Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Pattaya, Thailand

If you are visiting Thailand and looking for a reputable elephant experience, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary just outside Pattaya (or any of their three other locations for that matter!) I promise you it will be something that will stay with you forever.

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If you’re in a rush, click on the image above to go to their website

Just before Christmas last year, I had the good fortune to visit an old friend in Thailand for the first time. One of the items on my ‘Must Do‘ list was to spend time with some elephants, as I’ve loved them since I was a kid – I mean, who doesn’t love elephants? A quick online search showed there were three choices in the Pattaya area, but which were ethical and not just tourist traps that exploited the creatures? It didn’t take long to discover the only one that didn’t mistreat the elephants was the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The other two sites chained their elephants, let people ride them – which is a totally no-no as it’s not good for them – and their were even reports of the elephants at other sites being beaten in view of the visitors!!!

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – My Experience in Words and Pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll try and balance the two, and hopefully not bore you with either too many words or too many pictures, but I wish to capture my wonderful experience as best I can, not only for your benefit, but also in the hope that it will shed more light and support on this wonderful organisation and their great work

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The sanctuary offers a number of experiences dependent upon the amount of time you have and your budget, from a quick visit to see and pet them all the way up to a whole day trekking with them. I opted for something in the middle, which could either be a morning or afternoon experience. The price for this was 2500 Thai Baht, which worked out to be about sixty quid. Now, before you go screaming to the hills about the price, first remember the Baht is at an all-time high, but hear what you get for your money. This price included return transportation from my hotel (which would have cost at least 1000 Baht!) and a superb meal (which would have cost upwards of 500 Baht!) And that’s before I’ve told you what you get for the rest of your money (1000 Baht) which if you don’t think is terrific value for money, you probably can’t afford to travel to Thailand anyway, and should really think about buying a good book and a stay-cation instead!

What You Get For 1000 Baht

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I opted for the afternoon experience which began with the taxi picking me up from my hotel at 12.30. We stopped twice along the way to pick up two other elephant-lovers, and half an hour later we were out of the noisy city and in the countryside, bouncing up a dirt road towards the sanctuary. There was already a group of other eager elephant-lovers milling around the facility and interacting with the animals, and the guides told us to get to know the elephants while we waited for one more small group to arrive.

The Pattaya location had managed to rescue six elephants (other locations have more, especially the oldest site in Chang Mai to the north of Thailand) which ranged from the youngest, who was only three years old, all the way up to the Grandpa, who was over sixty! No matter what age, elephants are just so amazingly cute. Apart from on telly and in London zoo, I’ve never seen an elephant in the flesh, so to be in such close vicinity to these peaceful, majestic ‘land whales’ is almost beyond words to describe, but I’ll try.

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It’s hard to see, but this lovely lady is almost due to give birth!

The most obvious thing about elephants are their size, but they are anything but scary, as they move very slowly and cautiously – apart from their trunks when there’s food around! They have a very calm, almost meditative aura about them, and my first reaction was to just go up to this ‘mummy-to-be’ elephant and give her a big hug and kiss on the nose. As you would expect, their skin is very thick and tough, and stroking them is like getting an exfoliation! By the time the last group arrived by taxi, I’d said hello to all six elephants, and had learnt a lot from the many guides and handlers that were on site.

Feeding Time!

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Our group was approximately 40 in total, and came from all corners of the world. After a brief introduction given in very good English by one of the guides, outlining the action plan for the afternoon, safety protocol, and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ around elephants, it was time for the first activity: feeding the elephants! There were many, many baskets of food (bananas, cucumbers, and other vegetation) which we could feed the elephants either by holding it out and letting them grab it with their trunks, or – if we were feeling brave – say the word, “Bonn” and they would open their mouths, stick out their tongues, and we could feed them directly!

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Naturally, I chose to feed them directly, and was amazed how easy it was (and how enormous their tongues are!) There was so much food, it was probably about half an hour before all the food had gone, and the whole time was filled will laughter, amazement, and pure child-like bliss for all participants (and even a few strange shrieks from some of the more timid participants who got ‘goosed’ by the odd trunk or two!) As we were feeding the elephants, the wonderful aroma of Thai cooking wafted through the air, as the cooks prepared our meal.

The Elephant Mud Spa!

Having been instructed to change into our swimming gear, next on the agenda was to grab more bananas and lead the elephant troop alone a dusty pathway to their muddy watering hole for a well-earned mud spa! Guess who lead the way…?

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Oh, I forgot to mention, as I add all these wonderful photographs to this post, additionally in the price, there was a photographer on hand snapping merrily away, so you didn’t have to worry about missing anything, and could just focus on fully enjoying the experience! That probably would have cost another 1000 Baht to arrange!

