The "Giant" Adventure in Bali
Hidden away from the bounds of modern life, great creatures live in the vivid green jungle surrounding a humble traditional village: Gianyar Regency's Taro village is home to 27 elephants who live well under the care of the Elephant Safari Park. The nearly twohour drive to the elephant park begins in the civilized heart of the Balinese capital, Denpasar, and passes through quiet countryside to end in a narrow lane surrounded by a dense tropical forest. Friendly staff is ready to greet us once we alight from our motorized transportation. We pass through the entrance to a gallery and information centre, where we can view elephant artefacts and update our knowledge on the pachyderm through the text accompanying attractive pictures.The scientific material provided here introduces us to the world of elephants on every continent, providing a very good introduction before we meet the living giants.
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m., and earlybird visitors can have a most tiring yet exciting experience in elephant bathing: These great citizens of the world are ridden by their mahout to the main pond to enjoy its cool waters, then go on to the elephantsize open bathroom. Not a morning person to brave travelling so early for such an experience? Well, why not stay in the park's exotic and luxurious lodge! Other delightful activities on offer at the park are the elephant tour, the elephant creativity show, and elephant feeding. The elephant tour seems to be the most popular activity, in which up to two visitors can climb into the saddle safely attached to an elephant's back. Once you're seated securely, your mahout will drive the grey giant along a track that runs about a kilometre through the middle of the dense forest for a tour past farms, through village streets, and back to the park. The elephant I rode was called Fitri. At the grand age of 43, she is the oldest elephant in the park. Sitting on her back while she was moving along the flat track felt like cruising on a bumpy road in a fivestar car, say a Jaguar.
The fresh scent from green farms, mixed with the strong odour of soil, carried on a,soft breeze straight into my nose for a calming effect. A soundtrack of melodious birds and other sounds made by the jungles'creatures completed the natural, cosy atmosphere. Before I knew it, Fitri had pushed open the park entrance with its trunk and my lovely, romantic tour was coming to an end. Feeling tired after the 30minute elephant ride? Hold on! Before going on to taste the delicious international fare in the park's restaurant, we must first give our giant host a chance to drink from its water trough and to play in the main pond. There, the park's resident photographer is ready to capture our best shot on this greatgreatgrandchild of the mammoth. Ready? One, two, three ... cheers! The elephant will raise its trunk or spray the water happily for a pictureperfect pose. In the elephant creativity show, we can watch some welleducated and talented elephants paint colourful canvases, solve maths problems, shoot hoops, and give us garlands to wear around our necks. The shows are on daily at i t a.m., 1 p.m., and 3.30 p.m. Don't miss it!
The elephants'paintings are on sale in the park's gift shop, and the money from their purchase goes to the Waikambas elephant conservation centre in Lampung province, South Sumatra. After all the excitement, my adventure in the park was not yet over. On the way out, I made a very short side trip to a srhall pond in the park where another giant lives. The pond is home to a fish called Arapaima gigas, the largest freshwater fish in the world and a native of the Amazon River.
When at last I walk to the exit, I'm carrying an experience as colorful as the myriad orchids that bloom alongside the path.
Hidden away from the bounds of modern life, great creatures live in the vivid green jungle surrounding a humble traditional village: Gianyar...