I fell in love with elephants and started to take them from the logging industry to work with tourists in 2002 with my former company Tiger Trail. During this time, many local business people would not give me a chance. There had been others who started before me and had offered private rides at the Tad Kuang Si waterfall, however they had to stop because of lack of tourists. What made my idea different, was that I established a camp in the beautiful landscape of Ban Xieng Lom on the riverbanks of the Nam Khan river, and I sold the rides in combination with bicycle & Kayak tours.
This was the key to its success.
Please Note: During this time, (over 15 years ago just as Laos was opening to tourism), offering Elephant rides was the only to get tourists interested and therefore the only way to get elephants out of the logging industry. It was and still is, extremely cost intensive to look after elephants and so money had to be raised so that we could support their new lives in comfort.
Nowadays the situation has changed for the better and elephant rides are not attractive any more. Luckily, many travelers are now much more interested in supporting businesses with an ethical background. Therefore, it was a logical move that I, after Elephant Village where we sold in this time only rides, started with an entirely no riding concept under the name of MandaLao.
While the market has shifted towards a pure “no riding” philosophy, I have seen the effect on the local culture that this is having. I noticed that the bond and traditions between mahout (elephant rider) and elephant, was slowly disappearing.
“Chateau Orientale” has decided to go in a different direction. Instead of banning our mahouts from riding their elephants, we are comfortable to let them continue their traditional ways. Whilst we still ban tourist rides, the use of the bull hook and any physical forms of control, we believe that riding creates a strong bond.
We hope that this can filter down to newer generations of mahout to create a much more gentle form of elephant ownership that can last for generations.
I can say without any doubt: After 20 years working with elephants in the tourism industry in Luang Phabang; the team of “Chateau Oriental” can call itself not only the first, but also the most experienced company in this field.
Founder of "Chateau Orientale"
Chateau Orientale does not want to own our elephants because we strongly believe that it would destroy centuries old knowledge and the intimate relationship that exists between the Mahout (owner of the elephant) and the elephant themselves.
This is because Laotian elephants are handed down generation after generation and we think that this is a special bond that should not be broken.
We give them alternative work within tourism, which benefits both the mahout and the elephants, by giving them a safe and secure environment to live in, safe from the logging industry and the dangers of ever increasing human habitation.
We understand that this can be a delicate issue when people see such a majestic animal as the elephant chained up.
Therefore we think that it is appropriate to explain some of the reasons why we along with many other elephant camps, have to do this for the well being of our elephants and the local population.
Usually after around 3 pm, we will often use a 30 to 40 meter long chain in areas covered with grass and bamboo. We rent these areas from the local population and therefore must respect their requests when renting the land.
For example, when chained up:
Dear friends and partners,
As you are aware, the rate of Covid-19 infection remains low in Laos and the lockdown has been lifted last Monday, allowing most businesses to resume their normal activities.
Feel safe and secure at Chateau Orientale
We have used this lockdown period to step up precautionary measures throughout our policies and procedures and to implement a comprehensive staff training to make sure that our guests and team members can continue to feel safe and secure at Chateau Orientale.
Our new working practices are based on WHO’s recommendations, as well as government policies, in particular directives 142 and 143 of May 3rd, 2020.