A day at the zoo isn’t just for kids – the Elephant Mud Fun experience at Bali Zoo gets big kids up close and personal with these gentle jungle giants!
Dearest reader, I apologise if you’ve been feeling a little neglected over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been on vacation in Bali and my brain was totally in ‘holiday mode’. In fact, we took all three of our (grown) offspring for a last gasp family holiday. Plonking five strong-minded individuals under one roof, for the first time in a few years, had the potential to be disastrous (especially given that the girls had to share not just a room, but a bed!), but it wasn’t – everyone behaved, compromising where necessary, and we all had a happy, happy time.
The success of this holiday was especially important to us as our son leaves in a few days to move to the US, for work, indefinitely. 🙁
While I was in Bali the generous people at Bali Zoo offered to host The Bloke and me for a visit, sharing several of their signature experiences and thoroughly spoiling us.
Their driver picked us up early, giving us the chance to get a taste of Bali’s choked peak hour traffic, and getting us to the Zoo (approximately halfway between Denpasar and Ubud) in time for Breakfast with the Orangutans. Held in the open-air Gayo Restaurant, guests are provided with a generous full buffet breakfast in the company of some of the zoo’s Sumatran Orangutans.
Part of their rescue and conservation program, the orangutans were saved from the logged forests of Sumatra and incorporated into the zoo’s ongoing breeding program. There were two on display the morning we attended, both closely watched by a couple of attendants each. Guests are not allowed to touch the animals, but the same courtesy does not apply to the apes, the younger of whom won everyones hearts by being outrageously cheeky – fondling people’s hair, grabbing at their hands and generally being a curious kid.
From there we headed off to the big item on our agenda – the Elephant Mud Fun experience. This has been introduced by the zoo as they begin to phase out elephant riding, and I can’t overstate what an overwhelmingly exciting and privileged experience this was. The zoo has 15 Sumatran elephants, 13 cows and two bulls – all of them rescued from Sumatran logging camps.
God only knows what their life was like before, but these beasts are treated like the royalty they are by the carers at the zoo. Mud wallowing is particularly enjoyable for elephants as their high body temperature generates a great deal of metabolic heat. They have no sweat glands, so to relieve their internal thermometers they rely on mud to stay cool.
Guests have their bags searched for contraband food, then change into clothes that they are prepared to get wet and dirty in, before being introduced to the ladies (only the cows are used for these public appearances, for obvious reasons). We were given food to share with the girls as we were each introduced to them, then followed them down to the large, muddy ponds next to the river.
Each elephant had her own mahout who manoeuvred them into a pond and onto their sides, using nothing more than treats, kind words and the odd tickle, where we proceeded to rub mud all over them – the elephants, not the mahouts. Scratching, massaging and washing these gentle giants is an extraordinary experience and one they tolerated with contented patience – they clearly love a good bath.
After quite some time getting down and dirty, everyone – elephants and visitors – troop off to the showers for a rinse, before heading back to a slightly deeper pool for more lolling and wallowing, after which everyone has lunch. The ladies head off to their own quarters and the guests, after showering and changing, to a delicious, and well earned, buffet.
Also on the grounds of the zoo is the very exclusive Sanctoo Villas and Spa. The romantic, beautifully appointed villas are a highly desirable honeymoon destination, but zoo guests can also take advantage of the Sanctoo Spa. At the end of our visit, we were treated to a glorious massage in the spa, where the only sound I could hear was the rushing of the river in the gully below – total bliss and the perfect ending to an utterly extraordinary day.
The Bali Zoo also offers a range of other exciting experiences – check their website for details.
Bali Zoo, Gianyar, Bali – General admission $25USD
Breakfast with the Orangutans – $47USD
Elephant Mud Fun (morning experience with hotel transfers) – $100USD