The Anantara Golden Triangle Experience
Just to give you a little background: For those of you who don’t know, before I became a travel blogger I was a biologist and over the years have volunteered in many animal dedicated conservation programs. Some of which you can read about here.
When I had first heard about the Anantara Golden Triangle – Elephant Camp and Resort, nominated year after year as a Top 10 experience hotel. I was truly sceptical, about how they could truly merge the aspects of conservation with 5-star luxury accommodation and guest expectations. I was there to produce a video for the hotel but I wanted to make sure during my time there I could truly understand how they were conducting their elephant program. Anantara Golden Triangle Unique Elephant adventures are categorised into 6 different packages. Out of these, I was able to experience 3.
- Walking With Giants
- E.L.E Elephant learning experience
- Elephant Yoga Experience
- Elephant Sunset Experience
- Dining By Design – Elephant Camp
- Elephant Picnic
Walking With Giants – Anantara Golden Triangle
Journey into the jungle with our elephants and their mahouts on their daily walk, and watch as these gentle giants splash in the river or play in the mud, snack on leaves from nearby branches and socialise with the herd. While you meander together through the forest, you will learn more about elephant biology and behaviour from our resident veterinarian or biologist and discover more about the past, present and hopeful future for elephants in Thailand. Please note that this program does not include riding the elephants.
Honestly looking back at the experience, this description is pretty much spot on. Before our walk began we were taken to a part of the Elephant camp where a few of the elephant’s housings are found. You could see the upkeep here was to a high standard, with good quality housing and facilities. We were greeted by the resident Vet who began by introducing us to the particular elephants where they had come from and delved into further details about the species throughout the walk. The Elephant Camp does not breed any Elephants, all Elephants found in the camp are rescues or have been taken in by Anantara with their Mahout and their families and provided with a steady secure income and housing that they may have struggles to receive outside without resulting to Elephant tourism.
Although mentioned that this program does not include the riding of elephants, you will during your walk see elephants being ridden by their mahouts.
Elephant Picnic – Anantara Golden Triangle
The elephant picnic experience was something I had not heard of before and thought it was a really unique detail provided by Anantara.
Let the Anantara chefs prepare a personalised gourmet hamper. Savour a picnic in scenic seclusion, surrounded by the elephants as they, too, snack; breathtaking landscapes and incredible views of the fabled Golden Triangle.
When we were walking with elephants I could see a mutually beneficial relationship here. Throughout the walk, Elephants would get exercise, socialise and eat as they would in the wild. The picnic, on the other hand, I wasn’t truly sure I saw a benefit from the elephant perspective, other than them sneaking most of the food from the hamper. It did, however, add another layer of guest interaction into the overall experience of being at the hotel. I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy it because I did …if anything it brought out more of the elephant’s playful nature.
Dining By Design – Anantara Golden Triangle
A similar albeit less rustic experience offered by Anantara is their Dining by Design.
Offers the ultimate in tailor made, private dining, and our Thida Camp provides a naturally intimate setting. Choose from a collection of fine dining menus, or fine tune the ideal culinary sequence with your very own chef.
This experience screamed romance, with rustic lodge dining you can feed elephants and sit down to a candlelight dinner and you look out into the jungle during sunset. One thing I definitely would like to speak out about was the use of an electric fence in this experience. This was something I did not agree with at all. Understandably they did not want to let the elephants get too close to the dining hut, however, I think that this experience should not come at the expense of the well-being and safety of these animals.
The Pros and Cons – Anantara Golden Triangle
More than 100,000 Asian elephants may have existed at the start of the 20th century, but numbers have fallen by at least 50% over the last three generations, and they are still in decline today. They’re restricted to just 15% of their original range. As Asia’s population keeps rising and as more habitat is transformed into farmland. Elephants and people are now coming into contact more often – increasing the likelihood of human-wildlife conflicts. Elephants sometimes raid farmers’ fields and damage their crops, which they rely on for their livelihoods. And elephants sometimes kill people. As a result, farmers occasionally kill elephants to protect their fields and families. Experts believe that these confrontations are now the leading cause of elephant deaths in Asia. Elephant poaching is not as severe a threat as it is in Africa, but Asian elephants are still killed for their tusks, meat and skin. They’re also taken from the wild for the live elephant trade – primarily going to Thailand for the tourism industry. Anantara Golden Triangle has set up The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) that primarily aims:
- To help elephants that cannot help themselves; to assist those that find themselves, through abuse or circumstance, unable to provide and maintain an income for themselves, their mahouts and their families.
- Through their working elephants, they aim to show that it is possible for elephants and mahouts to earn a living while maintaining world-class standards of care and not resorting to dangerous or demeaning work such as street begging, illegal logging or inappropriate elephant shows.
- To provide a controllable and safe environment for publishing research scientists and veterinarians to perform ethical and non-invasive research into Asian elephants, their behaviour and intelligence, with the goal of learning how to better look after them in captivity and protect them in the wild.
- To work with conservationists to protect those elephants still living wild in Thailand and to develop projects that allow them to live comfortably in the forests. We also work with the human communities surrounding the elephant territory to minimise the ill will felt by those whose livelihoods are compromised by Human-Elephant Conflict.
One Major Let Down – Anantara Golden Triangle
The fact that Anantara Golden Triangle still to this day allow Elephant riding, to me is one of it’s biggest faults acting as a conservation foundation. Marketed as a safer and more secure way to experience the “joy of riding” elephants, helping those fulfil their “bucket list” experiences is organised by guests being allocated a short 10-20 min ride on the neck rather than the back of an elephant, selected based on the weight of the passenger. Supervised by resident vets at Anantara, this is said to be more comfortable for the Elephant and not painful due to the higher density of muscle and support.
Regardless of the slight benefits, for me, there is one main reason why I feel they should stop rides altogether. Pictures. Images. Photos. Social Media. With those guests that visit these resorts, with or without the intention to ride an elephant. If they do, they’re most likely going to want to share this “Magical, Once In a Lifetime” experience with the world.
Here is where they start sharing these images, with their friend and family over social media. Social media can have serious negative impacts toward elephant conservation for this one reason. Those who are less educated in the matter or want to tick off their bucket list experience will visit the countries they can do this in yes. Will the majority, however, take the time to research they ethics behind what they want to do and where they may be able to do it “safely” (I again strain on that word). The high chance is no. What will happen is two or three guests will share their images, to maybe 400-4000 people. Out of those people, 8 (conservative) will want to do the same, hopefully, 4 of those will realise its Wrong but those remaining 4 will go out ride an elephant in an unethical manner in parts of Asia where these elephants are being abused daily by the tourism industry. The cycle will continue.
For more information on why not to ride elephants please see here.
Well, I hope you guys found my experience article interesting and insightful! Let me know below if you have any thoughts or questions!
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