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I don’t know who’s muddier, me or the baby elelphant!

Time to strip off and get muddy! Since I was there during the dry season, their mud hole was particularly dry, but the staff had prepared for that and there were plenty of buckets and wheel barrows full of lovely, sloppy mud for us to play with. Being almost 50, this experience simply knocked the years off me, as I became a big kid again! Looking around at the others, I could tell I wasn’t alone in this experience, especially as the guides actively encouraged us to get muddy ourselves!

Rinse and Scrub Time!

Like any good spa treatment, at some point you have to get clean again, and this is where the REAL fun began…

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Armed with water bowls and scrubbing brushes, we and the elephants plodded to the other side of the path where their ‘swimming pool’ was, and actively began tossing water over the elephants and ourselves, scrubbing them clean. We were all upstaged by baby elephant to immediately lay on his side, completely submerged, with only the end of his trunk sticking out of the water like a snorkel, and began to thrash his legs about with glee!

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If you look VERY closely, you can just see baby elephant in the water in front of me.

Playtime over, it was time to lead the elephants back to camp, and have a proper shower and clean-up before dinner time. All of the facilities were clean, in great working order, and more than you would have expected for such a remote and basic location – trust me, I witnessed far worse facilities in some of the bars and restaurants in Pattaya!

Our Thai buffet was ready and waiting for us with food aplenty! They had even catered for all participants dietary requirements with vegetarian and vegan options, and fruit to finish off with. Between bites of food, the conversation was filled with expressions of how amazing the experience had been and, “Way more than I had expected…” and, “This is such great value for money…!”

And as if that wasn’t enough, they had even more surprises: each of us got a reusable, sustainable shopping bag as a keepsake and reminder of our experience, and there was one final activity before our taxi rides home, but I’ll let you search their website to find out what this one is! The only clue I’ll give you is that it sure surprised me…!

Find Out More About Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I hope I’ve whet your appetite and you’re keen to know more, or have the experience yourself. If that’s the case, or you simply want to help spread the word about their great work, please share this post, use the links below to follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and generally spread the word!

Website: https://elephantjunglesanctuary.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ejspattaya/

Twitter: @ejspattaya

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Anthony Donnelly is a British author, actor, and life coach, more recently known for his charity, children’s book series, “Charlie, the Migrating Snail”, which is available to buy on Amazon by clicking the book cover to the right.

Video: When The Trees Held Their Breath

After the successful publication of the ebook version of When The Trees Held Their Breath, the environmental fable I wrote back when I was Greta Thunberg’s age, I’m happy to have now finished the video version with me reading the prose as the haunting, real life black and white photographs cross fade on the screen. I hope you enjoy it, and it has an impact on you. If it does, please feel free to share it far and wide on social media.

Please consider sharing this, make a comment on YouTube, or purchase an ebook via the link below. Proceeds from book sales go towards my efforts to help global reforestation programs.

BUY THE EBOOK HERE

#FREE New Book All This Weekend

FINALLY, 19 years after it was first published in paperback, When The Trees Held Their Breath, is now available in its originally planned format, with the originally intended text and haunting black and white photographs in ebook format.

In celebration, it will be free all this weekend, I hope you enjoy it, and it inspires you into action!

Trees 2019 Book Cover

A short, environmental book I wrote back in 1986 when I was just 16 years old. Here’s what some kind people said about the paperback, which had an extended ‘happy’ ending:

“An excellent book for young readers to be introduced to the basic concept of environmental issues – the negative impacts mankind has had, and the role that trees have as oxygen providers. The accompanying artwork brings the simple message to life.”

Dave Taub, member National Union of Journalists

“A breath of fresh air for readers–adults and children alike will hear the call about environmental issues in a charming and easily accessible book. Mr. Donnelly has a gift for keeping the reader rapt in his tale. An important book and a must read, then share it with everyone you know!”

Alison Bessesdotter, artist

“What a wake up and smell the coffee kind of book. Not only is it well written, but it makes you stop and THINK. This book, though it appears to be small, is packed with a punch!

“Man is known for technologically advancing his world and not giving a damn what the consequences may be. In his debut illustrated children’s novel, “When the Trees Held Their Breath,” Anthony James Donnelly presents the future landscape of a dying world and the drastic measures nature takes in seeing to its survival.”

Denise Fleischer, reviewer

INTERVIEW: Vanessa Champion – Documentary Photographer

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Photographer, Vanessa Champion

A slight break with convention from my Writers’ Interviews here… But keeping with the same creative vein, a photographer: Vanessa Champion.

