Dak Lak: Experience elephant-friendly tourism at Yok Don National Park

Update: 10/04/2024
(TITC) - Instead of riding elephants, visitors to Yok Don National Park, Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province, will go to the forest to visit and learn about the daily activities of elephants, watch elephants from afar, watch them eat, drink, bathe, roam in the forest... Elephants roam the forest without being chained or a chair on their backs to carry tourists.

Walking on the path in the Yok Don National Park forestry area, Krong Na Commune, Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province, the female elephant H'Blú saw food and immediately sent a signal to her fellow elephants. Following H'Blú, the female elephant Kham Phanh also quickly moved forward to enjoy the pre-cut banana trees. After eating, they proudly head to the riverbank to drink water and bathe.

All activities of the two elephants take place naturally, without being forced or ordered by the mahout. Visitors stand at a safe distance, watch the elephant's activities and listen to the tour guide introduce the characteristics, information and training and care history of each elephant.

Visitors can approach at a safe distance (Photo: VOV)

Ms. Phan Ngoc Que Lam, a tourist in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City participated in the sharing experience with VOV News, “the feeling that elephants are in nature, they feel comfortable, I also feel comfortable when I see such a scene. Elephants are wild animals and being in the forest feels more natural. Having the tour guide share a lot of information about elephants was very interesting and I wish I could know more about them."

This experiential activity is an elephant-friendly eco-tour jointly conducted by Yok Don National Park and Animals Asia since mid-2018. With the goal of preserving domestic elephant herds in Dak Lak in the face of the fact that elephant individuals are increasingly old, weak, losing freedom, and exhausted. There are currently 10 elephants participating in the model, including 6 female elephants who regularly come into contact with tourists.

According to Mr. Pham Xuan Quynh, project officer of Animals Asia, the elephants participating in the programme are truly free in a semi-wild environment, free from being chained and controlled by human. Instead of sitting on elephants' backs, visitors can watch elephants from afar, watch them eat, drink, bathe, sleep, roam in the forest... without directly affecting their lives.

“The elephant herder does not carry an iron hook, does not carry a wooden hammer, he only uses rewards or food to help the elephant cooperate. Using these measures will gradually help the elephant return to its natural nature. It will know where to find food, how to heal itself, and how to take care of each other. Gradually, the elephant's psychology becomes more comfortable and its health improves. The food and drinks are exactly what they should be; elephant welfare is enhanced,” said Mr. Pham Xuan Quynh.

Over the past 6 years, Yok Don National Park has welcomed tourists to visit and experience elephant-friendly eco-tours. In 2023, this experience tour was announced by the Vietnam Record Association as one of the 20 most unique tours in Vietnam.

Mr. Y Siem Hđok, tour guide at Yok Don National Park, said that this recognition shows that the model not only brings positive impacts to elephants and the natural environment but is also extremely loved and supported by tourists. “The elephant experience tour currently attracts domestic and international tourists, bringing humanistic value to elephant individuals. During the elephant experience, it will convey messages to help tourists love elephants more."

All elephant activities take place natural (Photo: VOV)

Diversify forms of tour experiences with interesting activities

Along with the elephant-friendly tourism model, visitors to Yok Don National Park can also experience other activities such as: kayaking on the Serepok River, fishing, camping, watching and photographing birds, walking in the forest, learning about the dipterocarp forest ecosystem…

Mr. Vu Duc Gioi, Deputy Director of the Center for Environmental Education and Services, Yok Don National Park said, the unit is trying to diversify forms of experiences as well as existing products to attract tourists. “The park has also been divided into half-day or full-day elephant experience tours, or shorter tours to suit the time, conditions, and demands of visitors. In the future, after the tourism project is completed, Yok Don National Park will call for investors to enter into joint ventures, partnerships or rent forest environments so that people can invest in developing eco-tourism in the park."

With this model, elephants are truly free in a semi-wild environment, free from being chained and controlled (Photo: VOV)

Biodiversity and many rare species of animals and plants, Yok Don National Park is a place with food and water sources as well as suitable habitat conditions for domestic elephants in Dak Lak to adapt and return to semi-wild living conditions. Thereby, creating opportunities for them to be preserved long-term, healthier and freer, while also creating a unique type of experiential tourism, unique to tourists coming to Dak Lak.

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