At lunch time we were picked up at our riverside bungalow and driven about 20 minutes east past the mountains to a banana farm, where we were to meet and spend some time with the retired elephant Somboon.
We walked down into the quiet shady orchard surrounded with palm trees and were met by Somboons Mahoot (elephant handler) Aek. A kind and friendly man who’s father had bought Samboon from a working wood farm just so he could retire, as he thought he was too old too be working so hard.
In the centre of the orchard there was a cooking area for making meals for the elephant and to the left of the orchard we could see 55 year old Somboon waiting patiently to meet us! It was so strange to be standing right next to such a huge and powerful creature, nothing between him and us!
We were all a little nervous at first, his immense size as he walked over to us was unreal! But we soon got use to touching and stroking him, his skin felt rough to touch with wirey hairs all over and his amazing trunk with its 40,000 muscles was so agile and strong!
I loved all his kind lashed eyes and beautiful spots almost like freckles all over his ears and trunk, they gave him some real character.
His ears flapped happily and Aek talked to us about how much he eats, 300kgs a day! How elephants have no digestive system and food passes straight through! This being why elephants are always either eating something or looking for something to eat! He also explained to us about how a proper handler uses his strength of voice and fearless manor to control the elephant.
We then set to work cooking up some vitamin balls for Somboon, we stired up a mixture of sticky rice, a little salt, chopped up pumpkin and bananas with water and set it to bubble over the open fire. Once all the moisture had been absorbed Aek set aside to cool whilst we fed Somboon some fresh bananas! He greedily ate them in no time!
We then set to work hand rolling the cooled mixture in ground bran to make the balls! A sort of healthy protein ball for elephants! Once done we took them over to where he was waiting eagerly and hand fed them to him. His trunk moved swiftly picking them up from our outstretched hands, cleverly testing with his trunk to check they weren’t too warm to eat!
After the feeding we all walked down to the stream to give him a cool bath, now I’ve been on dog walks but never an elephant walk!
When we arrived at the large pool Somboon was in the water straight away, clearly enjoying the cool water. We all climbed in after him and Aek asked Somboon to kneel down so the girls could sit on his back to scrub his head and shoulders with the coconut husk cleaner whilst we did the sides of his big tummy! You should have seen the girls faces, what a memory! And made even better when Aek asked Somboon to stand up, lifting them high up into the air and then squirt them with water from his trunk! Oh the laughter!
After he was all scrubbed and cool Somboon decided, I’m done …so out he got and headed back to the orchard, So we dried ourselves off and headed back after him!
On returning to the orchard we realised our 2 hours had passed in a blink, and it was time to say goodbye! But first we planted a sugar cane in the orchard, food for Somboon for the years ahead!
And after some huge cuddles filled with love from the girls we sadly said our farewells before our journey home!
What an Amazing experience!