This is my 3rd lovely visit to the BLES family. Katherine and Anon, the Mahouts, the staff, and of course, the family of now 14 rescued elephants, welcome only a few guests at a time and integrate us into the daily life of the sanctuary. Most of the lovely elephants, were rescued from abuse or neglect. In a few cases, their owners agreed to surrender them for better care at BLES.
BLES is different from every other elephant camp in Thailand. At BLES, the majestic beasts are respected and treated to a life as an elephant. There are no shows, rides or forced breeding programs. The mahouts of the female elephants don’t use hooks or prods. Their charges respond to kind words. The bulls (males), each who nearly died before coming to live at BLES, are so healthy now that one or the other is nearly always in musthe, requiring extra careful tending.
I would describe this to visitors as a home-stay resort in the midst of a spectacular nature preserve. The 3 guest cottages, each in a separate location from the other, sit amongst lush trees and flowers. This morning I was listening to the sounds of birds chirping, when an elephant trumpeted her call on her way down to the shower area for a morning scrub down. From my window, or from the lovely cottage porch, I can quietly watch the mahouts. If I want to participate, I will be welcomed to get wet and give an ele a scrub! This afternoon when I came in for a cool bath and a rest, I saw one of the girls and some exotic wild birds outside through the clever one way glass window.
Two lovely guests from Australia, Pixie and Natalie were here with me. Yesterday, we went to the nearby Si Satchenalai Historical Park, and rented bicycles to explore the Temple ruins. On the way back, we stopped at the market in town and looked at all of the exotic (different for us) fruits and foods. Our meals at BLES are simple healthy fresh food, served at a communal table, or during the day, in the shade of the lovely hut from which we can watch the elephants bathing or grazing. Every guest at BLES leaves a mark on BLES. Just before I came, an artist named Connie was there. Connie designed and brought an exquisite glass mosaic round mural which she installed on the wall of the new first aid room. She also painted the bathing station ramp a pretty aqua. Then Natalie made a stencil of an ele and added luminous gold elephants to the ramp.
I have been privileged to watch the elephant family and Katherine and Anon’s family grow and to see the evolution of this spectacular nature preserve. Thanks to Katherine’s unusual drive and dedication, her family in England, and her supporters worldwide, 7 additional elephants have been rescued since my first visit in 2007. More land has been acquired, trees have been saved, crops and food for elephants have been planted, stables, a first aid room and a viewing tree house, and other structures have been built. Fundraising has begun for the Star Elephant Clinic. That will be the first elephant clinic/hospital to provide care for elephants in this region of Thailand.
If you love animals and nature, and you want a chance to be up close and personal with elephants, then you will treasure a visit to this working elephant sanctuary and the BLES family, as I do. BLES’s location is definitely off the beaten tourist track. Those who make the effort to come out here will be truly rewarded.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC