If there’s an animal on this planet that I would happily watch for the rest of my life – besides of course the members of my wonderful family – it’s an elephant.

There’s something about them that I have loved since I was a child.

I think it’s their eyes,

elephant eyes

the way they seem to convey emotion with their trunks,

elephant trunk

and the way their leathered skin can make them seem so old and wise, even when they’re teenagers.

elephant skin

The last time I was in Thailand I made Ish carry a sandstone carving of an elephant  around for weeks so that I could take it home with me. It was early in our marriage so he still did those silly things.  (Note: I tried the same thing this trip when I saw this one….he didn’t bite)

elephant sculpture…but I digress…

The point is I love Elephants.

And now, back in Thailand after more than 10 years away, here we are staring down the trunks of the magnificent beasts with the kids in tow.

elephant family

We spent three nights at Elephant Hills Tented Camp in Khao Sok, each of them more memorable than the last, but it’s that first afternoon with the elephants that I want to share with you. We spent the afternoon learning about them, chopping fruits for them to eat, holding it out so they could use their finger-like trunks to grab them, watching them splash in mud puddles like toddlers and then finally using coconut husks to soap them up and rinse them off under the watchful eyes of their mahouts.

happy elephantI loved every minute of it.

But as has been the case with so much of our travel, my experience was overshadowed by the well of emotion I felt watching my eldest son.

While I gushed, he went silent. As I snapped photo, after photo he grew more still.

And then, without a word,  he walked over to the elephant, laid his hand on its trunk and whispered to it for a good five minutes.  It was like the rest of us weren’t even there.

It’s a moment I won’t ever forget.

Ethan Elephant