The importance that elephants hold in the history, folklore and mythology of India is huge. Especially in South India, elephants are an integral part of the culture and traditions. This time when you go down south, go beyond visiting the temple elephants – that have been reduced to rather pitiable conditions, actually. Instead, go over to the Sakrebyle Elephant camp, where the pachyderms are loved and pampered.
This unusual shelter-cum-training camp is about 14km from Shimoga on the Shimoga Thirthahalli road. The Karnataka State Government has taken the initiative to protect these elephants and yet keeping them free to roam the vast expanses of the adjoining jungle. The baby elephants are a fascinating watch. The tourists can watch the ablutions of elephants where they spray water on each other and get scrubbed by the mahouts. Elephants from the nearby forests arrive this place to take bath, have snacks and play in the backwaters of the Tunga river (or play a game of football with the schoolchildren that come for picnics here) before they go back to the forest. At any given time, there are about 25-30 elephants ranging from less than a year old to even octogenarians and above. Most ecotourism centres in Karnataka are out of bounds, or not on the circuit of an average tourist. And this camp is definitely a must-visit, for children as well as adults. It is not every day that you can interact with pachyderms on such close quarters. An “elephant interaction” session can last up to two hours if you reach between 8 am and 9.30 am when the tuskers are bathed, before being led to the feeding place. If the elephant is well-behaved (take the mahouts’ word), you can even scrub them while they sunbathe in the river. Feeding them is also a fascinating experience – the kavadis (elephant attendants) lovingly prepare each morsel. A mixture of rice, dal and sprouts is wrapped in dried paddy stalks and the elephant will gladly extend his trunk to take it from your hands.
A sporting lot, the camp residents enjoy a game of cricket and football. The only hitch is that the camp shuts by 11:30 am, so the earlier you reach, the more time you spend with these gentle giants.
Visitors are also allowed to feed the elephants (only the food prepared by mahouts in the camp). Photography is permitted inside Sakrebailu but please do not use flash photography as it might agitate the animals. Make sure you don’t disturb the elephants while you are taking pictures.
Sakrebailu is a year-round destination and the visiting hours are from 8.30 AM to 11 AM.
Sakrebyle Elephant Camp, Sakrebyle, Gajanoor
Shimoga- 577202 Karnataka, India
Manager: Mr Vasanth
Contact Number: 9480887180
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh