

The attraction can easily be booked through your hotel on Koh Chang, but booking agencies island-wide offer the same services. The convenience with hotel bookings are transparent, because they can arrange a smooth transfer from their doorstep and communicate with the elephant camp for you, in case a pick-up doesn't arrive on time or a change in the trekking departure (due to weather conditions). A safety bar across the legs gives a firm hold for the upcoming joyride. The mahout's tool (stick with a single spike) is a traditional piece of equipment and used to signal commands by tapping the thick skin, most commands are verbal though and no animal had any visible scars from this tool. Mahout is the old name for the handlers of working elephants. Boarding the beast is being executed from a raised platform, no climbing stunts are needed.

The village of Klong Prao is not densely populated and consists merely of two rows of settlements with a few businesses sprinkled in. It is right on the Klong Prao River on the fringes of the massive rainforest, that occupies the entire interior of Koh Chang. Oxygen-rich air in abundance and no factories or traffic around to stink up that perfect habitat. The coast is lined with brand name resorts, ranging from simple huts to 4 1/2 star luxury resorts.

Our adventurers leave the last outposts of civilization within half a minute and are swallowed by the jungle for almost an hour.

Melona, Teddy and me relocated to a spot down Klong Phrao River, where Ban ChangThai had prepared a river-side wooden stage to disembark the riders and rid them of their padding and saddles. Here in a riverbend, the water level reached about 2 m depth (6 to 7 feet) and the elephants came trotting down after the trek through the waters towards this riverbend.

Ocean kayakers occasionally venture from the nearby shore a little upriver, but soon encounter elephants on their way to the riverbend. They usually let the swift current take them back into the Gulf, but the river is wide enough to allow for a safe passage.

We arrived at this site a bit early via a dirt track side-road, so we saw a happy family with their daughter enjoying a kid-friendly version of the elephant swimming fun. Annalena hopped bravely onto the trunk whilst mom and her dad clicked away some memorable holiday pictures of their adventure. The elephant cow's name was Anna and she may be a suitable ride for our own toddler, once he is a bit older.

Leroy and Konstantin emerged from the jungle a short while later, a bit shaken – but full of the desire to experience yet another high-lite of their day.

At first, Hong Thong was stripped of her saddle and padding by the mahout, just 2 ropes were looped around the elephants body to give any support to the rodeo-cowboys to be.

Visible in the background is the platform/stage, where the riders can change into their swim gear and the elephant's riding gear is dismantled here, prior to the plunging into the waters.

The first contact with the water is still gentle, but then the elephant gets into action.

They prepared for a great round of serious splash fun with rodeo aspects in the stream. Both guys and their mahout took turns jumping from the elephants head or just being tossed by her. :)

The rodeo stunts of Leroy and Konstantin even drew applause from the other bystanders and staff of the Ban ChangThai Team. Both boys are well trained and physically superfit. All fitness helped little against the ultimate power of the elephant, and she tossed the athletic twens around like toy puppets! 

Extremely exhausted, but very happy, our friends posed along with their new friend (Hong Thong's mahout) for a final snap-shot after almost a full hour of extreme fun in the clear Klong Prao river. Their final ride back to the base camp lay still ahead and we were going to meet them there.

Both grabbed the chance upon departure there to feed Hong Thong some juicy pineapple slices as a little reward. They continue with their mission to explore all other tourist attractions on Koh Chang. Too bad that their time here will run out, before they have seen it all – but they sure will be back next year for some more 5-star fun at two-star prices. ;)

As one of the finest holiday destinations in the Kingdom, Koh Chang offers a great blend of unspoiled natural beauty. Your SIAMPEDIA Team feels very privileged to live here now and we will bring you perhaps many more insightful reports from Thailand's finest island. No other place offered us this interesting mix of thoughtful infrastructure in combination with unspoilt nature. If you care to come visit this lovely place, feel free to contact us for any hints you may need or accommodation recommendations.

Just bring some time and do not make this in a rush here, even the much cheaper rainy season offers enough tanning opportunities and outdoor fun activities.


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