Friday, 28 February 2014

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Pahang

'Mummy, can we ask them if we can take an elephant home?'

It was a tempting prospect.  Baby elephants are adorable.  And of course, since I've never had to clean up elephant poo or treat a fevered (elephantine) brow they do look like pretty appealing playmates.

Of course the answer was a (fairly) firm 'No'.  But despite our son's disappointment that Mummy had vetoed his hefty souvenir of choice our trip to Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary made for a happy day out and a nice change of scene from the big smoke.

The sanctuary is a conservation centre dedicated to protecting orphaned elephants.  It's located in Pahang, between an hour and a half to two hours' drive out of KL, depending, of course, on how obliging KL's traffic decides to be on the given day.  A visit to the sanctuary makes a good day trip for avid elephant fans and for those who are looking for a break from the city.  It's probably not a 'must see' if you are just visiting KL for a few days, but if you have the time and inclination it's worth the journey.

I must admit we made the trip with some trepidation.  Hubby and I spent three years in Uganda and viewing the Asian elephant's African cousins in their natural habitat had been an almost monthly passion.  I still have my 'animal sightings log book' (yes, I know, I know) - and it's only now, with some distance between Africa and myself that I realise I may have had something of an obsession.  I digress (and quite frankly, with the clock nearing midnight I really can't afford to be going off on tangents now).  I'd heard a number of less-than-glowing reports about the place, but having been told that they'd made changes recently we decided to give it a go. And I'm pleased to report that the sanctuary was clean and the animals appeared well looked after.

Admission is free but there are a limited number of tickets given out each day on a first come first served basis.  It's advisable to call a day or two before you go to check on the schedule and find out the best time to arrive.

One of the major draw cards is the sanctuary's elephant show.  This was scheduled for 2pm on our chosen day.  Until then the only activity on offer was feeding a number of elephants separated (understandably so) from us by a wooden fence.  This was fun and all very sweet but two hours of standing in the sun watching elephants vie for sugar cane is probably a bit of a stretch for even the keenest elephant enthusiast.  Luckily, there are some pretty picnic tables dotted around the area and we'd brought a (slightly soggy) stash of sandwiches to help us pass the time.

When it did roll around, the show was interesting, but do be warned that there is no seating and you are likely to be standing in full sunlight.  I ended up bouncing Little Miss up and down in the rather sweaty baby carrier from a distance as it was simply too hot for a baby to be under Malaysia's scorching afternoon sun.

After the show we were invited to watch the adult elephants bathe in the river.  If luck is on your side and the river isn't too high it's possible to pay extra to go into the water with the baby elephants.  Unfortunately this wasn't an option on the day we visited - do bear this in mind.  Still, we enjoyed watching the beautiful giants splash around in the water with their mahouts.  That wrapped up the day's activities and heralded an inevitable surge towards the car park.

Would we go again?  Probably.  Is it a worthy organisation to support?  Absolutely.  Has my son forgiven me for not buying him a pet elephant?  Absolutely not.

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