For many of our guests, elephants are synonymous with royal Rajasthan and having the opportunity to meet one is an unforgettable experience. At the same time, questions are asked about the welfare of the animals as our guests understandably do not want to contribute to unethical practices. This is where Dera Amer – a peaceful camp on the outskirts of Jaipur – comes in.
Dera Amer is, in our opinion, a fantastic way to get to know these magnificent creatures in a caring environment (much more so than an elephant ride, or other excursions with elephants available in the city) and the experience is a very special one for many of our guests. It’s intimate, too; you’re unlikely to encounter any other guests while interacting with your elephant, though dinner in the courtyard to follow presents the opportunity to chat and share experiences with other visitors if you’d like.
It all begins on your arrival at the camp, typically in the early evening (Dera Amer also offer afternoon sessions, ideal for those travelling with little ones). Dera Amer is about a thirty-minute drive into the countryside from central Jaipur and is nestled within the Aravalli hills; a refreshing bit of calm after the bustle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. On approaching the camp and walking through the property’s arched gateway, you’re greeted by your elephant for the evening, which may well be Laxmi or her younger side-kick Rangmala; both are full-time residents. The ice is broken as you’re encouraged to feed your elephant with a banana (or four!) before supplying her water. Elephants can drink up to 50 gallons of water a day. You’ll be shown by the mahout how to offer her water which she sucks up into her trunk and – when she has a right amount – shoots into her mouth, as well as over her face and body to cool herself off.
Next, you’ll be invited to help bathe her. Using a stiff-bristled brush, the mahout will show you how to scrub her forehead and trunk. You’re encouraged to press quite hard as the elephants hide is thick and coarse – you’ll soon stop worrying about the pressure once you see how much she enjoys it!
After her bath, you’ll have the opportunity to decorate her trunk*. It’s a traditional Indian practice at weddings and festivals. The paints are organic and water-solvent, so there’s no risk of any irritation to your elephant. Your mahout will offer to draw an outline which you then fill in with bright yellows, purples, pinks and greens, though you’re welcome to freestyle too!
*Update 29/04/20: Painting the elephant is no longer a part of the excursion. While the elephants were in no visible distress whatsoever, the owners began to question whether it was appropriate or not in 2019. These days, you can still visit and spend quality time feeding, bathing and walking with the elephants; there’s just no painting (or riding, for that matter).
You’ll then head out for a gentle walk together through the surrounding dry forest. Walking alongside your elephant, you have the chance to watch her and pat her, learning all about her with the mahout. The staff at Dera Amer have a special relationship with every elephant and are full of stories and information. They can tell you all about the elephant’s personalities and their distinctive traits.
When the sun has set, you’ll arrive back at the courtyard where a buffet of traditional Indian dishes awaits you, all prepared using onsite, organic ingredients from the camp’s garden. Dishes to look forward to include Dal (spiced lentils; an Indian staple), Palak Paneer (spinach with local cottage cheese), and tandoori chicken. More familiar European dishes can be prepared with prior notice as well.
After dinner, you’ll be driven back to your hotel in Jaipur. However, if you don’t quite want the experience to end just yet, Dera Amer also offer an intimate camp of three luxury tents, allowing you to spend the night in this peaceful and isolated environment, waking up to have breakfast with Laxmi the next morning!
An evening with elephants (and dinner) starts from ₹6,800 (approximately $100; £75) per person and is available year-round, though the tents are operational from October to March. Children aged eight or younger are complimentary.
If you’d like to include a visit to Dera Amer in Jaipur on your upcoming visit to Rajasthan, please get in touch. This is just one of the many extraordinary experiences we can offer (as part of a planned itinerary), and we’d be delighted to assist with your arrangements. Beyond your visit to Dera Amer, we can ensure a smooth and seamless experience, arranging everything from your accommodation to your private car and driver.0