A resort which provides a unique experience and sense of adventure with a constant undercurrent of style, elegance and professionalism.
Taro’s Elephant Safari Park & Lodge is home to 31 endangered Sumatran elephants. The Park provides guests with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the gentle giants. Guests can help care for them, and learn about their past and their plight as the animals fight extinction in their native habitat, the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Set in 3.5 acres of forest, Taro Elephant Safari Park & Lodge is a subset of Bali Adventure Tours, pioneered by Australian entrepreneur, Nigel Mason, and his wife, Yanie. The resort balances the adventure and experience of the Elephant Park, with the high standards and exclusivity of a luxury tropical lodge.
At reception the staff greeted us with a welcome drink and a personalised, yet flexible itinerary for the duration of our stay. Despite arriving 2 hours before the advertised check-in time, a porter took our bags and gave us access to the park until our room was ready.
The Elephant Safari Park:
I was initially skeptical about visiting an elephant park after hearing stories of mistreated animals used for entertainment and profit. Before visiting the park, I undertook some research to ease my concerns. I found out that the park is a member of World Zoos association and meets international standards of animal care. It was also awarded the “Best Environmentally Friendly Tourist Attraction” in Indonesia in 2010 and received the thumbs up from Steve Irwin. An avid Crocodile Hunter fan, this was enough to let me forget my worries and enter the park open minded.
With the environment in mind, the park is an oasis set in over 2 hectares of landscaped eco gardens, lakes and ponds, surrounded by forest. The park utilises a state of the art recycling system for their water. They also converts the masses of elephant waste into fertiliser.
There are 31 elephants in the park, including five youngsters which are the product of the park’s successful breeding program. Whilst the elephants are kept tethered on clearing circles for some of the day, mahouts provide them with plenty of food. They are frequently moved and exercised, allowed to swim in the large purpose-built pool and are bathed daily. These elephants have been rescued from Sumatra, where their natural habitat is being destroyed by deforestation and the animals are being persecuted and hunted due to their damage to the palm oil trade. Those that are captured are removed to Government training camps where there is inadequate facilities and funding to keep them healthy. Bringing them to the park in Bali has literally saved their lives.
We wandered through nature trails to the “nursery”. Here, the park’s newest arrival is all too happy to roam up to the fence to take treats of dried apple and banana. The baby roams the enclosure un-tethered with her mother, who is also happy to take her share of the treats.
After getting our baby elephant fill, we made our way to the on-site shop. The shop is full of endless elephant memorabilia, including legal ivory products (these are made from mammoth tusk fossils). You can also buy artworks painted by by the elephants in the park.
After browsing we take a seat in the park restaurant and decide to by-pass the buffet (which looks delicious) and order al-a-carte to ensure we’re hungry for dinner. The menu offers a good balance of Asian and Western flavours as well as a kids menu, accommodating all tastes. We both enjoy a yellow fish curry on the open air verandah with a view of people enjoying safari rides and of bathing elephants.
Finishing our lunch we still have an hour left before checking in to our room. We decide to explore the elephant museum and “discovery centre”.
The museum displays a 15,000 year old Mammoth skeleton, the only one on display in South-East Asia, along with other historic elephant and mammoth memorabilia from around the world. Next door, the discovery centre provides information on Sumatran elephants. You can learn about their natural behaviour and anatomy, their historic relationship with man along with news articles exploring their current plight and persecution in Sumatra.
The Elephant Safari Lodge:
Our room was modern and stylish with a tasteful elephant theme including a work of art painted by one of the elephants above our bed. With a garden-view room we also had a view of a couple of elephants out through our large window.
A fruit basket was provided along with complimentary spring water and a comprehensive toiletries kit. The amenities and home-wares in the rooms were immaculate and of very high quality, providing welcome comfort.
The Lodge comprises of 25 rooms, mainly accommodating couples. There are 2 adjoining Paddy-rooms which are a popular choice for families, as well as some Garden-view rooms configured to accommodate parents travelling with a singe child. The lodge’s single suite provides exclusive and private luxury with a personal bar and butler and is a common choice for honeymooners.
