Elephants lazing and playing around in the muddy backwaters of the Thunga river in the gentle morning sun is indeed a joyful sight to watch. This can be witnessed in abundance in the Sakrebailu Elephant Camp located about 15 km from Shimoga on the Shimoga-Thirthahalli road. The place which houses a large number of elephants is a training camp for them where they are groomed by experienced mahouts. Elephants from all over Karnataka that may need specific attention and/or have special needs are taken care of in this ecotourism center.
We reached the place right in time to catch the elephants bathing in the river glistening by the rays of the morning sun. Tiny sandy islands, dried barks of trees in the waters against the backdrop of lush greenery and beautiful hills form the perfect setting for a relaxed morning. Visitors are given a chance to touch and bathe the elephants. Unlike other elephant camps, this place is much larger making the experience more enjoyable.
After the bathing ritual, the elephants are taken to an area where they can be seen by the visitors from a distance. Visitors can interact with them and also take a short ride on them. The elephants are fed during the morning at about 10 am on a sumptuous meal which includes ragi, jaggery and coconut.
One needs to visit the place early (at least by 9 am) to witness them being washed. Be sure to always follow the instructions of the mahouts as some of the younger pachyderms are not fully trained and can suddenly go wild! Also you are not allowed to feed the elephants as their food is specially prepared by the “kavadis” or elephant attendants.