Before I went to the Elephant Reserve in Bali in August of 2012, I wasn't sure how I would feel about it. Would I get there and it be a wonderful haven for elephants? Would it be awful?
When we went in, you didn't see any elephants immediately. Then, you got to this really pretty goldfish pond. Then you got to the place where you lined up for the elephants. I got scared. But, at this point, I wasn't backing out. Yukari and I got onto our elephant, and Lowell got onto his. These were the two people I spent the most time with in Bali as we all stayed the longest after the retreat was over.
I spent most of the ride clutching the side of the basket and nervously talking to the handler who kept kicking the side of the elephant's neck, by his ear. I wasn't sure how to feel. I was in awe of this magical and amazing creature. I have so much love for elephants. I felt guilty for being on him and for the driver who was kicking him so that we could ride him, around and around a circle. How frustrating for the elephant. I felt bad for the handler. I don't know why I felt bad for him. Maybe because I thought that I would not ever want to be desensitized to where I could kick or to be in a position where I felt that it was my only option..
The whole time I was there, I was trying to figure out if I was being too sensitive, or if my gut was correct. The point is, I know now that I would never go back. The elephants that weren't walking the circuit were chained up in the center of the property or doing a show for us at the end. I tried rationalizing…but at the end of the day, I don't like it and would not go back. I could be wrong, I suppose. But I don't feel like it's a haven at all. I feel like it's a glorified zoo just for elephants. It just feels wrong.