I was fortunate enough to meet Vanessa (‘Ness’) back in mid-February for a headshot shoot for my acting portfolio (more images here) and was immediately taken by her charm, her easy-to-work-with professionalism, and her aura. It was like I had met a long lost soul and was catching up on old news. It seemed obvious that I should do an interview. Ness is a fascinating lady, a talented lady – with oodles of modesty thrown in for good measure (which is why I haven’t edited ANYTHING out!) – and I’m honoured that she is now one of my close friends.

Without further ado… Vanessa Champion, in her own words…

Technology has changed over the years, do you have a preference over digital or ‘old school’, and why? 

I started life working with film cameras. My early sales were just with a little Olympus, and one could argue it’s the photographer not the camera which makes the image, but maybe I won’t bang on about that here (I can waffle and write for England!). I can’t stress enough the importance and value of having worked with a medium that MAKES you THINK before you press the shutter. With film, you have to think, frame, think, focus, think, expose, as every time you press the button, it costs money. When I started earning money as a “jobbing” photographer, I used to buy a 36 exposure film, shoot 24 for the client and keep the rest for me to shoot. I did a Roliflexdeal with my supplier and printer, so my client paid for 24 and wasn’t out of pocket I hasten to add (I didn’t shaft them!). I learnt in subsequent years, that Cartier-Bresson did just that, he would be commissioned by Life Magazine and shoot most of the rolls for them and keep some frames for himself to shoot. When I did make the move to digital, I still shot with that slow and considered way, and still do. I find myself firing off more during portrait sessions, but that’s more to put subject at ease than lack of framing. Am converting from slapper flapper Nikon (the loud “clack you hear when photographers press the shutter) to the silent Fuji mirrorless system, which is perfect for the theatre, opera and TV still work I do. Actually Fujifilm gave me a load of singleuse cameras (you know those throwaway ones you often get at weddings) to teach former street kids in Uganda how to document their lives. Was really interesting to see how they started thinking and framing, they REALLY understood the value of each photo. Am producing a book of their work to help raise money for much needed beds for the kids out there. Tough lives.

Vanessa ChampionYou have been described as a ‘documentary photographer’, can you expand on what this means to you?

I story-tell. When I shoot, I see stories. That might seem obvious when I’m shooting an opera or a theatrical piece, but I see the same when I’m shooting a corporate event, I watch interaction, reaction, timing, personality and try and capture the energy and rhythm of the moment. I shoot for NGOs in Africa and Asia, the same thing, I look and see the stories and time my capture with the heartbeat of the story unfolding infront of me. Sometimes I do feel like a sniper!

Do you have a ‘wish list’ of subjects you’d still like to shoot, and why?

Adam Ant, the former President of Uruguay…  – the reason? Character, I love character. Also a road trip up South America, to document the music, food, people, artisans, workers. I’m working on some personal projects, WWI Ulysses (an installation piece of a soldier in a WWI trench, with music and soundscape), plus a series of sportspeople and well, there’s quite a bit in the pipeline I’m building!

photoaidYou wear many hats, as you’re not just a photographer, you are editor of a newspaper, and do a lot of charity work. How did this all come about and how to you juggle so many things?

Not sure how it’s all happened. Have been very lucky, have put in some long hours (hate to think sometimes just how many!) and have been blessed with some terrific clients who have given me opportunities. Being an academic first, I think, makes you a solution finder, a researcher. I love solving problems and helping fix things. And really, that’s all business is about, having a “problem, product, idea” and needing a solution to “fix, sell, make happen”. I just utilise the years of research experience and deliver. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, am working on it though… Photography has always been there, it’s the creative thread that holds my world together.

If you were not able to do the things you do, what would do instead?

I love music, so I’d love to be Ray Charles with the voice of Aretha Franklin (fix it for me, Ant!).

MumbaiDo you have any advice for aspiring photographers?

Photograph, photograph, photograph. And then shoot some more. Find your genre, create your style and most importantly LOVE what you shoot.

I know you’ve recently returned from Mumbai, what else is on the horizon for the rest of 2015?

