Kuala Gandah: Elephant Sanctuary and Conservation Centre – a perfect family day trip.

I LOVE elephants…. So the National Elephant Conservation Centre was an absolute must on our weekend out of the city.  
Located an hour and a half away from KL, this is a sanctuary for elephants; they get rescued from the wild, moved, and brought to safety for rehabilitation. 

I have to say that our half-day here was educational, enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable.  

The centre only opens at 12.30 so don’t get there early or you’ll have a long wait! There’s no entry fee per se but you will need to be accompanied by one of their guides which will cost you 50RM irrelevant of if you are just a couple or a group of 6 people (as we were).

You’ll start your visit by watching a 30-minute video in the auditorium about the work the teams do to relocate elephants in the wild. The film showing was at 1pm and there was a second viewing at 1.30pm should you miss the initial session. At this point I will mention that, while the elephants are being helped, you do see them being tranquilized and getting distressed which, even for me, was sad to see so keep this in mind with young children. However I personally came out feeling really well informed and it gave us many talking points with the children afterwards as they had loads of questions!  

Although it doesn’t seem particularly structured, your guide will then make sure that you are at the right place at the right time to see different events on the programme around the park.

We started out with elephants in a large enclosure that you can feed. You can buy bundles of sugar cane for 3RM (as well as bags of peanuts!) from a little stall that they have set up just opposite. This was a nice introduction to these enormous creatures and the little ones loved feeding them food!   After that we were shown to an outdoor theatre where there would later be an appearance by the elephants with their keepers so we took our front row seats and waited while they set up giant baskets of fruit right in front of us.  The ‘show’ started at 2.15pm but I use the term loosely as there are no elephants standing on one leg and juggling. Instead you meet some of the resident elephants and their handlers and see how they get on together. They’ll demonstrate usual tasks like how elephants stand, sit, and lie down to sleep and you’ll see the different ways in which their handlers climb up to sit on them. You’ll witness quite an obvious bond between the elephants and their handlers which seemed very genuine and honest.   At the end of this, we were all invited down to the front to take some fruit and feed the elephants while taking photos which again went down very well with everyone!  For the next part of the tour we were asked to head towards a little sheltered area down on the river bank. Curious to see what was going to happen, we were all delighted when we turned around to see the elephants walking down towards us in single file with their keepers proudly sat up high and leading them into the water.   Watching ‘bath time’ was amazing; it all seemed so natural and I felt really lucky to be able to witness these animals take so much pleasure in enjoying their surroundings. Again the men that were with them showed so much compassion and seemed to enjoy the moment as much as the elephants!   Water was being splashed around, the elephants were being scrubbed down in the cold water and they had time for a play too!   I could have watched the elephants in the river for hours, but we were then told that we could head back over to the outdoor arena to see the baby elephant being bottle-fed. This was cute; a little elephant with a big bottle of milk and an even bigger appetite!   After this we were pretty much left to our own devices and we never saw our guide again. We wondered back to the elephants that we had fed at the start and bought some more sugar cane for their dessert! 

Watching the elephants in the river was purely beautiful, so natural, and my favourite part of the day. If you wish, you can choose to bathe with the baby elephants but this comes at a fee and was already booked out by the time we got there so call to reserve in advance to avoid disappointment.   As we were just about to leave we noticed that there was something going on in the river so headed over there. The visitors who had opted to go in with the baby elephants were all knee high in the river getting up close and personal with their new found friends! It looked like an enormous amount of fun and there are showers and changing rooms on site so be sure to bring your swimming stuff or at least a change of clothes as you will be getting completely soaked!  There’s a little coffee shop with a terrace selling soft drinks, ice cream and the usual snacks so we had a quick stop here before finally bidding farewell to the centre.  The 26 elephants currently here (24 from Malaysia, 1 from India and 1 from Myanmar) are genuinely well looked after and I’m sure they’d love to meet you and your little ones so if you fancy making a day trip (combined with Deerland from my previous blog) go and enjoy the park and these amazing animals. S x


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