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A magical encounter with the elephants

September 6, 2017

I had the great chance to share 2 times, 6 days with these majestic creatures, as an eco-volunteer at the Ganeshapark, founded by François Collier, which promotes eco-tourism and particularly respectful contact with elephants.

Here, the 7 beautiful females are very well treated. Females only yes, since males are more complicated to manage with their tusks (risk during interactions with people) and also because during certain times of the year (musth) they become more aggressive. All the elephants at the Ganeshapark were rescued from “tourist camps” where they were exploited, malnourished, poorly hydrated, and abused.

The conditions in which they were found were catastrophic. But all that was a long time ago now, thankfully.

Yani – The boss

How did I end up going to the Ganeshapark ?

It was my beautiful friend Laurence, who told me about the Ganeshapark for the first time. Telling me about the unique energy of the elephants, their grounding energy, their power and their great heart. I was already seduced, but not projecting myself into an encounter with the pachyderms yet.

Then, my brother, planted another seed, telling me about a  documentary on an elephant sanctuary that he watched, which offers elephant therapy and he thought it could be interesting for my project.

It was actually about the Ganeshapark too, so very naturally, I understood that there was a “calling” and I wanted to answer it. So, I contacted François to know when I could visit and spend a few days with the elephants…

Before going any further, what is eco-volunteering at the Ganeshapark?

There are several ways to meet the elephants at the Ganeshapark:

The touristic day

Up to 8 people are received, to spend a whole day at the Ganeshapark. These people are greeted the night before and spend dinner with the eco-volunteers and the team. The next day is a day full of emotions and magical moments await them but I will not say more because I’m sworn to secrecy. Golden rule for eco and visitors … Not revealing anything about what will happen the next day to keep the encounter with the elephants as surprising and pure as possible. They will then have a last dinner with us and will leave for new adventure the next day, the heart filled with beautiful memories.

The eco-volunteering

It’s a formula that enables to stay 6 or 10 days with the elephants and the whole Ganeshapark team. As an eco, you will spend a day like a normal visitor on your first day with the elephants, then you will spend time with visitors, welcome them, explain them a little about the planning of their first evening and of the next morning being careful not to reveal anything about the encounter with the elephants. Then, you will accompany them during the elephants promenade and you will ensure that everything is going well for them. This also includes (mostly) holding the flip flops once the person is on the elephant :).

Back from walk – Arnaud, me, Olivier © Caro

Here is now, the story of my 2 weeks spent at the Ganeshapark, with the elephants, the mahouts (the persons taking care of the elephant), François, his family and all his team who make this beautiful park and project alive.

I arrived at the Ganeshapark after a few hours of bus from Bangkok and was greeted by Brigitte or “Mama” who is kind of a full time eco (and so much more …), and by the other 3 eco-volunteers: Audrey, François and Toni with whom I will spend the next 6 days and who just returned from their walk with the 3 visitors of the day. I asked them lot of questions, but they couldn’t really answer me, explaining that François will answer my questions tomorrow morning when I meet the elephants.

Presentation of Thongden and Toun by François

I talked a little with the family who came back from the walk and I quickly realized that they did not need to explain their day to understand the intensity of the emotion they experienced. Indeed, as soon as the father of the family thought back of the day he just spent with the elephants, I saw his eyes tearing up immediately, caught in this emotion. At that moment, I told myself that this week will bring beautiful surprises and moments.

And yes, there have been some beautiful moments and in order not to reveal too much about the organization of the Ganeshapark, I will tell you a few of the key moments of my trip that make the Ganeshapark a real destination for “energy healing” in my opinion.

First, it is not common to be in contact with elephants and it works a lot on humility and ego. One can only be stunned by so much power, strength and at the same time delicacy, elegance, gentleness and above all, love and openness of heart. It’s amazing how they give a sensation of pure and settled might, by their presence, their charisma and again, that serene power that makes “just being” enough, no need to do more. It’s so impressive to be in the middle of these elephants or on one of them and observe how they move around us so cautiously. How many times have I had an elephant arriving behind me without hearing her :)! The big joke about it was “Careful! There’s an elephant behind you!”

