15 New Year’s Resolutions I Won’t Make

It’s easy to come up with resolutions for the new year, but let’s face it: nobody ever sticks to them, even the most dedicated individual. Here are fifteen ways I will not try to change my life as soon as the clock hits midnight on January 1st. Because we all know that the more rules there are in life, the less fun it is!

  1. Lose Weight: Hmm, this one is a big one. Almost everyone has it at the top of their lists; I say scratch it completely. The goal is always to stay healthy, not look rail thin trying to fit into skinny jeans. Exercise is good, but it’s not the be-all end-all if you miss a day here and there.
  2. Watch Less TV: I’ll admit it, I have an unhealthy obsession with Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/The Walking Dead, but it’s all research… for when I eventually write my super awesome script and have a hit show. #agalcandream
  3. Eat Healthier: I am vegetarian and avoid animal products. Enough said.
  4. Drink More Water: And take even more trips to the bathroom? No thanks.
  5. See the Doctor More Often: I am a hypochondriac. Need I say more?
  6. Spend More Time with Family: I do enough of that already!
  7. Get Rid of Toxic People: Done and done a long time ago. Why wait for a new year?
  8. Spend Time with People That Matter: I am perfectly happy staying at home reading a book cozied up to my dog.
  9. Finish That Novel: It will get done when the time is right. Meanwhile, I’d rather travel the world and share my experiences. Who knows, maybe all that globetrotting will help me write that popular book someday. #wishfulthinking
  10. Drink Less: Are you kidding me? I understand if you’re a raging alcoholic, but living and working in New York City AND having two jobs means one thing: you need that drink or two when you get home from a particularly stressful day.
  11. Stop Being Late: I’m Indian and take pride in following Indian Standard Time (IST).
  12. Spend Less Time on Social Media: Sorry, not going to happen. I like keeping in touch with people virtually. The key word being virtually.
  13. Meditate:  I hike, I drink — no, not together — but they both calm me down.
  14. Stay Away From Sweets/Sugar/Starch/Silliness: And live a boring life? Mommy likes her chocolate (That’s dog mommy, let’s be clear).
  15. Travel to New Places: I’m a travel writer, so it comes with the job. But then again, we can never travel enough… there’s an infinite number of places to explore on this beautiful planet.

What clichés will you avoid in 2016?

My Big Fat Greek Honeymoon

For over a decade, I dreamed about Greece, but I didn’t want to go to this romantic destination alone. Like all good things, I had to wait for the right person and the right time. It happened in the Fall of 2015, when I married the most wonderful guy on the beautiful island of Crete in a not-so-big wedding. The only attendees were my best friend’s family and the rescued animals of Agreco Farm. Located in Rethymno, Agreco is a traditional estate/organic farm offering a fairy tale setting and a farm-to-table experience. Following our nuptials, we walked around the vineyards, socialized with the resident donkey, goats, sheep, fowl, and deer; we then shared the most delicious vegetarian meal at the Taverna. The rest of our stay in Crete was filled with beach outings and gatherings with my friend’s relatives, who treated us to amazing meals, where wine poured non-stop and chatter was aplenty regardless of the language barrier.

The following week, we explored the idyllic isle of Santorini, where we stayed at the luxurious Pegasus Suites & Spa, took an intimate sailboat tour around the smaller islands, saw striking sunsets over the caldera, and indulged in mouthwatering cuisine. In Athens, we stayed at the modern Hilton Athens, enjoying incredible views of the Acropolis and the city. We walked among ancient ruins, pet a few friendly cats, and ended our honeymoon trip with a meal at Milos Restaurant, where we devoured authentic Cretan food as an homage to the special place where we started our Greek journey together.

