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How to bathe your elephant

After working all morning there's nothing an elephant enjoys more than a good bath

Satpura National Park in central India has five working elephants. After a morning patrolling the jungle or taking visitors on safari, and following a rest, in the late afternoon their mahouts and helpers take them to a stream for a bath.

Dappled light sparkles on the water and the reflections of trees on the surface turn into rippled patterns as the first elephant wades happily in. The sinewy mahout riding on Geeta’s prickly haired neck deftly manoeuvres as she slowly kneels down and then rolls on to her side on the stony riverbed. You could almost hear her sigh of pleasure.

60 year old Geeta came to Satpura from the southern state of Kerala during the days when logging was allowed and has been at the reserve for over 40 years. Though she's the oldest elephant in the camp, according to her mahout Gannu, who's been with her for seven years, she’s more hard working than the others. Soon the pair is joined by the impressive tusker, Sidhnath, and Priya with their little calf Laxmi and the bathing ritual begins.

Top tips for bathing  your elephant

While your elephant lies on its side in the shallows, splash the top side with water.

Take a strong bristled brush (or large stone or coconut shell) and scrub hard.

Bathe every part as you would a human and pay special attention to dirty knees, hidden spots and hard to reach areas; don’t forget behind the ears, between the wrinkles, around the nails and the full length of the spine. And under the base of the tail.

Rinse, scrub and rinse again.

Ask your elephant to turn over and repeat the above.

Throughout the process allow your elephant to stretch and relax in the water. The head may go down while the end of the trunk remains above water or bubbles blown if the trunk is in the water.

Climb on to your elephant and hold tight when you ask him or her to stand up.

Be prepared for a shower yourself should your elephant decide to suck up water in its trunk and spray its back.

Mahout's note: A clean elephant is a happy elephant

Find out more about our India safaris by taking a look at our website or get in touch to book your trip to Satpura.

Posted by: Andrea Hulme

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