The next morning was not as tranquil. Breakfast did not begin at the resort until 7:30, and the elephant camp was an hour away, which in India means an hour and a half. The hotel staff kindly agreed to have breakfast ready for us at 7, and I provided a list of our requests. Getting the kids up there for breakfast was a challenge and we got there at 7:10. No breakfast was ready. I call to make sure the driver is ready for us, as we had discussed in detail the night before. Clearly, I wake him up. Great. Then we didn’t get out of breakfast until 7:45. I still had to get our luggage down the hill and check us out. I see our driver standing on one of the paths. He watched me lug a 50 pound suitcase plus three backpacks and pillows down the hill all by myself. I was not pleased. Then check out took another 10 minutes with a dot matrix printer giving me my final bill. Then the kids had to go to the bathroom. We fall into the car at 8. Go go go! Oh right, we have a driver. He ambles into the car. Sits there a while. Puts on some chapstick. Sits a while longer. Finally I ask what is going on. He points to the condensation on the window and says, “Water fungus. I am waiting for the heater to turn on.” I ask him to wipe it off. He gives me a dirty look. Then he goes on to complain that the driver accommodations were terrible and that he slept in the car. So why did I pay him for accommodations to go elsewhere if he chose? We finally leave by around 8:15. We get about 10 minutes down the road and I can’t find my cell phone. I have the driver call it and it is sitting back at the reception desk. We finally leave for the elephant camp at 8:30—the time when we are supposed to be there.
The whole drive there, I am holding back sobs. We drove all the way out to that Resort, had a super stressful morning, and we weren’t going to get to the camp until 10, which is when the whole elephant deal ENDS on the schedule.
We finally get there, after getting lost twice. Lots of other cars are arriving too. That’s promising. To get to the Elephant Camp, you have to cross the Cauvery River in a boat. Luckily from my research I learn that you don’t have to wait in line for a ticket or anything. As is true with many things in India, just push ahead and grab the first boat that you can. We were heading across the river almost immediately.
As we are heading across, I see the elephants being given a bath. The start on their way back up the hill just as we pull in. We missed it.
So we head to the feeding, which was packed with people jostling to touch the trunks, feed the food, etc. The kids enjoyed getting up close with the animals but also like many things in India, the crush of people was overwhelming. After the feeding was done, I wasn’t sure what to do. We had told the driver to come back in 2 hours and maybe it was all over by 10:15?
Thankfully, I was mistaken. Big sigh of relief that things in India are never the way they seem. They did the ‘bathe the elephants, then feed the elephant routine’ many times to accommodate the crowds. Turns out, we really didn’t need to be there until 10. Our elephant experience ticket guaranteed us some time with the elephants away from the insane crowds. I wish that had been explained! So the kids and I joined just a handful of other India families to bathe the next two rounds of elephants. That was incredibly cool. We didn’t like how the caretakers treated the elephants and often they were in chains. But to pet the elephants and touch their tusks and splash water over the, which they clearly enjoyed, was lots of fun.
Splashing water on the elephants. they seemed to LOVE that since they don’t have sweat glands. We were helping them cool down!
Then the invited us to go back up to the feeding area, which the kids didn’t want to do because of the crush we had experienced. But it turns out that the feeding too was private with just a small amount of people. We missed this experience because, in the paradise of the elephant camp, a certain set of siblings got very angry with one another due to splashing and counter-splashing in the river and we had to take a break to sort it out.
But once we rejoined the experience, a guide explained to us all kind of things.
Kaden and Carson’s top facts about elephants:
- Female Asian elephants don’t have tusks, but female African elephants do.
- Elephants at the camp are fed these big black balls of backed millet and beans. The eat 500 kilos a day.
- Elephants are pregnant for 12-18 months. The babies nurse for over a year.
- They live in the wild for 60-80 years and for 80-100 years in captivity.
- The trunk is like a hand with fingers. The Asian elephants have one finger on their trunk and African ones have two fingers. We got very up close and personal when we fed them some bananas during that crushing experience at the beginning.
Sadly, they weren’t giving elephant rides today, but we did climb up on the huge stand that allows you to board the elephant.
Getting back across the river, the kids wanted to wade instead of take the boat back. For Carson, the rock scrambling may have been the highlight of the day. He and Kaden explored the “rapids, ” as they called them (about shin deep and boy did they worry their dad when they called and said they were frolicking in the rapids!). They found snails and generally took a long time getting across! I was amazed how many people of all ages were wading across, despite the boats going back and forth for a very small fee.