In the three articles below, I share everything I learned about Greece during my two weeks abroad. Feel free to read and share.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Greece Now

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Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Santorini

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5 Must-See Places in Crete, Greece

Chania-Greece

“Annihilation”, Nature’s Sci-Fi for the Win

Annihilation Picture from SantoriniNo one expects a newlywed to bring a book entitled Annihilation on her honeymoon, but that’s exactly what I did. Sitting on the cobblestone wall outside my cliffside suite in Santorini, protected from the sun with a newly purchased wide brim hat, I soaked up this novel. Every single wonderful word of it. What was worse… I couldn’t put it down. My voracious reader husband didn’t mind. He had his own distraction, a Philip K. Dick mindbender (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said) he purchased at Atlantis Books in Oia. Together, we were immersed in unique worlds.

In the world of Annihilation (FSG, 2014) by Jeff VanderMeer, four women volunteer for a mission to the vast Area X, which has been quarantined for decades. Members of some of the previous 11 expeditions returned changed and eventually succumbed to aggressive cancers. Others turned on one another during their stay. Some simply disappeared.

The women of expedition 12 don’t even know each other’s names, out of fear of getting too personal. The protagonist is a biologist and her group includes an anthropologist, surveyor, and psychologist who acts as the leader. Their job is to gather information and return safely, but as you’d expect, all does not go well after they discover a certain collapsed tower that did not exist on any maps from before. The eerie black pine forest, the dreary salt marshes, the weird sounds from unknown creatures coming in the night, and the mysterious words of fungi growing on the walls of the tower lead to events that cause the group to break up. Now, their only allies are their own thoughts.

Will they survive? Will they succeed?

In Area X, nature in its wildest form has taken over. VanderMeer brings to life this vibrant natural terrain with vivid detail and attention to minutiae. When it seems like you are being bogged down with too much detail, pay close attention, because you never know what may come of it later on.

The book is not just about exploring the physical world. The reader gets an intricate and philosophical foray into pursuing goals, the nature of loyalty, an appreciation of nature, and the definition of how to be true and allow ourselves to reach our full potential. It’s also about relationships, especially marriage and what it means to understand and live with one another’s desires and dreams.

At the crux of this delightfully haunting tale is the human relationship with the natural world, how our impact on the environment has lasting repercussions far and wide. Nature has a way of reclaiming its power. But it’s sure worth watching people try and make sense of it all in this amazing story. We may have to spend a little time doing just that in our lives if we continue on the path of destroying Mother Earth. Lovers of nature, fans of sci-fi, and LOST enthusiasts, should do themselves a favor and get their hands on Annihilation.

Area X is mysterious, the characters multidimensional, and the story keeps you wanting more. Thankfully, there are two other books in the Southern Reach Trilogy: Authority and Acceptance.

Today, I was excited when I heard the book will be turned into a movie starring Natalie Portman and the charming Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) is in talks to being a part of it. It’s especially exciting because the novel is about strong, fearless women and the beauty and enchantment of the wilderness. I am glad I get to see this sci-fi thriller come to life on the big screen.

The Southern Reach Trilogy books are are available wherever books are sold; help support your local businesses and get your copies at your nearest independent bookstore.

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Happy reading!

12 Things Allison Argo Learned from Filming THE LAST PIG

For more than 20 years, Allison Argo has worked on the front lines fighting for the just treatment of endangered and abused animals. She has produced, directed, written, and often narrated films, broadcast by PBS and National Geographic, reaching audiences worldwide.

THE LAST PIG, releasing next Spring, continues Argo’s mission to speak out for those without a  voice. This thought provoking documentary chronicles the journey of Bob Comis who gave up humane pig farming to focus on growing vegetables and his transformation into a vegan advocate. During the year Argo spent filming at Comis’ upstate farm, she gained valuable insight into the lives of pigs. They not only had unique personalities, but also exhibited behavior similar to humans, including strong social bonds and demonstrating empathy.

Here, Argo shares the lessons she learned and hopes you, too, can experience the delight of being in the presence of these special beings, even if it’s by watching them on the screen.   

