For anyone that knows me, you know that I'm obsessed with elephants.
Disclaimer: I received some flack over my current profile picture of me riding an elephant. Please know that the elephants at this particular village were under the best care and conditions possible. The village was designed for them. The government checks on such sites on a weekly basis to ensure that they are following all the codes. Elephants are sacred in India, and therefore they (at least the ones I encountered) are treated as such. I would never take part in any kind of animal activity if I thought there was abuse and neglect happening, and I would hope that my friends and family would know this by now. If you have any issue with this post or the elephant experience I had, I kindly invite you to move your mouse to the top of the page tab where you'll find a little "x".
For the rest of you...
The first elephant we saw was just walking down the highway! We were on a long drive and everyone was sleeping while I was listening to music. All of a sudden I saw an elephant go by in the window, immediately I ripped my headphones out and screamed "OH MY GOD". Everyone woke up, and the amused driver pulled over. This elephant was a religious elephant and was used to go to houses and ask for money. If an elephant ever showed up at my door, I'd give him everything I had!
We were told that there would be elephants at one of the forts we visited but it was too hot for them, so they weren't there. Elephants are sacred and very spiritual in India so they take very good care of them.
Our driver found out I loved elephants and offered to take us to an elephant village. I didn't even know such places existed!! An elephant village is where all of the elephants live with their trainers. The trainer and the elephant have an unbreakable bond, (remember elephants never forget) so the elephant has a room and the trainer lives in a loft above him or her. The trainer's life revolves around his elephant. They have no social life outside the elephant village because they must always be with their elephant. There are a total of 120 elephants in Udaipur. They are used for weddings, tourism and religion.
Why tourism? While I'm the first to negate the use of elephants for tourism, I understand the purpose in this case. The particular village we went to was much more than elephant rides. We spent a significant amount of time being educated about the animal. We also had to pay (obviously), where we learned that our money directly goes to feeding the elephants since they can eat up to 300 pounds a day. If they have 120 elephants, you do the math!
Asian elephants are different from the popular African elephant. Asian elephants are smaller and their ears are smaller too. African elephants ears are more forward and in the shape of Africa. Asian elephants have smaller ears in the shape of India. Female Asian elephants don't always have tusks, if they do, they are small. Also, African elephants cannot be trained, so all the elephants you see in movies and at the circus (unfortunately) are Indian elephants and most likely female. Ivory trade is banned in India. Asian elephants also only have one little nub or finger on their trunk.
While elephants have a very strong sense of smell, they have very poor eyesight. They also only sleep about 2 or 3 hours a day and the rest of those hours are spent eating. They love to eat sugarcane and bananas.
Going to the elephant village was a dream I didn't even know I could have! It was one of the best days of my life, I don't think I stopped smiling from the moment we parked to the moment I went to bed.
I did the full elephant experience so I got to paint my elephant, Rupa. Typically, they paint the elephants for weddings. The paint is organic and non-harmful to the animals. So basically I will have an elephant at my wedding.
After the painting, we rode the elephants. We got to ride with no saddle which was amazing. I sat right behind her ears. It was actually a comfortable ride. My elephant, Rupa, was 28 years old as was her trainer. So they grew up together; he told me Rupa was his girlfriend.
Finally to thank the elephants, we fed them bananas. They really love bananas (which I actually didn't know), so they have good memories of us.
I was wearing a flower necklace they gave us at the hotel and Rupa smelled it and decided she wanted it. With her trunk she pulled it off my neck!!
My moms elephant kept taking the sugarcane (which looks like bamboo) and tucking it away behind her tusk as a snack for later. She also took along 5 or 6 sticks for the ride.
My moms trainer was such a badass. To get on the elephant, he sat on the trunk and the elephant would raise him up to the head. He did the same thing to get down!
The elephants produce up to 220 pounds of manure per day. They use the poo to make paper!