I recently saw an amazing documentary on elephants and their raising. And the fact that elephants being so heavy and huge can actually swim amazingly well and in the sea for long hours at a stretch.
Last year I had visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. This is a collection of islands and few of them are extremely beautiful and attract lot of tourist attention. I went to one such island called Havelock Island. We stayed here for 3 days and it was heavenly – awesome scenic beauty, clear blue water, no pollution, absolute privacy and bliss.
There is another island further north of Havelock island called Elephant Beach, this place is famous for the wide spread of corals and attracts tourists for snorkeling and diving. This beach was washed away by tsunami and even after so many years if you visit you can see the remains of broken and washed down trees. The island is sort of a jungle and tourists are not allowed to go in, only the beach area is made accessible for travelers. The reason being elephants often take shelter in the jungles, hence giving this beach its name.
These elephants are brought here via the sea and no not on the ferries or the boats, elephants can swim and they cover quite a long distance without getting tired. In fact, elephants do not drown even when they get tired and take short breaks in the water. The most amazing point to note is that these elephants submerge themselves completely into the water and swim using their trunks like snorkel…. The elephant riders or mahouts as they are commonly known manage to cross the sea along with the elephants sitting on their back and not having to spend any energy in trying to swim or money.
The elephants are grown on these islands and mated. Once a female elephant is expecting the mahouts move the elephants to an island where the supplies for food and other necessities to maintain elephants are adequate. A baby elephant can’t swim for initial 4-5 months and hence commute and transportability becomes an issue if they are all stranded on an island which has limited food supplies and may cause a threat to lives of mahouts and elephants.
During the journey through the sea, mahouts usually climb on top of the biggest elephants and keep holding on to them while they swim, stop, submerge themselves into the cold water and do all the hard work. As the mahouts see any island approaching, they start driving the elephants in the right direction so they can take rest for a few hours or maybe a couple of days on these islands before setting out to explore newer horizons…