  1. Pigs are individuals: Even in a herd of 30, each is completely unique. It didn’t take long before I was able to tell each of them apart. No two pigs are physically alike – all have clear markings (if you learn to read them), a droopy ear or an especially curly tail. Their personalities are also clearly distinct. Some are shy, while others are insatiably curious. My favorite pig was the runt of the youngest herd. She had no idea she was a small pig. She was a born leader—a big, little pig. She also loved to explore things with her mouth, which is why we named her “Niblet.” I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for this big little pig.
  1. Pigs stick together: There’s a remarkable cohesion within the herd. While each pig is clearly unique and individual, there’s a collective identity. Like a flock of birds, if a noise startles a single pig, the herd suddenly becomes one. Together, they run for safety.The Last Pig3
  1. The “Pig Pile” is for real:  We’ve all heard of (or participated in) a pig pile. But now I know where the expression comes from. When pigs rest or sleep, they’re always touching – even if it’s just a foot or a snout. Some pigs even spoon. It’s another expression of their strong social bonds. Bob explained early on: If a pig is alone when it’s sleeping, it’s probably sick.”
  1. Pigs aren’t dirty: When given enough space and the option, pigs always choose to do their business away from where they sleep. And pigs don’t sweat, so it’s water that cools them off. They love a good wallow, just like elephants. Pigs also have sensitive skin and get sunburned. For pigs and elephants, mud is the perfect sunscreen and bug repellent.
  1. Pigs remember: We spent one week each month on the farm. Each time we arrived, I couldn’t wait to hike up the hill to see the pigs. They have poor eyesight, but as soon as they heard my voice and caught my scent…bang, there was instant recognition. I think they were saying, “Hah! It’s those crazy people again—let the fun begin!”

    Bob Comis during filming of The Last Pig
    Bob Comis during filming of The Last Pig
  1. Pigs like people: In fact they liked us so much, it was hard to keep a distance to film them. Wherever Joe and I moved, they would follow. They wanted to sniff and taste us and all of our gear—or just to be close to us while they rooted around in the earth. I spent much of my time trying to lure them away from the camera, so Joe could shoot (every moment of which I totally enjoyed 🙂 ).
  1. Pigs are smart: Niblet learned her name in a matter of days. It didn’t take training or food rewards. She just heard the word a few times in context and figured out it was her name. Studies have shown that pigs are smarter than 3 year-old human children (of course, it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges).
  1. Pigs show empathy: When one pig in the herd was injured, we witnessed unmistakable concern from her herd mates. Bob tried to help the hurt pig, and when she protested, her herd mates rallied around to make sure she wasn’t being harmed.
  1. Pigs just wanna have fun: On a gorgeous, cool autumn day, we went to film the herd living in the woods. I have rarely, if ever, seen such joy and abandon – absolute revelry. They were absolutely celebratory, running and frolicking, tossing sticks into the air and chasing each other. My face hurt from smiling. I wanted to join in!The Last Pig2
  1. Pigs have a soft spot: Once I gained their trust (which didn’t take long), I discovered a deliciously soft spot. Their ears are thick and quite tough, but just behind them is the softest, warmest spot you can imagine. During our winter shoots, I would burrow my frozen fingers in this sweet spot. They didn’t seem to mind :).
  1. Pigs have beautiful, soulful eyes: I could look into a pig’s eyes forever. They’re deep and soulful. Thoughtful. To some other species (like some primates) a direct stare is considered a threat—but not to pigs. They’re comfortable holding your gaze… until they get sleepy and their lids drift down.
  1. Pigs are trusting: Once they got to know us, the pigs would follow us anywhere. It was relatively easy for Bob to load them onto the trailer. They liked Bob. He was kind to them and tended to their every need. This made the slaughterhouse all the more inhumane (even though it was a “humane” slaughter house). The betrayal of this trust was soul-crushing. I understand on a very deep level why Bob could no longer live with that life and chose to uproot it.

    Allison Argo and Joe Burnett
    Allison Argo with cinematographer Joe Burnett

Argo hopes the THE LAST PIG sheds light on humane farming and repairs the disconnect between people and what is on their plates. Filming is in final production and Argo has begun fundraising efforts in collaboration with Farm Sanctuary.

