Sometimes, travel destinations can fit nice and neat into categories. Foodies Dreams. Cultural Experiences. Art and Architecture. Nature and Wildlife.
Sometimes, when travelling with kids, it’s a good idea to seek out the categories and give them a bit of structure. Something tangible for them to associate with.
The Batu Caves were a fantastic cultural experience. They showed us a beautiful natural environment that had been repurposed into something especially for the cultural interests of a group of people. But while we saw amazing things there, it was clear the kids needed a change of “category” to break it up a bit. This was a common thing in Malaysia – I don’t know if it is because of the high saturation of experiences on offer, or because of the heat and humidity. The latter can be draining, especially on kids. Keep this in mind when planning your own Borneo adventures.
But back to ours – After the Batu Caves, CK drove us up into the hinterland outside of KL, to a place called Deerlands. It’s a mini zoo where most of the animals are allowed to run free. There were plenty of rangers around to ask questions, and access to touch/pat a lot of different animals. All of us fell in love with the Albino Burmese Python – we have Central Bearded Dragons in our family at home, and love all reptiles. These pythons are exceptionally beautiful with the lemon colouring.
I also shared a moment with the baby hedgehogs.
I had never held one before and was totally taken by it. The ranger was able to share a lot of information about what they eat, where they sleep, what activities the rangers do with them. For a small private business, the staff appeared to be well-trained and they care very much about their charges.
Deerlands was a great stop for the family – but the real excitement of the day was further along. Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary.
The Conservation Centre was established by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in 1989, and is a base for the Elephant Relocation Team (which began its program in 1974). The team is dedicated to locating, subduing and then translocating elephants from areas where their habitats are constantly being encroached by plantations.
Some of the elephants are badly injured (such as losing a foot to traps), and subsequently become permanent residents to support the other elephants who are part of the rehabilitation process.
The Elephant Sanctuary is open to the public and has undergone many significant changes over the years to reflect the changing views towards elephants in Malaysia. In the early years, the ‘rehabilitation’ was all about moving the elephants out of the prized Palm Oil areas and to places where they wouldn’t be “such a nuisance”. However, over the years, many upon many people have pointed out the cruelty of removing these beautiful creatures from their homes – especially when many of the farmers force the removal by maiming many elephants.
All ticket sales help raise much needed funds for the program and to also provide education on the plight of the elephants. At the time we visited (2011) we were able to partake in some of the every day activities for the elephants, including feeding and bathing them. We were also given a very informative presentation with the elephants and the opportunity to ride on the gentle animals.
Since then, I have heard they have cancelled the “elephant rides”, and reduced the number of people who help bathe the elephants in the river. At the time, we were looking for an opportunity to give the kids some up-close experience with the animals. Looking back, the elephant rides are definitely not the best way to support responsible tourism – but we have learned a lot in our travel experiences since then. Would I return to the Sanctuary again, especially with the new addition in our family? Absolutely. Both the Sanctuary and I (as a traveller) have grown since our experience, and I will continue to support anyone who is willing to adapt to the needs of the animals, and not the tourists’ dollar.