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Up Close & Personal With Elephants At Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

Posted by on 23 January 2010

Malaysian year-end school holidays typically start on the last few weeks of November and last all the way until the first Sunday of January. Hence, even though I was away for 30 days last November/December, I still managed to hang out with the children for the last ten days or so of their school holidays, the highlight of which was our visit to Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Lanchang, Pahang.

Baby elephants walking towards the river for their bath

Baby elephants walking towards the river for their bath

In a nutshell, there are three great things about the place:-
1. There are no admission fees.
2. You get really up close and personal with the elephants there.
3. The place is not far from KL — just about a little over an hour’s drive.

Free Admission. Yes, you read it right when I mentioned that there are no admission fees whatsoever. You can simply walk in but I highly recommend that you call them in advance, informing them of the number of people in your group. You see, only 120 lucky visitors get to handfeed, ride and swim with the elephants per day. The moment you get in, you must register in order to get stickers — yellow ones to get in and simply observe, red ones to take part in the activities.

Up Close & Personal. When I said “up close”, I meant in-your-face-close or, perhaps more accurately, your-hand-in-the-elephant’s-mouth-close. Here’s how you do it:-

Step 1: Buy a bag of peanuts for RM3.
Step 2: Join the crowd surrounding the baby elephants.
Step 3: Take a small handful of peanuts, keeping them hidden inside your fist.
Step 4: Lift your fist up high, so that the baby elephant would lift its trunk and open its mouth.
Step 5: Quickly put in the handful of peanuts on the elephant’s tongue or chuck it into its mouth before you lose your nerve.

Important: Make sure you’ve asked someone to snap a pic of you doing Step 5.

Toss in the peanuts...

Toss in the peanuts…

Or put the peanuts on the elephant's tongue!

Or put them on the elephant’s wet tongue!

You also get to ride the elephants with a trained handler but without any saddle or chair, which is quite unnerving but totally exhilarating. If it’s of any consolation, I did ask the handler of the elephant that we were riding if anyone has ever fallen off the elephants and he replied as-a-matter-of-factly “Setakat ni, belum lagi” (To date, none so far).

Bareback elephant ride anyone?

Bareback elephant ride, anyone?

The swimming part is not really swimming. It’s more like getting dunked into the river by the playful pachyderms. First, you get on the elephant’s back, then the elephant goes into the river, then the elephant would lie on its side, effectively dunking you into the water. Staff are waiting to assist you in the river but I wouldn’t recommend this to children below 6 or even to older children who can’t swim or are afraid of getting submerged in a river.

You can only do the dunking thing once but you can continue frolicking in the river with the baby elephant, splashing it with water, touching its back, ears and trunk, and getting surprised in the process at how stiff its hairs are.

Swimming with the elephants

Swimming with the elephants

Please take note that bikinis are strictly prohibited during the swim with the elephants.

Quick & Easy Trip. From KL, follow the signs that say “Kuantan”, which should lead you to the Karak Highway. Watch out for Lanchang Exit. After paying toll at Lanchang Toll Plaza, there will be a T-junction. The sign board to the left says “Lanchang” — don’t take that road. The smaller sign board to the right says “Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary” — that’s where you should be headed. Just drive straight on until you find yourself surrounded by trees and watch out for more road signs. (NB: At this point: Twin2 asked: “Betulkah ini jalannya?” Are you sure this is the right road? And in perfect Bahasa Malaysia no less!) More detailed instructions on how to get there by car or by bus can be found at this link.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary is guaranteed to delight all children and bring out the child in each adult. Activities with the elephants start at 2 pm. Toilet and surau facilities are available for free within the premises. And even though admission is free, please be very generous with your donations, as they’ll go a long way in maintaining the place and helping the elephants.

More info and photos at Pahang Tourism’s official site and at MyElephants.Org’s site.

Or contact:-

National Elephant Conservation Centre,
DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE & NATIONAL PARKS, KUALA GANDAH,
28500 Lanchang, Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia.
Tel: +609 2790391; +6019 932 1576

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