Elephant Adventure

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The second weekend in Luang Prabang was filled with adventure. A couple of volunteers and I signed up for an elephant walk. We spent our second Saturday in Luang Prabang with elephants – feeding, bathing, and walking along side of them. We were not interested in a facility that offered elephant riding or mahout training. After doing some research we selected Mandalao. They are a more recent elephant program in Luang Prabang and it was interesting to learn about their different projects and goals when it comes to elephants. They do not offer riding tours or mahout trainings and their mahouts on staff do not use any physical commends with the elephants. Some of their projects include reducing the number of elephant camps that offer riding and mahout training tours, finding ways to reduce poaching, along with developing a DNA database of elephants that would prohibit poachers from being able to move elephants to other countries. They were very passionate about providing a happy, healthy environment for their elephants especially since the elephants led a hard life prior to coming to Mandalao.

It was a truly magical day hanging out with these massive and majestic animals. In addition to spending time with the elephants it was nice spending time in the country side. Not only does Mandalao provide opportunities for the elephants, they also incorporate the local village into their project. What follows are pictures of the day. Enjoy!

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Mandalao – area outside their restaurant
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We had to wear special boots since we would be going into the river when bathing the elephants. Part of our trekking also included some water crossings.
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We had a quick boat ride over to the other side. This view is looking back at the welcoming area and restaurant.
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First up – feeding the elephants some bananas! It was important to keep the bananas behind our back because given the choice the elephants would rather go for a bunch of bananas rather than a single banana!
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Elephant feeding! I will admit this was outside my comfort zone. The elephants were pretty funny. They had no problem putting one banana away after another. It was amusing watching their trunks take banana after banana after banana…
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Bath time was next!
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We dipped buckets into the river in order to splash water on the elephants.
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After some time in the water it was trekking time. We walked with the elephants for a couple of hours in the woods. Sometimes we walked next to the elephants…
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…sometimes they walked behind us…
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…and sometimes we walked behind them!
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The elephants were beautiful and it was amazing watching these animals maneuver through the woods.
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Half way through our trek we stopped for another round of bananas. I love the expression on the face of this elephant. It was clear after spending time with these creatures that they are amazing animals with feelings and emotions. I hope programs like Mandalao continue to do the important work of advocating for the health, safety, and rights of elephants.
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This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. It was hard not to feel the connection between my friend Liz and this elephant.

After two hours of trekking with these beautiful creatures it was time to say goodbye. It was really nice spending some time outdoors. In addition to the elephants we saw some amazing and beautiful wildlife.

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Our trek took us through teak groves.
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Can’t remember the name of this plant will need to do research to find the name but saw these throughout our trek.
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Aren’t these beetles amazing!
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Such beauty and color in nature. Another thing I discovered on the trek that I need to find the name of.
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Another fun find!
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A farm in the village. Mandalao supports farmers in the village by purchasing their crop yields as food for the elephants.

When we got back to our starting point we had a lovely lunch that included traditional Lao food. The trek with the elephants will definitely be a highlight for me.

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A terrific experience and I encourage others to spend time with elephants, too, but ask that you keep in mind how you spend time with them and how the company you use cares for them.

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