Testimonials 2016

Elephantstay just couldn’t keep me away! After my life changing experience last year and meeting Honey the gorgeous elephant, I just had to come back here! Going back to my most favourite place in the world and being reunited with Honey was just beyond incredible 🙂

Life at Elephantstay is amazing, there is an amazing team of people pulling together all for the love for Elephants! Being able to work alongside them and by helping out with everyday tasks it is very obvious that everyone there from the long term volunteers and staff members right thought to the wonderful mahouts and their families are all 100% devoted to each and very single one of the elephants! What makes this place incredible is being able to witness this extremely heartwarming and inspiring bond between the elephants and everyone at Elephantstay.

My experiences would definitely not have been the same if I didn’t get to see my gorgeous girl Honey again! Being able to see this cheeky girl for a second time definitely put a smile on my face! From her endless desire for food right through to her infectious personality she managed to always keep me on my toes and continues to teach me so much ! I cannot express how grateful I am for yet another incredible experience at Elephantstay.

The hardest part for this trip was saying goodbye! but as they say a farewell is necessary before you can meet again! So with that said thank you for everything and see you again very soon ! xx

Sajee Nanayakkara, Melbourne, Australia

I have been visiting Elephantstay annually since I was introduced by a friend in 2011 and what I would call a ‘repeat offender’.  I simply cannot get enough.  By all accounts my 2016 trip (my 6th visit) was a short one, only a week’s stay.  I have previously stayed for weeks at a time (they simply cannot get rid of meJ) working with the same elephant, Gatin (you can book your elephant when you return).

This short stay was to keep me going and to see some dear friends (both elephant and human) until I banked enough leave for a longer trip (which is already booked for 2017).  I was somewhat apprehensive this time round as I knew I would be meeting a new elephant (my old elephant, Gatin sadly passed away just before my trip), so it was a bitter sweet time for me.  I wasn’t sure what sort of experience to expect and I wasn’t sure whether I would find the same connection that I had with Gatin.  However, I need not have worried as I had an absolute ball and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face J J.

Following the welcome ‘home’ and induction I was introduced to Jintara, an elephant with spunk, great personality and we got on incredibly well. I was hooked within seconds after meeting her.  After bribing her with numerous treats, I think I won her over J.

The days are well structured around the care of your elephant but also allowing plenty of time to play with the baby elephants in the nursery, explore the area or simply observe your elephant.  Starting with the clean-up (the elephants eat a lot so there was lot to clean and you do get hot, sweaty and covered in mud!!), collecting the elephants from their night spots and feeding and watering.  We rode the elephants to the river twice a day which was so much fun, especially on the really hot days as the water was a welcome relief.  The rides were even more fun when the mahouts decided they wanted to swim as well!  At the end of the day once the elephants have been put to bed, it was simply amazing and relaxing to sit by the river to watch the working elephants come home from town and take a dip.  As always the food was incredible, fresh, tasty and so much of it.

My experiences at Elephantstay just keep getting better and better.  People ask why I keep going back and it’s hard to explain, but it honestly feels like going home.  It is an experience unlike anything else where you get to work so closely with such magnificent creatures.  And for me, it’s about building a relationship with my elephant and seeing very dear friends.

Thank you again Elephantstay for a fantastic time.  I cannot wait to continue my relationship with Jintara and to catch up with my friends in 2017.

