2012-12-10 12.57.10 2012-12-10 12.51.05 2012-12-10 12.09.17 2012-12-10 12.07.49 2012-12-10 12.21.31 2012-12-10 11.36.11

“This is something I’m going to remember until I’m 80 years old.”  Not sure what happens at 80, but that was high praise from our almost 6-year old after she emerged from her river swim with two elephants.

“Chang” means “elephant” in Thai, so we thought Koh Chang would make a fitting place for Z’s long-promised elephant trek.  I’d been disturbed by reports of mistreatment regarding the elephant trekking industry in Phuket, so was relieved to discover the Ban Kwan Chang camp on Koh Chang, which was established as an elephant sanctuary and is supported by the Asian Elephant Foundation.

We opted for the 2-hour tour, with the first hour devoted to a trek through a steamy rainforest and the second involving the opportunity to bathe and swim with two of the elephants. Our elephant was a 25-year old female named Numwan and I was relieved to see that our mahout handled her gently throughout the ride.  Jonathan spent the second half of the trek perched on Numwan’s massive neck while our mahout walked beside us snapping so many photos with my camera that even Z (a girl who never turns down a photo op) started to wonder when he would stop.  The ride was interesting, but I was more than ready to dismount after one hour atop our gentle giant.  Not the most comforting or relaxing of rides–can’t imagine exploring continents on one.

After the trek ended, we fed Numwan bunches of bananas (J’s iPhone came dangerously close to becoming a snack) and then said our farewells before heading to a nearby river with two of the other elephants.  After hearing the shrieks of surprise as bare skin hit the chilly waters, I volunteered to serve as videographer while J & Z stripped down to their bathing suits and jumped in.  Z donned her goggles and our little mermaid soon was swimming around the elephants and sitting on their backs, scrubbing them down and laughing at the surprise of an elephant trunk shower.

The camp could serve its purpose better if it focused a bit more energy on the education front, but all in all, it was a great experience.