I wanted to love this experience - especially given the price having chosen Patara over the many other options because of the reviews and inclusions. Yes the elephants seem well cared for but I felt the program gave little consideration to well being of participants at times, especially children. We were 2 families of 4 doing the Elephant Owner for the afternoon package - 2 per elephant. Our children are aged between 11 and 6.
- heaps of time to interact with the elephants up close
- educational in that there were a number of talks about how to keep elephants healthy and explained with lots of humour
- elephant carer with you whole time (1 per elephant)
- their photographers taking photos of you that you can download from the website later
- they accommodated one member of our group who has back problems and could only participate in certain activities
The not so good:
- there was a lot of time standing around with no information about what was happening which even our children found confusing. For the adults, the particular challenge was about where to leave belongings which are left unattended for long periods - especially concerning if you are paying cash which you don’t do until the very end.
- to get some set up photos, the elephants are right behind you in the water (I mean trunk touching your head) so when they blasted us with water it hurt and my 8 yo found this terrifying, especially with her back to the elephants not knowing what was going on. I hated this bit as it hurt my ear and given the state of the water.
- the water is exactly as other reviewers have said, filthy and smelly, and the only reason I think we coped with this is I had forewarned our group based on other reviews
- the elephant ride is downright dangerous for first time elephant riders in my opinion. There are no flat sections, instead an extended ride both up and down very steep (and in our case, muddy and slippery) terrain. Both myself and my daughters nearly fell off a number of times and we are fit and adventurous but this is an accident waiting to happen- especially given the height of the elephants. I’d go so far as to say irresponsible, especially with children involved. If we had been told this was the case via the website, we could have made choices about this.
- our handler was just going through the motions and really wasn’t working to ensure we could manage our elephant with the commands they teach you. Our elephant’s name was pronounced Bake-O (sp?). Bake-O was not cooperative and I got the sense she had had enough that day. She ran and veered off track a few times which was when we nearly fell off going downhill and our carer wasn’t even paying attention.
- they say you can shower at the end. The shower wasn’t working- just a trickle of water - so while I changed, my hair was uncomfortably wet and smelly for the hour trip back. BYO towel.
So in summary you get lots of great time up close with these amazing animals, but more consideration needs to be given to needs of participants, or at least more information provided, so you can choose which activities suit you. Again, this is especially an issue if you take children.
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