The elephants in Bali had no business making me feel so utterly grounded, detaching me from my own world and drawing me so instantaneously into their stark contrast version of reality. How could they do that just standing there, these gentle giants, munching on their food and making unsolicited eye contact? How could they mesmerize me into a state of deep peace and calm in minutes when hours of meditation and yoga still come short where my hyper nature is concerned?
If you have shared that state of complete mental absorption with another creature, you know as well as I do that it is real, true, and impossible to articulate well enough for those who have yet to feel it but alas I shall try. I felt a similar sensation with the humpback whales in Hawaii — the giant mammals engross me, it seems.
I have agonized so much on how best to describe this experience. As with all things, when you let it go and let it flow, it all comes together. If words fail to fulfill their task, I have photos for you to enjoy and if the experience is hard to imagine, I have tangible ideas for you to explore. Here is to reawakening our connection with the giant mammals and especially the elephant!
This was not my first time seeing elephants but the very first time visiting a habitat where elephants live, which is far more inviting than a zoo. It seems that when you go to a zoo, even the best zoo such as Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, you are still visiting the animals in man‘s environment whereas a habitat, a park, a place made just for them is as close as you can come – short of going into the wild – to visiting them in their environment. This factor combined with Bali’s undeniable harmony between Mother Nature and man intensified this visit with the elephants and my heart has locked it up among the most unforgettable of my memories.
What you always wanted to know about Elephants!
Educating ourselves about elephants — or other creatures — is the best way to learn about them and grow closer to them.
In this fantastic digital age, information about everything is instantly accessible; all we have to do is be willing to step out of our world and learn about these creatures. Learning about animals we love is the greatest and simplest way to prepare for a more fulfilling encounter. I listed a few fun things, which we learned or witnessed during our visit.
– On Size: Asian Elephants are smaller than their African relatives. No matter, all elephants still have incredibly small eyes and sharp memories.
– On Behavior: I witnessed nothing but gentleness, kindness, playfulness, and tenderness from the elephants. Not a moment of aggression or frustration surfaced at any time, not even during our elephant ride even though he was extremely tired!
– On Companionship: In Bali’s elephant park, each elephant was paired (for what seemed like for life) with a caretaker. They were as close as a family comes!
– On Marks and Bruises: The torn edges on their ears usually indicate “battle time” — these guys do get defensive when necessary!
– On Facial Features: I had no idea an elephant could express so many emotions. The photos clearly show the enormous smiles and there are no words to describe the eye contact.
– On Longevity: They live a long life — this made me happy — we saw some tough 40-year old elephants around the habitat and a few close to hitting 50!
– On Symbolism: Elephants represent wisdom, royalty and strength in Asian cultures as well as good luck! They are sacred animals in the East and play a large role in historical fiction, religions, and fables.
– On Talent: We saw the elephants sit on a log of wood, throw a basketball in a hoop, a soccer ball (football!) near the goal, do simple math and incredible drawing of art!
Seizing the Opportunity for an Encounter
We had not called in advance so we had to wait an hour for our elephant ride — and not planning has never worked out better. If we had called, we would have rushed the tour of the habitat and missed the “talent show” altogether! Instead, lack of planning afforded us a magical time with the elephants, something that we did not even know would mark our greatest moments in Bali.
Now I can conceive of what Michael Crichton meant when he described his experience with the Mountain Gorillas in his biography. Now I can really appreciate how some people spend their entire lives in research and study of animals. Now I can imagine how irresistible the invitation to become a permanent part of these creatures’ worlds. It sometimes takes only a benign encounter such as this to gain a shift in our perspective.
If there is ever a chance in your life to visit a habitat of these special animals, my hope for you is that you jump on that opportunity without a second thought. There is no way to understand the immeasurable pleasure and depth of experience before hand and hardly a justifiable way to articulate on it after the fact.
As for me, I am going to seriously look into that African Safari in this lifetime. Care to join me in hopes of another magical encounter or two?
Penny for your Thoughts
It was no easy task writing this post. I struggled so much with unexpected emotions, something so unusual from an encounter so simple and swift. They ranged from joy to sadness to compassion to an insanely crazy desire to return to Bali if only to be in the company of these creatures just one more time. My hope was to share with you our innate attraction to certain animals and our deep desire to connect with them on some level. If you have had this experience, please share it and if not, what are you waiting for? And as always, thank you for reading!