It’s dawn, and from the cosy warmth of my soft bed, I’m woken by the unmistakable sound of an elephant trumpeting just outside my door. At first I think I’m still dreaming, but then I remember where I am.
Elephant Safari Park and Lodge
The Elephant Safari Park and Lodge in the mountain village of Taro, just north of Ubud in Bali’s central highlands, is home to the largest herd of rescued Sumatran elephants in the world.
At this delightful sanctuary you can pat elephants, hand feed and bathe them and even swim with them.
There is even an ‘elephant chauffeur’ service that will gently carry you from the purpose-built landing at your lodge door to dinner at the restaurant.
Elephant conservation in Indonesia
The park was founded by an Australian, Nigel Mason, who took nine neglected elephants from a village. He also travelled to Sumatra and rescued another 18 elephants.
The park runs a natural breeding and conservation program that aims to preserve the dwindling numbers of elephants in the wild (there are less than 1,100 in Indonesia). It’s a member of the World Zoo Association and meets international standards for animal care.
The park is spread across three and a half hectares of landscaped gardens surrounded by national forest.
An important aspect of the park is its discovery areas where you can learn all about elephants including their prehistoric ancestors.
The museum and information gallery houses more than 1000 exhibits including fossil artefacts dating back five million years.
There are prehistoric horns, mammoth tusks, elephant skulls, tiger claws, bone carvings and a 15,000-year-old giant mammoth skeleton – the only one in South East Asia.
Stay with the elephants
The centre charts the origins of elephants, various species, fun facts and the interesting abilities of these beautiful and enigmatic creatures.
A gift shop offers an extensive range of pachyderm-themed products, including elephant paintings, carvings, clothing, souvenirs and jewellery, with part of the proceeds going directly back into rescuing more elephants, feeding them, and covering the costs of maintaining their health and well-being.
Everywhere you look there are elephant inspired touches. The beds are carved in the shape of elephant feet; you can sip on ‘Elephantini’ martinis in the Mammoths Head Bar; and enjoy a mammoth-sized breakfast from the terrace overlooking the elephants at play.
The award-winning Safari Wellness Spa offers an exotic range of traditional Balinese massage therapies handed down through generations.
A highlight is definitely helping to bathe the elephants, a hands-on experience each morning in the elephant bathing pool and then afterwards climbing on their backs for an early morning swim.
Close to the park you can also go white-water rafting, kayaking, cycling and trekking through emerald rice paddy fields.
The village of Taro is one of the oldest Hindu villages in Central Bali, dating back some 3000-4000 years. The isolated village has the oldest temple in Bali and is also home to the famed sacred white cows found on the island.
A stay at the Elephant Safari Park is an unforgettable experience for elephant lovers and those who want to enjoy a unique getaway in one of Bali’s most beautiful and tranquil settings.
Kris Madden is an award-winning travel writer from Australia
Stay with the elephants at Elephant Safari Park & Lodge Jalan Elephant Park Taro, Taro Village, Tegallalang, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.