I was documenting the work of one of the NGOs I work with, “Born to be Beautiful” in Mumbai, which teaches impoverished women beauty skills they can then use to earn money and slowly gain value within their community and therefore try to stop the endless cycle of violence and fear.  I am founder of PhotoAid Global, and we are running a course in extreme PhotoJournalism this year (theory and practical), plus sponsoring a photojournalism award with the Art Gemini Prize, with an exhibition at the Menier Gallery, London. To enter click here… Plus I’m writing three books, one of which is an entry level “how to photograph your crafts”, a book on British Heritage Artisans (coffee table photography book), plus a book on Cuthbert Orde who drew the pilots of Fighter Command in 1940. Am putting together another couple for the NGOs I work with, but that’s alongside the day job. Hoping to head into France, and maybe off to Ethiopia with the lovely NGO I work closely with, PENHA  (Pastoralist and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa), it’s the 25th Anniversary this year, so watch out for an exhibition of the images I shot with the pastoralist nomads in Uganda as part of their Silver anniversary (some of the images have already been in Venice as part of the Biennale).

Anything else you’d care to add…?

Some recent work on www.vanessachampion.co.uk love to hear from anyone who reads this. Much love and thanks, Ant.

Unfortunately this article isn’t long enough to give Ness the words to say ALL she’d really like to say, but she’s very approachable, and doesn’t bite (hard!) so check out more of her wonderful work: Vanessa Champion Website.

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The Shepherd Cover ArtANTHONY DONNELLY blogs about all things writing, inspirational, and motivational. He has published a number of books for children and adults. His latest book, a short, inspirational parable THE SHEPHERD  is currently climbing up the Amazon charts, and is available in Kindle or paperback. When not sat at his keyboard writing, he can be found in Costa Rica, North America, or somewhere in Europe motivating and coaching individuals and groups in self-development techniques and life-balance. Most recently you can see him back on the sets of films and in front of the modelling camera again.

Bullshit London Tours

Bullshit London CollageWhat an exciting weekend that was!

Whether you’re new to London or have lived here for centuries, Bullshit London Tours are sure to entertain and surprise you! I managed to piggy-back off a group of six Australian tourists that had booked an off-peak tour (main season is April – October) with our host, guide, and comic entertainer, Reuben Williams (if that name is to be believed!)

Learn who stole the clock from St Pauls… where God lives… the world’s smallest children’s prison… and much, much more…!

My favorite part had to be the guided tour of the famous Swedish soap opera film set…

As said, if you thought you knew London, think again!!!

For more details and bookings, check out their website: http://www.bullshitlondon.com/

“A tenner! This tour’s worth more than a tenner…”

“Oh, okay, here’s twenty!”

“Twenty! Twenty? Nah, nah, you have to haggle…”

If Monty Python did London tours… this might well be it.

 

SPECIAL TIP: Ask them about their special pub crawl…

 

The Fun Never Stops…!

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025 361Sorry for the prolonged absence, folks!

I’ve been busily putting things together in my alter-ego as an actor and model… getting headshots taken… getting my feet wet back on film set… auditioning for new roles… building footage for my showreel… and networking with fellow actors and creatives. This all takes time away from my writing passions.

You can check out my acting and modelling website here.

I’ll soon be back to interviewing fellow authors, and I might just expand into interviewing upcoming actors as well.

Thanks for all the continued support…!

 

Be well. Be One.

#NEW #KINDLE Novel 4 #FREE

49q cover 149q? The Enigma Continues is currently FREE to download in Kindle format. Please help spread the word and share this blog, tweet it up, and post it on Facebook…!!!

Currently ranked #58… can we get it into the Top 10 together…?

“This is a great concept novel from author Anthony Donnelly. His works are among the most interesting and ground-breaking on the Kindle store. I think that Anthony is a very talented author and that we will soon start hearing of him in respected book publications.”

(one of the 5 star reviews so far)

 

 

#HELP…! Book Cover Designs – any ideas?

Hi folks! Well, I’m moving right ahead with the text for The Shepherd Workbook, which accompanies my parable The Shepherd, but I thought I’d put some effort into a catchy front cover.

Cover Idea #1
Cover Idea #1

I need your HELP…

  • Do you like any of these?
  • Which (if any) is your favorite and why?
  • Any suggestions,?
  • Anyone like to get credit for designing a better cover?
Cover Idea #2
Cover Idea #2
Cover Idea #3
Cover Idea #3

 

Please add your comments at the bottom of the blog.

Thanks for all your support… I’ll let you know the outcome and when the book will be available 🙂

#poetry #suicide “I Hate You Because You’re Me” by Anthony Donnelly

“I Hate You Because You’re Me.”

By Anthony Donnelly

 

I took all the abuse and rejection

In my earlier years

There are no more tears

Only fears

Only fears

Only…

I withstood all the abuse and rejection

From girls and boys

And things and toys

All the joys

All the joys

All…

There is nothing more of me

Nothing nobody can’t see

Just me

Only me

Awkward me

For all to see

 

paparazzi

Fuck off…!

 

By Anthony Donnelly