Elephants lead the way
Eco-tourism Recreation Koh Lanta in southern Thailand, has re-invented and rebranded itself as Following Giants. In a new partnership with the animal welfare charity World Animal Protection the camp has transitioned from a venue giving rides to an elephant friendly sanctuary where rides and physical contact are strictly forbidden.
The camp occupies a piece of reforested jungle in the mountains of Koh Lanta which is already inhabited by monitor lizards, flying lemurs, macaques and over 130 species of bird. The elephants have been released from their duties of giving rides and logging. They are now allowed to roam as they please, interacting with each other and spending their time the way they choose.
The owner of the camp, Khun Jarae, is a 4th generation mahout who has worked with the elephants since he was a child. The animals are part of his identity and history.
All the mahouts that work with him have been provided with on and off site training to help them through their own transition and to teach them a variety of positive reinforcement elephant training methods so the animals can learn to present different body parts for medical care such as toenail clipping. The mahouts also shadowed vets at Krabi Elephant Hospital to learn basic elephant first aid.
The primary attraction for visitors to the camp will be a jungle walk where guests will be able to observe the elephants in their natural setting, interacting with each other and expressing their natural behaviours. The walk will be led by the elephants themselves but a guide will be on hand to provide information about them and about other animals that may be encountered in the forest.
Visitors will also be able to help with the reforestation project by collecting seeds and rolling them up in a ball with clay and elephant dung and then catapulting from the camp’s observation deck. Treks can also be made into the Koh Lanta National Park to visit an ancient banyan tree, a bat cave and take a dip at the Klong Chak Waterfall.