And we arrive in North East Cambodia, to the Mondulkiri province. We were very excited about this place as it was set to be one of the highlights of our trip. We arrived at the hostel and checked into our lodge. We were staying in a wooden cabin and while it lacked certain amenities, it made up for it in aesthetics. After we checked in we got food in the lodge and sat on the balcony watching the sunset over a few beers. The sleeping arrangement was different from what we were used to, the rooms were tight with no walking space and crawling under the mosquito nets into our beds was a tough task, but the beds were comfortable, the shower worked and we were happy enough with the place.
The next day, we awoke with the excitement of the day ahead. We were finally about to see some elephants. We shot out of bed, gathered our things and met our group in the lodge. From here we were bunched with boxes of bananas into the back of a pickup truck. We took a 30-minute off-road drive to the Mondulkiri Projects Sanctuary. This drive was a lot of fun, we hung on for dear life as we mounted each bump. When we arrived into the sanctuary we met up with another group who had hiked up there on the previous day and had spent the night in hammocks looking over a tropical paradise. When we were all ready we were given three bunches of bananas each and we took off on a hike into the sanctuary. It wasn’t long before we got to meet our first elephant companion princess. It was truly magnificent to see such a majestic animal coming towards you. Lucky had one major goal….get the bananas from the tourists. She was successful, our group spoiled her with bananas.
We then went on and met two more elephants Comvine and Princess, who are apparently best friends and inseparable. They were the most playful elephants of the group and were also quite keen to get bananas. Soon we were all running low on bananas and when we met Sophie and Happy they weren’t too happy with how little we had to offer. Happy was pretty shy and soon after meeting us she took off once again.
After meeting and feeding the elephants we were brought back to the huts for food and rest. The food was great and we devoured our rice and veg. We then relaxed on the hut balcony looking over the vast forest. It was in the mid 30’s and we were roasting so the next part of our trek was very welcome. After lunch we took off behind Mr. Tree once again, this time we were brought down to a lake where we were soon joined by three of the elephants. We were given more bananas and some supplies to clean the elephants. Taking to the water was the most refreshing part of the day and it seemed that the elephants had the same mindset. Washing the elephants proved to be a lot of fun, they were playful and loved being cleaned (although they dirtied themselves pretty quickly afterwards).
Once the elephants left, we got out and dried off, and listened to some more tails of the forest and the wildlife. Later we were brought back to the huts and shipped back to the lodge on the back of the pickup trucks.
This is truly an amazing sanctuary, I have the highest regard for our guide, Mr. Tree. When we first met Mr. Tree his charisma instantly shone. He was very blunt and we found this very funny. For a man who does not have much to his name, it is astounding to see how much he has given to his community and the elephants of Cambodia. I would highly recommend this experience. For more info, visit The Mondulkiri Project website. Thanks Mr. Tree.