Amber Smith, Australia

In Aug/Sept 2011 my Mum went on her first trip to Elephantstay. What she told me was that she was going to hang with the Asian Elephants. I didn’t have any idea what that entailed until I saw the photos. Unfortunately at this time it was at the beginning of during one of the worst floods Ayutthaya had seen in 50 years. My Mum had a profound experience that she wanted to share with us kids. So three months later my two brothers and myself went with Mum to Elephantstay. I instantly fell in love with the place. To be a part of a working Elephant village was incredible. The Elephantstay team were friendly and inviting as well as the Mahouts who were always smiling and happy. My first real encounter with an elephant was with Baitoy. It was pretty easy to point her out as she had the biggest head. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of this giant magnificent creature. It was intimidating but once we both got used to each other’s company (and a lot of treats) I felt at ease. Waking up for a 7.30am muck out did not faze me. Not when I had a view of all these elephants. Some of my favourite experiences are riding to the river, especially being able to be in the water with these creatures and having fun with the mahouts; watching the working elephants getting washed either in the river or the washbay early in the morning and getting loaded into the trucks to head off to Ayutthaya; or sitting in the sala at the end of the day and watching the same elephants return to the Kraal. It also doesn’t faze me to be woken at 4am to the sound of chanting monks, calling people to the temples. My first stay was a week and when it ended I was so sad to leave. I felt like I had been a part of something special and I never wanted to leave. But as everyone says ‘if you don’t leave, you won’t be able to come back.’ So that’s what we did. 5 months later (2012) we were back for two weeks. Baitoy was back at work so I was introduced to another elephant named Rumruay. Rumruay is a gentle giant. She allowed me to hand feed her from the get go which was a good sign that she liked me. I’m not going to say we had an instant connection because that would be a lie. I believe it doesn’t just happen. (well not with me anyway) Some of the observations I made of her were that I noticed she didn’t like her food wet. When her food was stolen by Yitor, it didn’t seem to worry her. She was always ready with an open mouth whenever I had treats for her. When riding her on the road she would always turn her head when trucks drove past, giving me the impression she was cautious around big vehicles. She responded well to being soothed by me, whenever this happened. Again it was the end of our trip and we had to go home. Of course there were tears. In 2014 on my return journey from the UK it made sense to stop by for a week. I had asked for Rumuray again. This time I felt more of a bond and that she remembered me even though it had been 2 years. Aug 2015 I came back again for a week. My bond with Rumruay continued to grow, and my connection with the people in the village made it harder for me to say goodbye – even for just a short time. Feb 2016- what better way to spend my birthday than at one of my favourite places in the world. One of the things I realised this trip was that no matter how many times I come to Elephantstay, it never ceases to amaze me that this is the only place on earth that you can visit and have such a connection with these wonderful animals and the people who care for them. It’s easy when you are immersed in this life to forget that the Asian elephant is endangered, because you are surrounded by so many of them, but I know that the Kraal provides a sustainable future for the elephants I have come to love. No words can really describe what this connection to these magnificent animals feels like – all I can say is that you need to experience it for yourself! If you want a genuine experience with these gentle giants then Elephantstay is the place to get it. I will continue to return as many times as I can, because I know that all their elephants are well looked after and that the people involved in their care truly love them.

Bree Exton, Australia

WOW! Elephantstay….I had some expectations, some idea….I had been told it was “awesome” the elephants “amazing, special, wonderful” the food was “fantastic” staff “passionate” the cleaning of the elephants was “full on physical work”. I wanted to wait and see, form my own opinions……

Well let me tell you it was bloody fantastic! Out weighs any expectations I could have had.
The village, a full working village, busy but a really nice atmosphere. The accommodation, basic but met all my needs ver comfortably. Th food was excellent. The staff are all,one of a kind. From Michelle and Ewa, both passionate about the experience they bring to you and go out of their way to facilitate a real life experience. Leanne, Chris, Carolyn and newby David a brilliant team that work well together, with huge amounts of knowledge and ability.
And then the elephants. Just elephants….what is so special???? oMFG! I met my girl, I was besotted! As were we all. I cannot explain how I felt when I met her, rode her, fed her. It was like nothing before. For this time she was “MINE” I am so appreciative of this team that made this Possible for me, words are just not enough. I realise that “my” elephant is only on loan but I will be eternally grateful for that time. She will always have a piece of my heart.
I will be back!
Thank you all so very very much…..

Jan Charman, Australia

17 days on Elephantstay land. 17 days a bit in the land of confusion.
It’s hard for me to write a testimonial about the place because pro’s and contra’s are so strong and even. Touchable and visible present that I did had my lower moments. But that’s OK. I also had so many great moments. I’ve tried to understand the point of view about keeping elephants and working with them on Elephantsstay the way they do. I had my struggles. I‘ve tried to set down the elephant in their culture and believes, existing over many centuries and still very much alive. I ran into myself everyday and had long inner talks about my point of view how the park should be and the serenity of and respect to the ones who believe it’s the right way. And then … it is.

