“It’s my birthday. I’m going to ride elephants. And eat ice-cream. It’s my birthday.”
My boy sings, he’s excited and he’s back. He deserves this. Our ease into living in Bali was tormented by a severe ear infection that left him spiritless. The infection spread to the mastoid bone of his skull making his ear stick out in tremendous pain. He’s all good now, thanks to a lot of care and attention.
Before we left Belize, we promised G an incredible birthday in Bali. I spontaneously asked if he’d like to ride elephants for his birthday. I didn’t research before hand, so I didn’t even know if Bali had elephants. (Note to all mothers: before you make yourself look like the meanest mom in the world by promising things that may not be possible…look it up first.) But it didn’t matter. He was looking forward to it and if Bali didn’t have elephants, we were heading to Thailand. It was that important.
Luckily, there are elephants in Bali and one of the best parks was only 25 minutes away from Ubud. Whew! I skated by that one.
Elephant Safari Park in Bali
The atmosphere at the park is fantastic and the park itself is meticulously kept. It’s super-clean, has perfect landscaping and looks like a 5 star place. The elephants are in great condition (especially when you see the footage of them before they were rescued) and the staff are amazingly kind to the elephants and very helpful to the guests. The staff encourages questions, feeding of the elephants, petting them and taking photos (there are no additional charges for doing any of this). The staff will even take photos for you if you have your hands full. There is also a professional photographer that will take photos that you can have on put on T-shirts, mugs and other stuff.
We arrived at the park early and had a ball walking around the grounds and watching the 15 minute elephant show where elephants kick balls, paint and walk on logs. It was a nice show and good that it was short. What we really enjoyed was strolling through the gardens. The park has 2 ponds that have beautiful koi fish and a very rare fish from the Amazon called a Giant Arapaima Gigas. This is a sight not be missed as well.
We enjoyed a nice lunch in the restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the elephant bathing pond and we had a nice long show of the elephants having fun with each other while we enjoyed lunch (see video below). We paid $20 for lunch including drinks for the four of us. They could charge more considering that is the only option, but we found it to be reasonable. The park also had a lunch buffet option for $20, but we chose to order off the menu instead.
The park is not huge, which makes it a manageable day trip. After reading reviews and calculating costs, we decided to stay overnight in the park at the Elephant Safari Park Lodge.
Elephant Safari Park Lodge
I would highly recommend staying the night. Although it may seem expensive ($280+ per night), the extra activities that you get to do by staying the night make it worth the money. I’ve listed the extra activities below.
Upon checking in, we were handed a refreshing cool towel, a deliciously sweet welcome drink and a personalized itinerary which provided us a nice agenda of how to get the best enjoyment of our stay, when we could bathe elephants and more. It was nice to have this so we didn’t have to ask many questions of when and where to do the activities. It was all there for us. We booked a paddy room, but received a free upgrade to the Garden room, which was a nice surprise because it meant that we’d be able to get picked up by the ‘elephant taxi’ for dinner. The room was beautiful as we expected. But it was the little touches that make this place so wonderful and well thought out. The details add up to an incredible experience that make it worth the cost.
The decorative tiles in the center of all stairs are non-slip, including the bathroom. The fruit basket filled with G’s favorite: passion fruit. The welcome drink. The refreshing towel. The ability to charge everything to your room. The free toiletry kit, which included toothbrushes, a razor, and more. The steamy, full pressure shower. The carved elephant foot bases on the beds.
The highlight of the first day was being picked up by our elephant taxi and taken to dinner. I thought that dinner was going to be at the restaurant, which is beautiful. Instead, white linen tables with candles were set out amongst the palm trees creating a fairy tale scene. Eating outside, surrounded by elephants under the moonlight was awesome. The buffet was $30 US, but we opted to order a light meal off the menu and dinner only cost us $20 for us four.
Towards the end of dinner, the waiters surprised us with a chocolate cake and birthday song for G.
We walked back to the room through the gardens again and watched the elephants eat (which they are constantly doing).
We’ve stayed at some really nice resorts and never have we had better service than at the Elephant Safari Park Lodge. This place is top-notch. We went to bed, excited for the next day of bathing and riding elephants.