To make a tax-deductible contribution, click the link below:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-last-pig-a-documentary-feature#/story

Open Letter to Walter Palmer, Murderer of Cecil the Lion

Dear Walter,

I didn’t know who Cecil was until his beautiful, majestic face appeared all over the Internet following the callous and sadistic manner by which you ended his precious life in Zimbabwe. My heart was broken. This beloved lion was simply living among his pride when you lured him out of the sanctuary, shot him with your bow and arrow and made him suffer for 40 hours, before ultimately killing and beheading him. I bet you felt immense satisfaction for accomplishing this cruel deed, to see this powerful creature, lying helpless and dead by your hand. Was it worth it?

By now you must have realized the gravity of the situation you willingly put yourself in. You paid big money, over $50K, to destroy not just the lion and his pride, but your own life. I’m sure you have experienced the wrath of animal lovers, spouting awful things that they wish to see done to you for your despicable act. I am not going to continue along those lines. You may be a narcissistic megalomaniac who can only  make himself feel better by killing innocent animals but, underneath it all, you are a sad, ignorant person in desperate need to prove something.

Did you know that lions are endangered? Whether the lion you shot was a beloved icon or just a plain old one rambling through the plains, it’s probably one of 20,000 that still remain in the wild. The number may seem large, but there was a time when more than 250,000 of these kings and queens of the jungle roamed the earth. Because of hunters like you, the illegal bushmeat trade, and habitat loss, the lion population has plummeted drastically over the past few decades. Despite conservation groups working tirelessly to protect these mighty beings, they are facing an uphill battle against wealthy trophy hunters and local guides desperate to make a living at the expense of animal suffering.

But all hope is not lost; The last lions can be saved. And you can be a part of it. You may have heard about Peter Benchley, the man who authored the bestselling novel Jaws that became the eponymous blockbuster movie. The film went on to becoming the single biggest threat to sharks. People around the world slaughtered millions of them out of fear. Peter regretted writing the book and the impact it had on shark populations. He dedicated the rest of his life to ocean conservation and to changing the image of these giant fish from one of fear to respect.

It’s not too late for you. You can redeem yourself by putting hunting behind you. You can use your resources to assist communities that are helping save the lion. You can donate to organizations like the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and Lion Guardians. You can use this global attention on you to pave the way to help other trophy hunters give up the sport.

It may not happen overnight, but you can do it. In fact, I urge you to try, for the sake of yourself, your family, and your two children. Let this experience be a catalyst for positive change by giving up your hunting ways and becoming more of a human.

Sincerely,

Lavanya Sunkara

Bask in the Bounty of Sandals Barbados

I am so excited to share my article on Sandals Barbados, the newest resort in the chain to offer exceptional all-inclusive luxury. Whether you are looking to relax under a beach umbrella sipping a rum drink, go snorkeling with turtles, or explore the island on a 4 x 4, you will be glad you chose this gorgeous island as your destination.

Please click on the picture below for the full article in 25A Magazine‘s June 2015 issue.

Sandals Barbados

Costa Rican Rainforest Getaway: Manuel Antonio and Rainmaker Reserve

The central Pacific coast of Costa Rica is home to the smallest, yet most bio-diverse, national park in the country: Manuel Antonio National Park. I was both excited and eager to explore the magical rainforests when traveling alone in the Central America for the first time. After a short cab ride from my hotel Costa Verde, I arrived at the park’s entrance where my naturalist guide Henry Pizarro grinned in greeting, promising me the tour of a lifetime.

Manuel Antonio CollageSpanning 1,685 acres/2.6 square miles, Manuel Antonio National Park is renowned  for its beautiful white-sandy beaches and hiking trails teeming with exotic wildlife found at every bend. Two and three-toed sloths slowly meandered on branches, baring their algae covered backs, welcoming visitors with their ever present “smiles”. Howler, squirrel, and white-headed capuchin monkeys played on treetops within a few feet from passersby. Colorful toucans attracted crowds and stopped traffic on the trails. Multicolored mini frogs leapt from one leaf to another. Trees with prehistoric-looking, giant above-ground roots, where snakes sometimes hide, decorated the sides of the trails. It’s no wonder the park is listed in 1000 Places to See Before you Die.