The Wellness Spa:
We looked through the guests’ guide provided and decided to splurge on a spa treatment each. Marcus chose a Balinese massage and I settled for a hair treatment which included a head, shoulder and arm massage. The prices are more than reasonable for a luxury lodge and quality treatment. The one hour treatments we chose were $35 (US) each.
The spa, whilst small, features relaxing music, water wall features and a one way window into the park. Through here guests have the pleasure of watching the elephants whilst enjoying their treatment.
An hour later and both feeling rejuvenated, we headed back to our room to get ready for our Chauffeur to take us to dinner.
A courtesy call told us to be ready in five minutes to be taken to the evening talent show before dinner. Standing at the top of our steps, one of the parks’ elephants greeted us. A staff member assisted us through the docking bay onto the padded chair on the elephants back. Smaller guests can fit side by side in the chairs, and others ride separately. The docking bays also mean the elephants are not required to kneel or sit for guests to mount them.
The talent shows are short; only about 10 minutes. The featured “tricks” showcase the elephants’ natural abilities. Explaining that in the wild, elephants kick around coconuts, they replicate this by having the elephants kick a football aimed at a goal. Whether they scored or missed by a mile, the trainers encouraged and rewarded the elephants. The male then easily slam dunked a basketball from all fours with the help of his trunk and the baby elephant played the harmonica to the delight of the guests.
Daisy, the female then proceeded to paint on the canvas. The trainers explained that in the wild elephants often use sticks and stones to make markings in the dirt. Proceeds of the painting sales from the gift shop go to Sumatra to care for the Elephants left in training camps.
After the show, we enjoyed a candlelit dinner set up under the stars. The dinner was buffet style with no shortage of choice.
The buffet featured traditional Balinese and Asian cuisine but had enough Western food to cater for the not-too-adventurous. The food was delicious and the buffet enabled me to try a lot of unfamiliar dishes. I found myself shamelessly returning for just a “little bit more”.
When we returned to our room I noticed that slippers had been placed at the bottom of the bed. The bed runner had been removed and the bed covers were pulled back; a subtle but nice little personal touch.
The next morning I woke to the sound of an elephant trumpeting outside the room. Moving to the window I saw the elephants playing with water and splashing it over themselves.
We headed for an early breakfast at the Mammoth’s Head Bar, enjoying yet another gourmet buffet with flavours to satisfy everyone.
After breakfast we meandered down to the elephant pool where we had the opportunity of swimming with the elephants. Sitting comfortably on their naked backs they took you into the water and played around, dipping down and spraying water from their trunks at one another.
Drenched from the waist down and grinning from ear to ear, we made our way to the bathing area. Armed with a hose and a scrubbing brush we brushed and hosed down a couple of the other elephants. Getting this close and personal, I had insight into their personality and gentleness.
After just enough time for a shower we were picked up outside our room again and were taken on a Safari ride into the surrounding Taro forest.
With our elephant stopping dead in her tracks to tackle a giant palm frond, I was pleased that our guide laughed and let her explore and eat at her own pace. “She’s always hungry, never stops eating this one” he said and gave her an affectionate pat on the head.
The “Safari” takes you through local villages. These villages receive royalties from the Park for each elephant trek, contributing to their local economy. On the trek you can see cacao beans and coffee berries growing naturally, along with fruits such as bananas and jackfruit.
Back in the park the elephant dropped us off by the elephant swimming area. We had just enough time to read and relax by the lodge pool for half and hour before heading back to our room and checking out. Our one night stay was absolutely packed with activity, but for guests who stay longer, the resort can book other Bali Adventure Tour activities including white water rafting, trekking and cycling.
The Elephant Safari Park and Lodge was a unique and memorable experience. Suitable for families, friends and couples who want to add activities and a sense of adventure to their trip, with the luxury of a 5 star resort.
To see more photos of the Elephant Safari Park, visit our Flickr album