Our close partners in Thailand, Asian Oasis have announced today that they will no longer include elephant riding in any of their programmes.
As regular readers of our blog and recent travellers will know, we made the same move last year after pressure from our then ‘Responsible Travel Manager’ and conservation guru, Harriet Reeves. For those interested, please read her blog here explaining why we made this move.
Asian Oasis is a specialist partner in Thailand who organise some brilliant community tourism programmes within Thailand that we try and incorporate into our own holidays as much as possible – bearing in mind we are a completely tailor-made travel company. Lanjia and Lisu Lodge and the Mekhala Cruise are the most popular of the Asian Oasis offering and whilst they are directed from the ‘ground up’ we feel that means that our travellers actually receive a better, more rewarding and fun experience. Liz Boulter of the Guardian agreed when she visited the lodges earlier this year with Experience Travel group. You can read her article here.
I’ve long had an issue with the free for all that is ‘Comment is Free’ on the Guardian website, but some of the comments under this article were laughably naive, ignorant and self-important. We had to reassure Asian Oasis that these comments did not represent the general opinion in the UK as they were incredibly upset that their work was being misrepresented in such manner. But I digress!
In my experience the best experience by far is observing elephants in their natural habitat. One of the most extraordinary experiences of my life was seeing 400 or so elephants at Minneriya National Park in Sri Lanka. It was at this time of year (September) actually when the phenomenon known as ‘the gathering of the elephants’ takes place. September is the height of the dry season, so most of the elephants in the region congregate at a particularly reliable water source – Minneriya Lake. Watching the social interaction: the youngsters playfighting the courting, the general life is just amazing.