But let’s go back to understanding how an encounter with elephants can lead to energy healing?

I had the chance to witness several cases …

The first case being the visitors who come for a day with friends, as a couple or as a family and who will live an absolutely magical experience.

What happens with the elephant is specific to each individual whether we are receptive or not to their energy.

But the eyes of parents, friends, husbands, etc. when they share this unique moment with the people who are dear to them, this look … is full of pride, joy, beauty. Often coming along with a strong emotion and tears of joy are often part of these moments…

I find that these simple moments of exchange and sharing between humans and animals, create an energy of love that will automatically bring good energy. The atmosphere is instantly filled with positive vibes. The challenges, the fears (that some may have encountered with the elephants at the beginning) disappear slowly, as the day goes by, to be replaced by moments of rare authenticity. There is a real work on oneself that takes place without even being aware of it.

Ah … the magic of elephants …

And then, there are the moments that everyone lives with the elephant. This connection … I remember perfectly this first connection, it was incredible … I was on the beautiful Mulee. I had already been quite impressed when I went on her back, I was laughing like a child :)! Then, once in the water, while her mahout had left us both, I felt something suddenly arising, from her to me and suddenly a wave of emotions ran through my whole body. I do not really know what she helped me release and I do not even try to understand. The magic of this moment is enough. Thank you, dear Mulee!

There were many moments when I was touched by them. Like this day that started with heavy rain. We had not been able to climb on them that morning because it was too slippery and what a joy to just watch them and walk by their sides. It was a morning that started more slowly than usual and we ended up spending more time in the park, with all the elephants around us. When I saw Yani (the matriarch – the first elephant of the Ganeshapark) arrive, I felt something very powerful and the emotion started to arise. It is very difficult to describe, but at that moment (again I do not try to understand), I just let go or take what comes, I look at them with admiration and welcome this emotion filled with beauty, love and respect for these magnificent creatures, who have experienced horrible things from humans and who are still so generous, patient and loving with us.

It’s the same day that another magic moment occurred. It was my “emotional day” clearly, which often happens at the Ganeshapark :)… While Adrien, one of the visitors of the day is on Somphon, the new elephant that arrived a few weeks earlier, I join him to do some hugs to her and stay at the level of her trunk. As we speak together, quickly retracing the story of Somphon, cuddling her and telling her that she will be fine here, she suddenly starts purring. My God! that sound… I have tears in my eyes just to think about it again. What a unique moment! Yes Somphon, you will be fine here …

Majestic Somphon

The elephants of the Ganeshapark (elephants in general), have a real power of grounding and connecting to the land that is why a few days by their side can have a positive effect on anyone, bringing grounding and this connection with the Earth we all need, in resonance with the first chakra, muladhara (root chakra) that allows, when balanced, to feel safe, stable, to have confidence in life, to be in good health and to have a good vitality. Regularly, when I am spending some time on the back of one of them, I take a few minutes of meditation, just closing my eyes and focusing on their rhythm, connecting with their pace, their energy, to integrate this into my whole being.

I would like to express a huge thank you to Yani, Somphon, Tongkham, Thongdeng, Gintala, Sengdao, Mulee, these wonderful beings and healers, for all they do for us every day.

Thank you François for allowing this. It is his great heart and his love for animals and especially for elephants, which have made it possible to create the Ganeshapark and other magnificent projects in progress. If you want to know more about the different projects or other ways to visit the Ganeshapark, or to help or sponsor them, visit the site of the association 108 empreintes.

THANK YOU & SEE YOU SOON!

PS: Just a little warning… Please avoid the “tourist camps” in which elephants are extremely badly treated. It seems to me that this is also our responsibility as a tourist, a human being, a traveler, and so on. to choose with awareness our tourist visits…

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