If you’re anywhere near French Lick, Indiana, and love up-close animal encounters, making a beeline for Wilstem Wildlife Park is a must-do. Filled with educational fun and photo opportunities, its Elephant Spa Encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget - I certainly won’t.
What’s An Elephant Spa Encounter?
If you thought one style of elephant encounter was good, you’ll be pleased to know that Wilstem has the opportunity to try six different styles! At roughly an hour each, the only problem is choosing which ones you like best.
Elephant Safari: You’ll head straight into the elephants’ habitat for this one. When you step out of the open-air truck, it’s straight to ground level with the elephant for snack time.
Private Elephant Encounter: You’ll have one hour with one of the elephants and their caretaker. Up to eight people may attend and have the opportunity to pet them and take photos.
Elephant Education Encounter: With 60 minutes of learning and taking photos, purchasing treats to feed them is optional.
Elephant Spa Encounter: One hour of bathing the beauties. This encounter also includes complimentary admission to the Education Encounter as well.
Evening Encounter: For guests of Wilstem Lodging, you’re picked up straight from your cabin and taken to the elephant barn before the elephants call it a night.
Elephant Rise and Shine: Occurs before the Spa Encounter, guests will have the pleasure of taking photos and letting the elephants. After, you receive complimentary admission to the Spa Encounter.
Personally, I love the idea of an elephant spa day, so during my latest visit, my husband and I took part in the Elephant Spa Package.
During our morning session, it was just the two of us. Full disclosure: there can (and probably will) be more than just your party taking part, but compliments of it being off-season, we got very lucky. Having the pleasure of bathing both Asian elephants, Cindy and Vicki, each elephant comes out by themselves.
Starting with a nice, warm water rinse followed by liquid soap, we each were given both long-handled and small brushes to scrub their sides, legs, bellies, trunks, and feet. After another leisurely rinse, it was time for nail care. Using a brush covered in mineral oil, I happily covered each of their front nails to protect them from cracks and dryness.
The ladies were so gentle that, when prompted, they put each foot on a small stool so I didn’t have to bend so low to reach. I learned that, like cats and dogs, elephants have five nails on their front feet and four on their back.
After both beautiful ladies were pampered, they took a small snack break until it was time for an hour’s worth of elephant education. We were able to ask the caretakers all the questions about their upbringing, how they were acquired, and what they eat and drink. Fun fact: an elephant can drink between 30 and 100 gallons of water every day!
During the last hour, Cindy the elephant was both curious and personable. She’s fascinated by beards, so she loved touching my husband’s face with her trunk. Additionally, she’s a fan of giving face boops (aren’t we all!) and caught me by surprise a couple of times when I was talking to the educators. I got the sweetest, funniest photos and videos, thanks to her silly, whimsical personality.
Full disclosure: I advocate for animals and would never promote any activity that I feel would put animals in harm. Having written that, I can attest that the animals living at Wilstem Wildlife Park are cared for to the highest standards and regard. During our encounter, both elephants were calm and enjoyed their time with us. They were playful, showed us their agility on their own, and didn’t flinch when we were washing them. I can only speak highly of the standards.