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Bathing an Elephant in a River in Sri Lanka

There is something magical about communicating with animals. Swimming with dolphins is popular, but go one better and bathe an elephant. It is an unforgettable, strangely emotional bonding experience. Visit Sri Lanka, and hire one of the local guides on the beach. These are not the pushy touts found elsewhere, but well-dressed family men who speak excellent English and are proud to show you their country from the local perspective.

Sam picked me up in a hired, air-conditioned car and we headed off into the jungle. In the morning sunshine, the mahouts bring their working elephants down to the shady waters to bathe and enjoy some R&R. We watched as the cumbersome giants waded into the shallow river, ponderously knelt down then rolled onto the stony riverbed. I could almost hear them sigh with pleasure. I took my coconut shell halves and approached with caution. Scooping up the river water I began to massage and scrub the elephant's hide, gradually working across the huge wrinkled expanse. It was so quiet and therapeutic, and not just for the elephant! After a time the elephant began to rise and the mahout beckoned for me to climb on the elephant's back. Hanging onto the rope, I clambered up as the elephant rose to stand. Everyone but me could guess what came next. The elephant began to hose up the clear river water and spray it over his back “ and me! Time and again I was soaked, laughing. Now you know to wear a bathing suit for this trip!

By Gillian Birch

Gillian | Sep 18, 2009 | Category: General

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