|No sleeping in this morning as we were booked for an elephant safari at 8:15am.
There must have been 12-15 elephants ready to go, which was a bit of a concern when you want quiet to see wildlife and have lots of noisy tourists. We loaded onto one of them and began to follow others towards the Nat. park, crossing the river. Just getting down and up the bank was an experience in being jumbled around.
As we headed into the jungle the elephants all separated off to take different paths which was a relief as some of the other groups were being really loud. We saw wild jungle chickens, spotted deer and Samba deer. Our Mahout (elephant driver) had spoken to one on their way out and I think was told where to find Rhino. Sure enough not long after we came across 3 Rhino that were pretty agitated, either from the fact they had been fighting or because they were surrounded by tourist loaded elephants. They calmed down just after we arrived and our Mahout seemed to make sure we had a good view but also gave them space to move off if they wanted to, which I liked. It was pretty cool to have seen them as Kelvin and I had really been doubting it. From here we returned back to the original starting point. It had been awesome and the boys really enjoyed the experience of both the elephant rid and seeing the Rhinos.
The Lodge manager was waiting for us on his motor bike so while the rest of us waited for some others to return Caleb went back with him to see the baby elephant. We bought a nice carved wooden elephant as a souvenir.
One of the activities we were down to do was the elephant bath but we had been told that this time of year can be too cold for them and it had to be a sunny day. We were really thrilled when just before lunch the manager told us to get changed for the bathing if we wanted to do it. The boys and I got into shorts etc and expected to head down to the river in font of the lodge but the elephant was brought up beside the dinning room and sat down. We were then directed to climb on and hold on tight, for the somewhat precarious and at times steep descent to the river and into the water. The elephant then sat in the water and tilted us off, thankfully the water wasn't too cold, for us and the elephant. We were then given flat stones to massage the elephant. Back on board and it was our turn for a bath as we were doused many times by the trunk. All good fun!! Then another hold on tight ride back up to the lodge and a follow up shower.
After lunch we went out on a 45min canoe safari where we were told to have "good balance"' there was only about an inch between the top of the boat and the water. We saw the 2 kinds of crocodiles, Marsh Mugger (meat eater) and Gharial (fish eater) and lots of bird life. The kingfisher were particularly striking as they flew with their shiny electric light blue wings.
On disembarking the canoe we began a couple of hours walking safari. We were instructed that the wild bull elephants were in mating season (they service the captive females to keep the breeds healthy). If we came across one we would go wide around it and one was to charge we would go behind a tree and then climb it, difficult when they have no branches. If we came across a sloth bear that became angry we were not to run but make a lot of noise and stand our ground. Rhino and Tiger however would apparently be scared of us and would stay away. The 2 guides only carried a stick each by the way. Much to my relief (and Kelvins, not sure about boys) we saw none of these things. Our wildlife existed of deer, monkeys and birds. We did hear Rhino some where in the distance.
The end of our walk took us to the Elephant Breeding Centre. This is Government run and the elephants here are government owned, some lodges own their own. The back half of the centre is open to the Nat. park so, as I said, the wild bulls can mate with the captive females so the animals are kept healthy and not inter bred. All the females here had babies around 1-2yrs old. At 2-3yrs they are removed from the mother and trained for work with the males sent to work with the Army patrolling the park and females used for local work and tourist rides. Our guide enticed one wandering baby over to the fence for Caleb but he only had a short time before all the other tourist flocked in, we moved on.
We then took the jeep back to the lodge where we had dinner and the evening was spent sitting around a fire talking with others.
It was such a packed, awesome day, so full of great experiences, some of which we had never done before. Certainly a highlight.