We pulled into Ko Chang Mai Elephant center in the back of an old pick-up truck with two rows of seats and a canopy over the bed. That is their version of taxis here in South East Asia. Our trip led us from our hotel past the small villages, fields of coconut trees, and dense mountainous jungle till we reached almost the other side of the island. Ko means island in Thai and Chang means elephant, so it seemed Ko Chang would be a perfect place to visit the elephants.
I have ridden in Cars, trains, planes, boats, and even a couple of horses, but never an elephant. After we exited the vehicle, ready to meet the elephants, we were instructed to follow one of the big females that was being taken down to the water by her handler. Asian elephants are much more docile than African, so although we saw innumerable amounts in the few months leading up to this, it is not as likely that you could partake in an experience like this in Africa.
When we arrived at the water, we were joined by another medium sized elephant who also proceeded into the water for a swim. Seeing this, Morgan, Harrison, and I swam out and hoped on their backs. Despite their size, both elephants were extremely gentle, and the most they did was turn their trunk around to spray us while we were helping to wash them off.
After the elephants were done swimming, Morgan and Harrison rode them back to the camp, where both elephants were saddled up so that we could take a ride through the jungle. The forest was lush and green from the rain, a spectacular view around every corner. We followed a trail that the elephants knew well, and for such large animals, they make less noise when walking than many humans! Our journey lasted about an hour while we were able to enjoy the view and ride with the animals as the seemingly endless jungle poured out over the hills in front of us.
It was a one of a kind opportunity, and we chose this center because they rescued the elephants from the logging business which is a very hard life for elephants. Now they get good food and only have to take a few tourists up and down a trail every day. All of the elephants seemed content and I was happy to have spent time up close to the largest land animal on the earth.