Included activities by staying at the Elephant Safari Park Lodge
- Getting picked up by an elephant from your room and taken to dinner
- Having dinner surrounded by the elephants underneath a starry night
- A delicious breakfast worthy of a 5 star resort
- The opportunity to bathe and play with the elephants in the morning
- An elephant ride
- A bareback elephant ride while she bathes in the pool
You will get so much more value staying in the Park rather than a day trip.
Bathing and Riding Elephants
We were thrilled to wake up to the sounds of birds in our Garden room. It is a 2 minute, short walk to the Mammoths Head Bar where the breakfast buffet was set up. It was great with a wide variety of food to please all the international palettes that visit. Now, the part we’ve been waiting for and the reason we stayed at the Lodge: the bathing and riding of elephants.
The staff really want you to help bathe the elephants and it’s not to be taken lightly. Literally, you have to really, really scrub them hard to get all the dirt off. We couldn’t get enough of being so close to these amazing creatures.
There is something magical about being around elephants. They communicate and feel you. I kept one hand on the elephant for a long time, petting her and giving her love. The opportunity to be this close to them for as long as you want is just priceless. Elephant Safari Park is amazing and you only get this opportunity if you stay overnight at the lodge.
After bathing, we changed in to our swimsuits to go from a swim with the elephants. We were able to mount them bareback and feel their skin underneath us. It was awesome. The elephants stood up and went inside the pond, dipping me slightly into the green water.
Afterward, we had ourselves a swim in the hotel pool and then prepared for our elephant ride around the forest surrounding the park. I had read online that wooden seats on top of elephants hurt them, but there are several layers of padding between the elephant and the seats and the trainers say they don’t hurt them. I took a picture specifically to show you how much padding is on them.
Elephants can carry 700 kg on their back, so our weight is nothing for them.
The ride through the forest was nice, although I found it a little uncomfortable sitting on the wooden bench. I’d have rather sat bareback on the elephant, it would have made it easier to hold on to Miss I. The ride itself was fine, but a little boring after our fun filled morning of activity.
My Thoughts on Asian Elephants
The elephants are here because their homelands are being torn down for agricultural use. 16,000 acres of their land in Sumatra has been reduced to less than 200. Elephants eat over 250 kg (500 lbs) of food everyday and, in their quest to find food, they start trampling and eating farmland. The farmers grow angry and hurt or kill the elephants. It’s a sad example of us humans trampling and taking over the earth. We simply are not willing to share space and honor the creatures on this planet. Elephants need land and land in Asia is becoming scarce. An elephant can destroy six months of income for a farmer in one, single night. It’s understandable why the farmers are upset.
It is interesting to note that in Asia the elephant is quite revered. The elephant image can be found in temples, on beer cans, weaved into the finest silks and carved into furniture. The elephant Lord Ganesha is the god of wisdom, trade and prosperity. It seems that the nations that revers and worships the elephant, are the very same places where they face the greatest threat.
But, this post is also about my son’s fourth birthday and in honor of him…
Happy 4th Birthday G!
Born on the fourth of July, G is my firecracker baby. I couldn’t have asked to be a mother to a more beautiful child. He challenges me in ways I did not know possible, all to make me a better, more loving person.
G has mastered the art of negotiation, trading, and saying simple I love you’s at the most tender moments. This past year he’s lived in Costa Rica, Belize and now Bali. He knows how to adapt and feel at home quickly. He’s also learned several languages this year and is turning to be quite a linguist, often times teaching me words (some of them are made up, but his confidence in ‘knowing’ them is super). He’s a sweet boy, especially to babies, and takes care of the few toys that he has very well. Currently, he enjoys writing his letters, running, legos, painting, more legos, and, at times, tormenting his little sister. If asked whether he wants to do anything vs riding on the motor scooter, the motor scooter always wins. He rides in front singing songs the entire way. We adore him.
I don’t think he could have had a better birthday. How many people can say they rode an elephant in Bali on their 4th birthday? Today, he did. (And we didn’t have to travel to Thailand to do it).
Video of Elephant Safari Park in Bali