A real once in a lifetime experience I doubt I can do justice to. Being able to observe these elephants in their natural habitat up close is incredible and it’s something you do everyday on this program. I was there 4 weeks and in that time you’re able to recognise each individual elephant and their own personalities. You get to see first hand how different they behave to captive elephants and the progress they’ve made since being released form their camps. I was even lucky enough to see Lah Lah, a 9 month old baby who was born in the forest and is essentially a giant puppy!
The only thing I was apprehensive about before going was the home stay, I was nervous about staying in someone else’s house who didn’t speak the same language as me. I stayed at Old Chief’s house and it became obvious very early in my nerves were misplaced, although it’s an unusual experience for me it isn’t for them as they’re very used to having westerners staying with them. GVI give Pakinyaw lessons so you’re able to communicate in a basic way and this really helped. Being vegan I was also worried how my home stay would cope but Faw, who did all the cooking, was great. The food was amazing and I certainly never went hungry with the portion sizes she served. They made me feel very welcome and I was very sad to say goodbye when my time was up.
Twice a week we teach at the local school and some evenings we go to teach English to other villagers. This really helped you feel a part of the community and even in my short time I was able to build good relationships there especially at mahout football (where I put in a couple of wonderful performances)
All in all I can’t recommend this place enough, as soon as I left I began planning my return and I’m counting down the days until I can come back to Huoy Pakoot and see all my friends again.