If you have ever dreamed of taking care of an elephant, then you need to take part in the hands-on experience on offer at the Patara Elephant Farm. The “Elephant Owner for a Day” program allows you to interact and work with an elephant, assuming all the duties that an owner would. You will even get to hop on for a bare-back ride to a number of stunning local attractions. The program teaches you how to form a bond of respect and trust with the animal you are caring for.
The first thing that visitors do when they arrive at the park is to dress in the shirts and pants that are the traditional wear of mahouts. From there, they learn about the history of elephant domestication in Thailand, the story of modern day elephants in the country, and a brief history of the farm. Once those formalities are over, it’s time to head out to meet the elephants. Each visitor is then paired up with an elephant based on their personality. This step is crucial, as it usually allows for a successful bonding between human and elephant. Each visitor is aided by a mahout whose job it is to teach the proper way to care for and interact with the animal. If the visitors are lucky enough to be present when the baby elephants are at the farm, they also get the opportunity to interact with the little ones with the mother always nearby.
Properly understanding elephant behavior is a big part of the visitor experience. They learn that the signs of a happy elephant are when he wags his tail and waves his ears back and forth. Visitors also learn that an elephant responding to being spoken to is a very good sign indeed. A connection with the elephant is made by offering up some delicious treats. Visitors are given a basket of bananas, tamarind, and sugar cane to feed to the elephant they are paired with. The elephants show their appreciation by wrapping their trunk around the visitor they are paired with, which is often referred to as kissing.
Learning about elephant health
Visitors also get to learn how to check on the health of their elephant. Among the items they look for are the health of the teeth, sweat glands, and intestines, as well as being on the lookout for any sleeping problems. Once a clean bill of health has been given, the victors then get to clean the dirt off the elephant’s back using a branch with leaves on it. It’s tough to reach that high, but the visitors learn that a gentle tug on the ear of the elephant will get him to sit down. This is just a single step in the cleaning process, with the next being a walk to a waterfall area, where the elephants can have a proper bath. Armed with a brush and a bucket, the visitors toss water on the elephant and give him a good scrub down with the brush, which is made with hard bristles that feels really good on the elephant’s skin. The cleaning process is incredibly important, as riding on the elephant when he is unclean could cause dirt to get into his skin and cause an infection.
The day ends with a ride on top of a bareback elephant, with waterfalls, forests, and temples all along the route. There are 3 possible ways to get up on the elephant’s back: using the elephant’s bent leg to climb, being lifted up by his trunk, or waiting for the elephant to sit down to make climbing on his back that much easier. Visitors are told to sit on the neck of the elephant with their feet and knees tucked behind his ears. The easiest way for visitors to hold on is to place their hands on top of the elephant’s head.