A short hike led to the ocean where I witnessed one of the most breathtaking environments—a crescent shaped beach called Playa Manuel Antonio, surrounded by a lush green forest that plunges into the sea. Here, sloths clung to palm leaves, and iguanas sunbathed on rocks, carefree among the tourists. Leaf-cutter ants traipsed up branches carrying tiny pieces of leaves like a marching band. Beach-goers lounged on the soft sand and bathed in the cool waters.

Playa Manuel Antonio

Just a few hundred feet away, the beach becomes a tambol – a sandy strip that connects an island to the mainland – which led to another stunning beach. Playa Espadilla Sur was much less crowded and calmer. Although I ventured only a short distance, I felt a hundred miles away, where a long stretch of paradise awaited just for me.

After a quick lunch in town, Henry and I drove half an hour north to San Rafael Norte, past palm oil plantations towards mist-shrouded emerald hills. Soon, we entered the premises of Rainmaker Reserve, a privately owned mountain with 1,530 acres of primary rainforest. The owners saved the land from a logging company in the ‘90s; it is now home to myriad wildlife including the flashy harlequin toad, once thought to be extinct due to global warming.

Rainmaker 2

The reserve is also known for some of the most feared snakes in Central America. As someone fascinated by reptiles, I couldn’t wait to start our hike. It began to drizzle; Henry handed me a hiking stick and warned me to not veer off the trail, so I won’t slip or step on something requiring medical assistance.

With no other visitors or sounds besides the bird songs and wind whispers, I followed Henry into the rainforest. Large leaves as big as umbrellas hanging from tall trees, dripped water droplets. Within a few moments of being in the forest, Henry spotted an eyelash viper curled up on a tree branch, its greenish brown scales perfectly camouflaged to its surroundings. After scant seconds of admiring this stunning snake, and a few clicks of my camera, I continued my way up the hill.

Ascending the hill, we noticed a string of baby bats on a tree and a Jesus Christ lizard that looked straight out of the Mesozoic Era. I was told it got its name because it has the ability to run on water. A blue morpho butterfly fluttered its bright blue wings; they shone in the low light against the dark green background.

Then, as if reminding me that Costa Rica is full of pleasant surprises, I spotted a long hanging bridge tied to a massive hardwood tree in front of me. It turned out that Rainmaker was the first location in Central America to offer aerial walkways through the tree canopies . I dreamt for years about these mystical suspension bridges symbolic of Costa Rica. Slowly, I made my way across the slightly swaying bridge, holding tightly onto its rope handles. Halfway through, I looked down, amazed by the deep ravine below. The expansive virgin rainforest all around me was perfectly still; raindrops trickled through the branches, and soon I was walking through mist, crossing more aerial walkways, one more thrilling than the last. It was the definition of tranquility.

Rainmaker Waterfall

After a few hours of hiking through the reserve, more serendipity welcomed me in the form of waterfalls. The humbling views of water gushing over boulders, the sweeping surrounding greenery, the low hanging clouds, and the solitude took me back in time. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Henry said that Jurassic Park was filmed here.

I feel so fortunate to have been surrounded by such wild beauty, among the wise old trees that rise proudly, and animals that continue to thrive in protected areas. It was, indeed, the tour of a lifetime.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit www.natureair.com for domestic flights from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. Land transportation takes approximately four hours from San Jose.

Henry Pizarro: www.costaricanaturaltours-henry.blogspot.com, hpizacr@yahoo.com,

506-2777-1555

12 Wacky Facts About Sydney

After spending ten drought-ridden days in Queensland, I was excited for a change of scenery in Sydney. It poured non-stop for four days in the city I imagined to be sunny. Regardless, I bused and walked everywhere, savoring the iconic sights of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, traipsing through trendy neighborhoods like The Rocks and Surry Hills, enjoying the beach towns of Manly and Bondi, and visiting the amazing SeaLife Aquarium in Darling Harbour, focused on shark conservation. And, of course, there was my favorite: Thai Town, where I savored the most delicious food I’ve ever had (Chat Thai is the place to go).

