Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Posts Tagged ‘Elephant

Thursday 29th March – Sunday 1st April: Jim Corbett National Park

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This is our beautiful lodge accommodation at Jim’s Jungle Retreat, Daleep’s lodge in Corbett National Park. The lodge accommodation is upstairs, with the downstairs sections being ‘researcher accommodation’ or in some cases not yet developed. You can just about spot the solar water heaters on the roof – they take their eco-credentials pretty seriously.

Inside, the rooms are beautifully furnished  and decorated…

…with beautiful fabrics and textiles designed by Daleep’s twin sister, and lovely touches like this funky antique phone (that worked of course) and photos, either wildlife ones (mostly taken by Inder, Daleep’s dad) or historical ones related to the park.

Why send your trophies home for taxidermy?

The seating area on our verandah – perfect for sundowners.

Steve Irwin reincarnated?

Tamsin posing on one of the winding paths around the property.

When they started building the property it was all cultivated fields, so they consulted a naturalist and a botanist to get the right mix of plants and trees for the grounds. The result is a series of shady pathways with the odd hammock slung between trees; not too manicured but very pretty.

We woke up early on our second day for the dawn jeep safari to Jhirna, the nearest reserve area in the park, we left before dawn which meant we saw the beautiful sunrise over the forest as we were entering the reserve.

Our guide was fantastic, particularly once he realised that – unlike many of the visitors to Corbett – we weren’t only obsessed with seeing a tiger. After that he went out of his way to point out all the other wildlife, including some amazing birdlife. We saw a kingfisher dive from midair for a fish – incredible. He was also good at identifying sounds – we heard a leopard calling to another across a dry river – and spotting animal sign:

Recent tiger prints!

This astonishing tree on the way to Jhirna from the lodge had over 60 bees’ nests in it.

Langur being, well, languorous .

Spotted deer. We also saw barking deer and sambar.

One of the hides managed by the forest reserve staff (a bit ricketty!)

Trying to spot (ha ha) the leopard we could hear.

The reserve closes to visitors at 10am (opening again later) so we were driven back to Jungle Jim’s in time for breakfast and a little light nap before leaving for our sunset safari to Bijrani reserve, this time a half-hour drive from the lodge with only our driver from Jim’s, as we were to pick up a forest reserve guide at the entrance to the reserve (them’s the rules).

This sign amused us on the way:

Here we are looking intrepid:

On this safari our guide was less interested in other wildlife and definitely a tiger-hunter. We still spotted plenty of cool birds including a jungle owlet and a brown fish owl, plus a mongoose, loads of deer and monkeys – both langurs and the ubiquitous rhesus macaques. The highlight was being only a few metres away from two tigers – we couldn’t see them as they were in a dry river bed not visible through the undergrowth from the road, but we listened to them growling for about half an hour. It was eerie; after the warning calls from the langurs and barking deer the entire area of forest went completely silent except for the tigers.

When we arrived back at the exit of the reserve we spotted a jungle cat too, which was beautiful (apparently they have been cross-breeding with the local domestic-type moggies) but a couple of the other people waiting there showed us a photo of the tiger we had been listening to shortly before we arrived – it crossed the road right in front of them…eek!

When we were almost back at the lodge we saw a couple of jeeps had stopped at the side of the road – it turned out that a herd of wild elephants was feeding just a few metres into the forest; a small tusker plus the matriarchal group, a couple of young and two nursing babies…SO CUTE!

Don’t mess…

The next day was a bonus extra  – we’d been planning to head to Delhi but we were invited to stay another night as we hadn’t really had time to catch up with our hosts. We spent the day doing some really hardcore relaxing:

Evening G&T on the verandah, before Inder summoned us to pre-dinner drinks with him by banging two bottles together. How well he had got to know us in such a short time!

After a lovely evening chatting, eating and drinking around the pool we retired as we had another early morning safari – this one a walking safari in the area around the park. We didn’t see anything big – plenty of deer, monkeys and birds though, and it was a glorious morning walk and sunrise.

Finally it was time to pack, have breakfast, and then head for Delhi by car.

The rest of the photos are here:

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Thursday 24th November – Patara Elephant Farm

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The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was long but picturesque – 15 hours instead of 12 because of flood-related diversions. On the way we saw some of the devastation caused by the flooding. The railway tracks were now obviously above water, but next to them and all around were homes and small businesses, and of course agricultural land, completely swamped. On the houses we could where the high water mark had reached – at least a metre higher.

We arrived in Chiang Mai around 23.30, hopped in a Songthaew (shared taxi/minibus thing) and checked into the Awana Guest House.

Early start meant grabbing a packed breakfast from a restaurant down the street and getting picked up at 7.30 by a minibus from Patara Elephant Farm to be an ‘Elephant Owner for a Day’. Their philosophy is based around rescuing and recovering, then breeding healthy Elephants to build the population, as the Asian Elephant population has been declining significantly in Thailand.

First we got to meet some of the elephants:

Did somebody say bananas?

Just a few months old. One of 6 babies they have on the farm at the moment.

Overfamiliar  baby elephant!

Then we got to put on stylish mahout smocks:

Randall not sure about this as a fashion statement…

We all had to get to know our elephant, learn how to check their health, and then do the ‘Elephant Skincare’ (cleaning and bathing the elephant) before we got to go on the trek to the waterfall for lunch:

Helen gets to know Mah-kah-su. The mahout smock is supposed to help.

OK, she likes me. Even in this outfit.

Dusting an elephant is harder than it looks…

Randall takes the lead.

Randall’s big pregnant elephant.

Poo checking. Part of the overall health check. At least that’s what they told us.

Scrubbers

You can do it, put your back into it…

Yes, ALL of the elephant needs washing…

Mum and baby elephant. Baby elephant…toooo cute for words!! (They have several, a testament to their breeding programme)

Very funny. All wet. (Elephant humour)

My elephant wouldn’t do either the foot thing or the trunk thing so my ascent was rather less elegant than it might have been. Remember that scene from ‘Temple of Doom’??

That’s better.

Phew!

It’s a long way down from here!

Riding an elephant is harder work than it looks, particularly on the steep up and down track we took, so lunch break at the waterfall was very welcome!

As was a chance to swim with the elephants:

First, mount your elephant. Elegant, no?

See – he couldn’t stay on either!

Mahout on poo-fishing duty.

Beautiful waterfall. And Randall.

Baby elephant got the job of hoovering up the leftovers.

Randall finds a soulmate.

Mum gets a share of leftovers too.

Posers.

Posers #2

Even elephants need a kiss from time to time.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to our elephants and hand them back to the experts, the guides who had looked after us all day:

The Experts.

And give them a final feed. Easier said than done – it’s difficult to get elephants to share:

This was a really wonderful day – we can’t recommend it enough – a must do if you are in the area. Book in advance via their website – they limit numbers to ensure one elephant per person and plenty of attention. Thanks Pat and Dao, Jack, Ben and all the team at Patara!

Written by helenbcn

November 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm