A Thailand Adventure – Swimming with the Elephants

Swimming with the Elephants in Ko Chang Credit: Anne O'Connell

Swimming with the Elephants in Ko Chang Credit: Anne O’Connell

Many adventure travelers who seek out the less crowded city tours and heavily populated tourist towns have discovered the many out islands of Thailand. As the main towns in the now well-discovered islands of Phuket and Ko Samui have become more popular, the less publicized island of Ko Chang has kept its appeal as a more remote and not so commercialized adventure vacation destination.

Koh Chang, meaning Elephant Island, is Thailand’s second largest island and there are plenty of beaches to laze on, lost in a romance novel. But the adventure traveler need not look far for a more exhilarating way to spend an afternoon. There are numerous tour operators in Thailand that will take visitors on elephant rides but the tiny enterprise of Ban Chang Thai, hidden in the hills of Ko Chang at Klong Prao Village, adds a new twist to the adventure.

An Elephant Ride through the Rain Forest
Elephant Ride Through the Rain Forest of Ko  Chang Credit: Doug Erskine

Elephant Ride Through the Rain Forest of Ko Chang Credit: Doug Erskine

First, the elephants take riders on a long, pleasant, leisurely plod through the rain forest, stopping to munch on various leafy green delights while the handlers point out indigenous flora and fauna. According to the book, The National Parks of Thailand, there are more than 500 species of trees, over 1,000 varieties of orchids, 900 recorded species of birds and 1,200 types of butterflies to entertain trekkers along the trail.

The trail leads to a beautiful river and the ride continues alongside the river. As the river widens the handlers give an order to the elephants and the entourage pauses on the river’s edge. At first glance, there’s nothing around but rocks and trees but a closer inspection shows a raised wooden platform jutting out over a pool at the river end.

Swimming with the Elephants

The handlers gracefully guide the elephants next to the platform where the riders can hop off while the elephants are liberated from the heavy wooden and metal chairs on which their riders have been perched. The riders climb on again but bareback this time and the elephants happily wade into the deeper pool ready for a swim and a bath, spraying each other and their riders in turn.

After the refreshing plunge in the pool both the elephants and riders enjoy a much more pleasant ride back along the dusty trail through the jungle.

Peaceful Ko Chang Island

Ko Chang is sparsely populated with quaint towns dotting the coastline mostly on the western and southern parts of the island. The main livelihood is fishing. The interior, mountainous, uninhabited part of the island is predominantly virgin rainforest. The tallest mountain peaks at 744 metres above sea level. The island, located eight kilometres off the coast of Trat on the East side of the Gulf of Thailand, is part of an archipelago of islands which includes Ko Kut, Ko Mak and Ko Kradat.

The best time to visit Ko Chang is November through May, as it can be difficult to reach during rainy season which runs from June to October.

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