I met two, very open-minded ladies Michelle and Ewa. Not the kind FAF (friendly at first). I’ve never experienced such a professional management during my previous volunteering work as Michelle’s ability to make everything work. Focused and firm. She keeps everything under control but still she always made time for me. Mich and Ewa always listen and explain if necessary. I could ask questions again and again. In the end, it was always clear for both sides and that felt so good. I enjoyed listening to their stories and Ewa is so fond of laughing and emphatic, both caring. It feels like in great  balance, those 2 ladies. They have chosen the best elephant for me to work with during my stay. It could never have been better. My elephant lady was easy going. A bit like me. I know what you want from me and I will do it, but please let me be and don’t put any pressure on me.

It probably only lives in my head, but my ele and I made a little connection and everyday being together went smooth. She sometimes reacted on my commands and that was so great, but it really didn’t matter to me if she didn’t like to obey on an off day or because she was busy with something that she liked more. She let me cuddle her on her terms and that’s fair to me.  I’m the stranger in her life for a little period. Some images of her are burned into my memory cells. They’re welcome and I will treasure them.

The volunteering program is grand. Really. I got the chance to take care of an elephant. My sweet Rumruay. In the morning we cleaned their day beds so everything was neat to get them out of their night beds. Then it was feeding time. A great moment to start the day with. I gave her a lot of treats and searched everyday forpineapples for her.  She really enjoyed it and took her time to eat them. No hurries. Some pieces, she putted in her mouth and the rest she held in het trunk. They are so handy with their trunk. I could watch it for hours. I sat on my elephant daily, but always safety first. A mahout was with me on the back of the elephant and people walk aside the elephants during our walks. I was so well surrounded by people who work there and being well educated to guide the clients. We went for walks with the elephants to the river so they could swim in the river on their own and it was always fun if they didn’t instantly came out when the mahout asked them.

Some mahouts had to swim to them. We had great time in the river. Some mahouts are very playful and we pulled each other into the river and played a bit. The mahouts are mostly very relaxed and the elephants are very well trained. There’s not much hitting, but some elephant have a deaf day and then they have to be put back in order. I daily washed my elephant twice in the river and assisted with medical care if necessary. I also gave my elephant a scrub to take off the dead skin. I could go and bring my elephant to the shower place and take her back afterwards. If it had not been raining I could bring her to her night place and wish her good night with a big kiss on her nose. All so great moments which gave me the feeling of being attached to her for a moment. Moments to treasure and to  never forget.

In my spare time I could do what I liked. Watch what happens in ele-land. Enjoy the baby elephants. Have fun with the other clients. Be on my own. Two times a week the babies get a bath. Because they are to young to go to the river they fix it that way. So pleasant times for them and for us. They are so fond of their bath-time. They go completely over the top with joy and roll around in the bath. I enjoyed it so much and it would be great if the older babies could enjoy a water play-moment too. Hopefully they find a solution for that.

I could buy treats for the elephants and give it. This is also a financial support for the nursery. Local people sometimes brought fruit for the elephants. Extra treats. What a joy. The mahouts are really friendly and ones I made contact with the Thai women who work there and keep everything rolling on, they also became more friendly. It’s not easy to win their trust but taking your time with them helps.

Considering the safety rules, it was great to be outside late in the evening and feel the vibe of being amongst so many giants, flapping their ears when it’s still too warm, dislike the mosquitoes and use their tales and trunks to make that clear. Some of them are resting, some are still eating. It’s peaceful quiet, a bit noises in the background if they don’t get upset by something. The younger elephants can scream very loud and sometimes other elephants react on that and horn back. And then you have an orchestra of trumpets and other great noises.  So powerful. Mostly, it didn’t took long before everything became quiet again. Some mahouts stay around the elephants all night. I watched some football on TV with them and that was great. They don’t talk English, but it’s Ok if you are around.

The food is mmmmmmm and variable. They care about your taste and I could always let them know what I like to eat. In the morning, no matter what time, I took coffee and made myself a sandwich. They keep you on your engagement and ask you to be alert during the activities, but still I had a feeling of space and free moving around. Sleeping place and bathroom are spacious. No problem to share. It’s not recommended, but bring a mosquito net. They love foreigners’ blood. I can tell. My adventure there is not possible to put in to one word, sentence, thought … I’m still processing. I think maybe, one of a kindIncomparable … I still hope some things will change for the better, but I am grateful and thankful for what’s been giving to me. The chance I got. The chance I took with both hands. Unforgettable.

I love my gentle giant … I love elephants!

Linde Persyn, G.P. Belgian

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