The Elephant Camp

Experience Issue 169 Jan, 2016
Text by Avash Shrestha

Want to get intimate with elephants? Then, come to Elephant Camp in Chitwan, where you’ll be as close as close can be with the gentle behemoths.

New Concept    

The majestic elephant gracefully lifting the mahout onto its back with its trunk is part of an incredible relationship between the largest land mammal and humans. The 3,000 kg beast could so easily take down even the mightiest of human beings with a swipe of its trunk, which is believed to have the strongest muscles on the planet. However, as a part of the bond that is formed, the elephant obediently follows the instructions from the mahout in this mutually beneficial relationship.

Guests at the Chitwan National Park have always been able to enjoy the elephant and witness this special connection during the elephant safaris. I am sure the mahouts always shared their stories about their elephants with the guests during the unexciting part of the safaris. People have always been inquisitive about the bringing up of these elephants, and the mahouts have always been more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences. Therefore, in a completely new venture of Tiger Tops, guests will be able to learn to build this special bond with the mighty elephants themselves. 

The Elephant Camp is located near Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge at Amaltari, and it is intentionally set up right beside the elephant sheds where all these colossal creatures spend their day, almost all the time eating! Guests will be sleeping in tents that are pitched up less than 20 meters away from where the elephants themselves sleep. The lavish tents are set up with twin beds and a few bedside tables that will give guests a comfortable rest after a hard day of activities with the elephants. Each tent also has a toilet at one end of the tent, which is built in an environmentally friendly way. Even the dining area is built with natural materials to make the entire camp not only enjoyable and friendly for the guests, but also for the elephants.


All the activities that are offered in the Elephant Camp are entirely designed to give their guests an experience of the dedication of the mahouts towards the elephants. With a daily diet of about 100 kg of grass, paddy, molasses, and chick peas, elephants eat a lot, and they eat all day. Guests, along with a mahout and his elephant, will go for grass-cutting to a picturesque savannah along the Karnali River. There, they will be taught to use the sickle to cut the grass and bundle it up to be carried back to camp for the elephants for the rest of the day. The location for the grass-cutting is spectacularly scenic, with the lazy river on one side and the morning mist just above the grass on the other. It, however, also gives the guests an authentic experience of the hardships of the mahouts in having to feed their always hungry companions.

After the grass is cut and bundled up, the elephants are interrupted from their breakfast to load the grass onto their backs. Though some of the elephants are tempted into just continuing their endless grass eating, they multi-task by using their trunks to pass the bundled grass to the mahouts on top of the elephants, while munching on a bit at the same time. The ride back to Elephant Camp from the grass-cutting is definitely a merrier ride for all, as guests get to enjoy the comfort of sitting on top of the grass heap while the elephant happily carries his treat for the rest of the day or two. 

In another activity, guests will get to go to the river again for a more relaxing and entertaining time bathing the elephants. While the elephants love to spread dust and hay all over their bodies to keep cool, they also love their time bathing in the river. The elephant can bathe entirely on its own, using its trunks to spray water on all the parts of its enormous body. However, to have a human helping hand to splash water on them and rub them is always a welcome treat for them. But, don’t expect the elephants to stay clean for much longer after the bath. They are just like little children who can’t resist playing with the sand and mud, and before they even dry up, they will have scattered sand onto their head, almost like a joke on all the efforts that the guests put in. However, one can never get disappointed and angry on seeing those merry faces of the elephants.

Special Relationship 

Back in the camp, the mahouts will also teach the guests about the process of feeding the elephants. They will have to learn about the amount of grass and wheat to be fed, and also learn to make elephant sandwiches. Elephant sandwiches are like a special daily treat for these elephants, which consists of chick peas, molasses, and rock salt wrapped with paddy. After being treated them with this bundle of joy, the elephants cannot stop gesturing to the guests to come closer, as if to give you a trunk hug, but instead actually just asking for more. 

By the end of the day, the elephant would be more like a pet than an animal from the wild. The longer the guests plan to stay at the camp, the more intimate they will be able to get with these beautiful creatures. However, even within a day, guests will be able to feel the respect, love, and dedication that the mahouts and elephants share amongst themselves. Neither the guest nor the mahout will be using the cruel bull hook, a traditional tool used to control the elephants. This is part of an effort by Tiger Tops to respect animals and exemplify that it is not force but love that wins!