Though most vacationers look forward to lingering in bed and breakfasting by the pool, guests at the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort typically start their day at the crack of dawn by dragging bundles of sugarcane through the jungle. The reason? They're here to learn to be mahouts, or elephant riders, and before lessons begin they need to find and feed their mounts.
Lessons are held at a nearby camp run in conjunction with the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center. Here, mahout wannabes are put through their paces on the backs of the resort's quartet of female elephantsóChampen, Lawann, Tantawan and Yom. Riding one of them is as fun as it looks: nudge both her ears to move forward, squeeze your knees together to stop, rock backwards to reverse, be patient when she pauses to relieve herself or yank the shoots off a tree (which happens about every 30 seconds).
Those who pass the three-day course are awarded a certificate of mahout competence, but the real reward is the chance to get up close and personal with these magnificent animals, which guests not only feed but help bathe. The only snag? You and your elephant can get very, very attached. Find out more at anantara.com.