Bali Elephants: Meeting the Giants and My Thoughts on Elephant Riding

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I love animals and seeing an animal for the first time brings so much joy to me. This particular place in Bali that I went to is a so-called rescue facility in Tegallalang and is a sanctuary of more than 30 endangered Sumatran Elephants.

As I said in my 2018 travel recap post, one of the reasons why I originally wanted to go to Thailand for my first out-of-the-country trip was because I wanted to see elephants in real life. When I decided on going to Bali instead, I didn’t know about that there were elephants in the island. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the trip that I found out I could meet elephants there too.

However, it wasn’t the most amazing experience because of one thing…

bali elephants
bali elephants

I was elated when I first laid my eyes on the elephants. They were so big, but so gentle. My heart was soaring! We took as many pictures as we can, and we bought them snacks and fed it to them. I hugged their trunks and felt the rough skin beneath my palms. I could not believe it. I was having the best time of my life… or so I thought.

Disappointment hit me hard when I found out that this place offered elephant riding for tourists. Despite claiming that they are housing “rescued” elephants, it was disheartening to see people riding these gentle giants with big smiles on their faces. They seemed very oblivious to the fact that what they were doing wasn’t right.

This proved that people need to be educated about how unethical this activity is and the harm it causes to elephants.

It’s like taking the elephants away from one entertainment business only to let them do the exact same things they were trained to do in another. Is that still rescuing? Can this place really be called a sanctuary?

bali elephants
bali elephants


Here are just some of the many reasons why you should NEVER support elephant riding:

  • Baby elephants are illegally taken from their mothers in the wild. When the mother retaliates in order to protect its young, it is often harmed, or worse, killed.
  • As soon as the young elephants are captured, they immediately undergo training, which involves tying them down and inflicting pain in order to make them obey commands.
  • PTSD is not just a human thing. According to researchers, elephants that have been subjected to the cruel training process usually develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Despite their size, an elephant’s spine cannot fully support the weight of humans. And when they are forced to carry humans all day (with or without a chair attached to their backs) for profit, they often acquire permanent spinal injuries.
  • Captive elephants are said to be often denied of proper nutrition, veterinary care, and exercise. When they are forced to stand for hours and hours on hard surfaces, it causes them to develop arthritis and other serious foot injuries, which then leads to the elephants dying way earlier than their normal lifespan.
bali elephants
bali elephants
bali elephants

Remember when this went viral? I think it took place in the same “sanctuary” I went to. Sad, right?

Watch this documentary from Lost LeBlanc to learn more about the dark side of the elephant tourism industry.

Here is a list of some ethical locations to visit elephants:

  • Elephant Nature Park (Thailand)
  • Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
  • Thai Elephant Care Center (Thailand)
  • Phuket Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
  • Mondulkiri Project (Cambodia)
  • Mole National Park (Africa)
  • Elephant Freedom Project (Colombo)
  • David Shedrick Wildlife Center (Kenya)
  • Maasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)

I hope that when you travel, you won’t support businesses that showcase elephant riding and shows. Although I never did ride on the back of an elephant, spending my money in a place where such activity was being offered makes me believe that I still made a wrong move. I made the mistake once, and I vow never to do it again.

Elephants deserve love, baths, and snacks, not stinky butts on their backs.


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