Elephant Training Camp in Havelock

The French family had offered to take us out to breakfast at their hotel. We arrived to shore to find out we had just missed the bus. There were no tuk tuks around to hire. We walked over to what looked like the reception area for the dome hotel to see if they could call a tuk tuk for us. It turns out it is not a hotel. The domes are a public campground that was recently built and has never been opened. This building is an Italian restaurant named Mahua with some good looking specials of the day. We found out the bus would be back before a tuk tuk could get over here from town.

We didn’t have to wait long for the next bus. We took the bus to village #3, then a tuk tuk south past the two dive shops down to their hotel. Beyond the dive shop the road quality begins to deteriorate. Their hotel is much nicer looking than all the other ones we could see from the road. The food was OK, with no menu items interesting enough to report on.

Lonely Planet had mentioned there was an elephant training camp 5 kilometers south of where we were. The guidebook said demonstrations can sometimes be arranged. We were surprised when the family said that they were going to the elephant training camp at 1030 and we asked if we could tag along. Just to be clear, this is not circus training. This is training for a work elephant. Their career of service usually lasts an amazing 40 years. We wonder how many modern mechanical tractors and bull dozers last 40 years?

The tuk tuk driver wanted an outrageous amount of money to take us there and back, but he was the only one around. We didn’t have enough cash on us. We asked about exchanging money and were told the bank will only do money changing from 1400 1500 (2:00 pm to 3:00 pm). There was another hotel that might do it, but the person we would need to see doesn’t come on duty until 1300 (1:00 pm). Fortunately, the French people let us buy some rupees from them, which was really nice, since they probably have no use for American money and it wasn’t enough money to justify paying the change fee to convert it to Euros.

Beyond the hotel, the ledge of flat land between the shore and the mountain becomes narrow. There isn’t much beach area, with the shrubbery growing right up to the edge of the water. There are sections of shoreline that have a big retaining wall in front of them. The road quality just got worse and worse and suddenly we understood why he charged so much. This is not the appropriate vehicle for rough roads and he will probably need new shocks after this. The area of flat land continued to narrow and the road vanished, obviously washed away by the ocean just inches away. You wouldn’t want to be on this road when there are big waves out!

Not too far from where the road washed out there was a sign that said “elephant training camp”. The driver pulled over and pointed down a dirt road and said “short walk there”. The short walk was probably about 10 minutes through a forest. There were tons of roots in the road, making it very uneven, so we understood why he wouldn’t take the tuk tuk down here.


The camp is a small dirt arena with a small bamboo bleacher near by. It is right on the water and the water is just gorgeous. There were no elephants or people who look like they may work there around, just other tourists. We waited for an hour and the elephants finally appeared. There were four, and one looks like a mama and a baby. At one point it even looked like the baby may have been nursing.



After another half hour, at noon, the show finally started. The trainers had two elephants lay down on the ground. They put several thick mats on each elephant’s back. Then they put something on top of the blankets that looks like two wooden blocks held together by two pieces of wire. They tied a rope around the elephants’ bellies to secure the blankets and wooden blocks. They attached chains to two tree trunks that were lying on the ground. Then they attached the other end of the chains to the wooden blocks and the elephants walked around the arena in circles dragging the logs behind them. At one point the bigger elephant stopped and let out an enormous roar that reverberated through us. We didn’t know elephants roared. We thought they just trumpeted.


It was now 1230. Being low on cash, we were worried about how much extra the tuk tuk driver was going to charge us since he had expected to wait 30 minutes to an hour. We were thirsty. So far, the show wasn’t thrilling us. We decided to leave early, so we never did get to see what the other two elephants were trained to do.

After the elephant show we went to the Italian restaurant for lunch. The building is a sturdy structure made of bamboo, and looks like many we have seen at the nice resorts in the South Pacific. The bottom floor is the kitchen and seating is upstairs, on comfy cushions situated around coffee tables. It is chic. The view of the water through the forest is spectacular. The service is western style, where they bring you both silverware and napkins, have salt and pepper on the table, and bring appetizers first and all entrees together at the same time. And the food was really, really good. While we like Indian food and are learning to eat with our hands with no napkins, like the locals do, there is a lot to be said for how comforting it is to eat familiar foods in our own customary manner.

The owner, Julio, came by and asked us how everything was. We chatted with him and found out he and his wife have recently moved from Italy and the restaurant has only been open for 41 days. He says they have been busy so far. The restaurant has all the ingredients to be a great success and we hope it does well.

We headed back to Kosmos and had a low key evening.

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