Walking with elephants in Mondulkiri
For over a decade, the dedicated team at the Elephant Valley Project (who have recently opened a sanctuary in Thailand, too) have been providing a haven for retired elephants and a new livelihood for local mahouts (elephant keepers). This experience will give you close but ethical access to these magnificent creatures, and to the project that protects them.
What to expect at the Elephant Valley Project...
The project’s motto ‘Let Them Roam Free’ means that the elephants are given all the space and freedom they could ever need while still allowing them to be fed, protected and cared for.
Starting with an early meet-up at the Heffalump Café - a local eco-hub – in Sen Monorom, you’ll journey by road to the project’s base camp in the tumbling jungle of Mondulkiri. Here, you’ll be introduced to the team and given further insight into the ethos behind their pioneering work. They aim high and are committed to setting the gold standard in elephant conservation by putting the animals’ natural behaviour first and giving them back their independence and dignity.
In line with this philosophy, visitors don’t ride, bathe, touch or feed the elephants. Instead, you’ll follow your guide through the sanctuary towards where an elephant group (or ‘family’) is hanging out, to walk with them and observe them in their natural environment.
Depending on where the elephants have chosen to spend the morning, this could involve anything from a short amble to a fairly steep trek through humid jungle, so be prepared for some serious walking! Approaching the experience this way adds another layer to the adventure, and getting that heart-stopping first glimpse of the elephants at close quarters is a priceless reward for your efforts.
As you shadow the elephants, your guide will regale you with the story and character of each individual and you’ll see again the enormous respect and affection they hold for the animals in their care.
Following a rest and light lunch at headquarters, you’ll head back into the jungle to walk with a second ‘family’ group. This gives you a chance to really see how their personalities differ, and to ask further questions of your guide, as you gain a deeper understanding of the needs and lifestyles of these rescued elephants who are, once again, allowed to live as they would in the wild.
Location: Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Duration: 1 day
Accommodation: Your choice of accommodation in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri
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'Without a doubt the best project of its type that I’ve ever visited - it’s all about watching the elephants be elephants'
Good to know
Wherever the elephants are, you’ll be hiking through proper wild jungle and over uneven, steep and sometimes slippery ground to get to them. Bear this in mind when considering booking and make sure you pack suitable footwear!