In the short time that I was in the capital of New South Wales, I learned a lot about Aussie culture, and picked up a few tidbits about the way people live, and I share them here for your amusement.

1) Flip-Flop Culture: Almost everyone wears flip-flops. When you have year-round sunshine (except, of course, when I was there), I bet you’d wear open-toe sandals, too. Women almost always wear flats (no stilettos here). In beach towns, it is common to see folks walking barefoot.

2) Cleanliness: The streets are SPOTLESS and the rain had nothing to do with it. There is no gum, dog poo, litter, and definitely no urine odor that seems to permeate New York City. The ironic part is there aren’t trash bins on every block like we have back home. You have to carry your trash for quite some time before you find a bin. Another downfall is that the smooth cement pavement gets slippery when it rains. My friend and I had to hold hands in some places because we were afraid of falling in our flip-flops. We probably should have gone barefoot.

3) Men: What can I say? They are everywhere, wearing flip-flops, tight pants (sometimes with wide elastic bands at the bottom), and carrying man bags. These are the straight men. And they are quite amusing. Hey, at least they aren’t afraid to experiment a little.

4) Accents: Sydney is wonderfully multi-cultural, given that immigrants account for 75 percent of the city’s annual population growth. Stereotypes may suggest that Australia only consists of the descendants of Europeans and Aboriginals, but this is simply not the case. On the streets, malls, sidewalks, restaurants, you will hear accents from various states, including Asian-Australian, British, Irish-Australian, American-Australian, Islander-Australian. I simply can’t figure out what an authentic Aussie accent sounds like in Sydney.

5) Food: Just like the accents, you will find a wide array of cuisines here. I had Turkish, Indian, Australian (pies from Harry’s Café de Wheels), Thai, and Chinese. The drink of choice is Frozen Coke, which is especially good on a hot day. People here love beets. They juice them; they put them in their salads, burgers, and make sauces. Yum.

6) Cocktails: I didn’t have any, but I heard they are super expensive, costing more than 20 dollars each. Seriously. You all thought New York City was pricey. Wine, on the other hand, is delicious and worth the money. Stick to wines from South and Western Australia.

7) Coffee: Aussies love their coffee and they are snobs about it. It’s imported from all over the world. There’s Starbucks, but only Americans go. Gloria Jean’s Coffee is similar, but Sydneysiders like to visit small coffee shops in their neighborhoods. They all pretty much close around 3 or 4 PM, which wouldn’t work for most New Yorkers, especially writers. Everything else closes around 6 PM. Thursday is the late night.

8) Coins: You can get dollar and two dollar coins and they weigh a ton. Maybe this is why even men carry bags. When I added up all the coins in one of my bag pockets, it came out to $15, enough for a few bus rides (yet not nearly enough for a cocktail).

9) Fitness & Smoking: People here are crazy about fitness. You will see them running, biking, hitting the gym, and swimming. You will also see them smoking up a storm outside those very same gyms, as well as restaurants and bars. Doesn’t that negate the workout?

10) No Tipping: One important thing I was happy to learn is that there is absolutely no tipping here. No tips for bartenders, waiters, taxi drivers. Tax is also included. Minimum wage here is $15. We could learn a thing or two from Australia.

11) No Dryers: Everyone dries their clothes outside on stands. It’s amazing. I do this back home in the summer to save on electricity. I suppose in a place where there is plenty of sunshine, it’d be a waste to use dryers.

12) Trees: As a tree lover, I was delighted that all of the roads are tree-lined. And these are no ordinary trees; they are gigantic, sprawling green masses – called Moreton Bay figs – that provide shade to stores, sidewalks, and even the cars on the road. My friend calls them storybook trees. The city also features oaks, eucalyptus, and palm trees. In Manly, you will find giants rising from the cement pavement on the roadsides. There was even one in the middle of the road on Main Street, its thick roots spreading far and wide, providing a barrier between both sides of the road. Naturally, I went and hugged this one.

