In the couple of days leading up to our trip to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Nic had been doing a bit of research online about the best experiences of this sanctuary. She discovered references on Tripadvisor to Mr Razali, ‘The Elephant Man,’ who provided a “backstage pass” to the whole elephant experience – mixing food for the baby elephants, feeding them, in general having a much more “hands on” approach. Unfortunately, she discovered that he was in the UK, and he is the only one who provides this intimate service (he was integral in the establishment of the sanctuary 20 odd years ago). Mr Razali did, however, recommend a driver who would take us there and look after us. So we followed his advice and contacted Mr Bakar, who was very sweet, and informed, and ushered us gently through the day. He really was a lovely man, who wanted to train as a guide, but was worried that his English wasn’t good enough. Because of his calm disposition and honest nature, he is sure to succeed in his goals.
So Bakar was prompt in his collection of us from Bangsar, and safely transported us to the sanctuary – via a little shop that Zali recommends where we were able to buy packets of powdered milk and brown sugar that they use to feed the baby elephants to donate to the sanctuary (Zali said that was better than donating cash, which everyone is encouraged to do as there is no entry fee). When we arrived, we registered to get a yellow sticker (rather than a red one), which allows you to ride the elephants and swim with them in the river. And by “swim” they actually mean the elephants stand there, we clamber onto their backs and the other tourists splash you while the driver makes the most of the photo op. Some people question the ethics of this routine, but the elephants seriously like being in the water, so am personally torn on the whole subject. I just know that I had a wonderful time, and thoroughly loved just being near the large beasts.
Unfortunately, on our way home (2 hour drive each way), our taxi broke down – twice! John and Nic both thought it sounded like a blocked fuel filter (both of us have had personal dealings with this in the past!), but the second time Bakar couldn’t get it going again. Another taxi driver saw our situation and pulled over. The two drivers came to some sort of arrangement and we got our lift home, with the only money changing hands on our part being the original agreed amount to our first driver. And we only had about another 15 minutes added to our trip. Not too bad, really.
That night dinner was a ‘stay in’ affair, with the most delicious pan-seared tuna, marinated in lemon, garlic, ginger and coriander, served on a swipe of basil and cashew pesto, accompanied with avocado and green leafed salad – simple flavours, beautifully matched.