Working elephants in the forests of Burma

Asian elephants are found in 13 countries. India has the most, but the second-largest population of elephants in the world is found in Myanmar, with 4,000 in the wild and 4,000 in captivity. Elephants have played a crucial role in the exploitation of teak for over 200 years. They tow the large trunks of trees from the forest to the river and to less remote areas accessible to trucks. Nowadays, the government controls the exploitation of teak, and most of the elephants have become jobless.

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp was founded in 2011 by a family who worked with elephants for a government firm. It is located about forty minutes drive from Kalaw. The landscape to go there is sumptuous.

You can leave your hotel in Kalaw around 09:00 in the morning to arrive at Green Hill Valley, where a specialized guide will explain the program of the day and the history of elephants in Myanmar. Then, the departure for a small walk towards the river, through a planted forest, as part of a reforestation project carried out by the camp and the villagers. Meet the mahouts and participate in bathing and feeding elephants. Lunch will be served at the camp. You can spend about half day in a natural and preserved environment.

The Elephants Expedition

The Elephants Expedition offered by Adorable Myanmar is an authentic experience that is quite unlike typical excursions. The starting town is Taungoo, located 380 km north of Yangon. You can get there by car or train. We recommend the train, as it is more typical of Myanmar and less expensive. The territory where the elephants work is 56 km from Taungoo in the Bago mountain range, among forests of teak. The access road is impassable when it rains. The three-hour journey will be by van or four-by-four, according to availability. You must spend the night in a village close to the elephant excursion, because the elephants only work in the morning. This expedition will allow you to discover the intelligence of elephants, as well as the effective work performed by these endearing animals. You will also get the chance to observe the training of young calves and to see the elephants bathe in small streams. This expedition requires at least 4 days.

Some useful advice for the Elephants Expedition

  • The best period is from November to February
  • Meals and lodging will be provided in the village
  • A few days advance notice are required to obtain authorization
  • Take a flashlight or lantern, because the village has no electricity
  • Bring good shoes to walk in the jungle – and sometimes, in the mud
  • Bring warm clothes to wear at night
  • Don’t forget mosquito repellent

Proposed program for the elephant camp

Yangon-Taungoo Elephant/Camp

Day 1: Yangon – Taungoo

Depart in the morning by train or car to Taungoo (approximately five hours). Check into your hotel and walk around the town and surrounding villages. There will be an opportunity to go down the river on a small bamboo raft. Stay overnight at Taungoo.

Day 2: Taungoo – Elephant Camp

Travel by road for about three hours (through rather difficult conditions for two hours) to the teak forest where the elephants work. Visit a village of ethnic Karen to discover their way of life. Meals and lodging will be provided at the elephant camp.

Day 3: Elephant Camp – Taungoo

Morning departure for the forest to observe the elephants at work. You will have the opportunity to ride on the backs of elephants, see them take a bath in the river, and watch the elephants being trained by their masters. Stay overnight in Taungoo.

Day 4: Taungoo – Yangon

Depart for Yangon or Mandalay by train or car.

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