Treehugging in Manly

I hope you get to experience the diverse, amazing culture that makes Sydney such a sought after destination. Leave a comment if you think I missed anything.

G’day, mate!

10 Reasons Why You Should Never Ride Elephants

There was a time when I dreamed of going on an elephant safari in Nepal. I imagined sitting atop a gentle giant, gliding through a dense forest searching for wildlife. I photographed elephants in all their decorated grandeur when I came upon them begging on the outskirts of Delhi. I added Thailand’s elephant festival to my bucket list. Then I learned the awful truth about how elephants are really treated.

Captive elephants live a horrid life. They are beaten, chained, and worked to death — all for the entertainment of tourists. Elephants have a thick skin, but they feel pain. They cry when separated from their young. The captured calves are starved, deprived of sleep, and struck with bullhooks (2-3 foot long clubs with sharp metal hooks) and bamboo sticks spiked with nails to crush their spirits and “domesticate” them. As many of you have seen, one such baby recently ended up at a brunch pool party at a resort in Thailand, where drunk partygoers rode the elephant for fun, oblivious to the poor being’s terror.

Abuse is a common practice at elephant trekking camps and tourist shows where pachyderms spend years. To help save these majestic animals, I’ve put together this information so you, too, can remove riding elephants from your bucket list.

  1. Elephants’ spines are not designed to support the weight of humans. Carrying a heavy load for hours leads to permanent spinal injuries. Can you imagine carrying a 50-pound backpack all day, every day, and enjoying it? I didn’t think so.
  2. The contraption used to put a chair on their backs causes blisters that become infected and cause pain.
  3. Long-term trekking causes their feet to endure cuts and illness.
  4. A new mother does not get maternity leave. She is expected to work the day after giving birth. What kind of hell is that?
  5. When babies are very young, they are chained to their mothers during treks, forced to keep up the pace without breaks. Would you bring your baby to work and not feed her? I doubt it.
  6. When they are not working, elephants are chained, sometimes without proper food and water due to a lack of resources at camps.
  7. Mahouts (elephant handlers) are not trained to humanely treat their animals. They use the bullhook as the only means of control, rather than using voice commands.
  8. By being subjected to long work hours and prodding by bullhooks, elephants develop severe psychological problems. When you see these animals at camps bobbing their heads and pacing back and forth, it is a sign of extreme stress.
  9. Be wary of elephant camps that claim to be ethical. Even elephants working at the most humanely run camp have gone through a training period filled with dreadful maltreatment.
  10. Elephants deserve to be in the wild. They belong with their families, not harmed and mistreated for our sake.

WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD 

If you love elephants, you can still admire and spend time with these magical beings in sanctuaries. The Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Northern Thailand is one such place where formerly battered and neglected elephants are rescued and cared. At ENP, there are no tourist shows, no elephant treks, and no type of interaction that doesn’t put the welfare of elephants first. They wander freely in the company of their own herd, feed and play with their babies, and live healthy lives.

If you’d like to volunteer with elephants, read my article about the innovative program created by ENP called The Surin Project, which frees working elephants from their chains to go on walks to the river. As a volunteer, you get to stride beside them, bathe them, and see them in their indigenous habitat. There’s really nothing more rewarding than restoring an elephant to its natural glory.

Surin Project
Playful elephants. Photo courtesy of The Surin Project of ENP.

 

 

 

 

Cruising in Paradise: An Eco-Friendly Galápagos Adventure

Visiting the Galápagos islands was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Opportunities to get up close to nature’s wonderful creations are abundant in the enchanted isles. This animal lover was in paradise. Read all about my experience aboard a seven-day Ecoventura cruise in my latest for 25A Magazine by clicking on the picture below.

Ecoventura Eric Yacht
Ecoventura Eric Yacht