One of the colloquial names for Laos has traditionally been “Land of a Million Elephants” so what better place than Luang Prabang to participate in an elephant experience. In our different trips to Laos we’ve spent time in 2 different elephant camps.
The first was in 2009 when our group of 5 booked a 2-day Mahout training course. After rising early to witness the daily collection of alms by local monks, we were transferred to the All Lao Elephant Camp. We received some simple training into the commands and general conduct around elephants (no sneaking up / no quick movements). Then we climbed a platform to board the bench like seat tied to the back of the elephants and off we went on a jungle walk.
During the walk the mahout switched out with us to allow us to ride on the neck and he took some pictures. It was an off and on stormy day and at one point a strong wind blew up. The elephants got a little edgy and the mahout explained that the elephants don’t like to be in the jungle when the wind is blowing because they are afraid of a tree or branch falling on them.
After lunch, we headed down to the Nam Khan River, which runs through the middle of the camp and got back on the elephants, this time on the neck with a mahout on the back. It was time for the washing. This was probably the most fun part of the excursion and as you’ll see from the video linked below, the mahouts and the elephants seemed to enjoy it too.
After washing the elephants, we boarded some small flat bottom boats to cross over the river to the Mahout Echo Lodge. We hadn’t known exactly what to expect in terms of the accommodations but we were presently surprised. There are about a half dozen cabins built high on stilts running parallel to the river. The cabins have ceiling fans and mosquito nets over each of the two beds and an en suite open air bathroom.
There had been some other visitors at the camp during our jungle ride but our group of 5 were the only overnight guests. We had dinner and a few beers at covered outdoor dining hall and an early evening.
The next morning gave us a chance to feed the elephants and then time for another washing.
At that point, we all piled into a van and dropped off at the Tad Sae Waterfall, where pools of water have been created in tiers beneath the falls. This was a pretty out of the way spot but there was a restaurant and other services available there. So we took a nice swim and grabbed some lunch. The food was actually pretty good.
Next up for us was climbing into 3 kayaks and heading down the Nam Khan River. This was a lot of fun for a while but after a couple hours, it became a bit tedious. There wasn’t much flow to the river so we had to paddle pretty much non-stop to get to our pick-up point. Towards the very end of the river paddle, we came across some kids playing in the river. They were basically using a water buffalo as a launch pad for jumps into the river.
As a general observation, other than the kayaking going on a little too long, we thought this was a terrific overnight trip. We felt like we really got to spend a lot of time with and on the elephants and everyone involved with All Lao Travel Service was helpful and professional. We left wishing we had time for more.
- Click here to reach our description of a visit to the Jewel Travel Elephant Camp near Luang Prabang in 2012,