Having said goodbye to Emma, we headed to Ngapali Beach. The airports we have visited have all been like bus stops and the planes cosy. Upon arrival at the aiport at Ngapali we were collected by another vintage bus, but this time an open ended back and no window panes. We quickly arrived at our Amazing hotel (the name of it!) and after a short wait we got a family room right on the beach. Perfect for our Christmas chill.
We always said that the beach was going to be a time of doing very little, but with an elephant sanctuary close by, it was too good an opportunity not to see these magnificent animals. The Ngapali Elephant Sanctuary does not do tourist elephant riding so for us it was perfect. There were 11 in our group, we were collected at various hotels and we were taken up into the mountains. After a short walk we happened upon a river and suddenly we saw 3 elephants being washed. A mum, and her two daughters. The smallest elephant only 6 months old and displaying typical toddler behaviour was delightful to see.
Once the elephants had been “washed” – the water was a muddy river so they weren’t exactly sparkling clean elephants, we followed them up into the mountains. Their mahouts were careful with them and following them up a dry riverbed was fascinating.
We got to feed them from a platform and while Eleanor fed her namesake, Ellie the eldest daughter in the family I happily snapped away. We also got the opportunity to climb up into a tree top shelter. Built out of bamboo by the mahouts at the level of the tree canopies the floor of bamboo was strong enough to cope with 4 men, 4 women and 4 children. Our guide brought up beers and drinks for us all and we got to ask questions and take in the view. It turns out that the elephants go on 10 mile hikes each day on their own. The mahouts will then go out and find them and bring them back for the night. Our guide was there when the baby elephant was born. While she was born out in the wild, the mahouts are present to prevent poachers and wildlife from feasting on a helpless infant.
Lunch was provided and then we headed back in the minivan to our hotel.
We did two other excursions, one was at 6.30am to see the catch of the day brought in. An early morning start, it probably wasn’t early enough, but what we did see was a lot of poverty and a lot of rubbish on the beach but that aside as the boats came in and fish were brought ashore the beach was a hive activity with women buying the fish. The smaller fish were being bought to be dried. The fish that had been bought in previous days were already drying on massive blue tarpaulins in the fields inland or on crates by the side of the road.
The other excursion saw us see the fishing village from the sea rather from the shore. We went snorkelling and used the Go Pro again. The last underwater camera I bought lies at the bottom of Cape Tribulation, Australia as I did not purchase a flotation strap. This Go Pro has a flotation strap. No worries about losing this one. The trip was ok. We left at 10 and returned at 2.30 – no food included. We were dropped off at two places – one of which served food, though the boatman said not to order food as it was not good. So with hindsight should have booked a later tour (after lunch) or first thing in the morning and then return for lunch.
New Year’s Eve was spent in the Hilton which is one of the closest hotels to the airport. It has no direct sandy beach access but we didn’t need it, choosing to lounge by the pool (which despite the sun was chilly to swim in!) or spend time on our balcony. We couldn’t stay in our first hotel for the whole time as we had booked late and because we booked late many of the hotels had been booked up for NYE.
The holiday came to an end, we were relaxed and ready for 2 weeks of school. We had previously decided not to have a Chinese New Year family holiday away because I was due to work for the first week. But more of that later.
Myanmar isn’t as touristy as its Asian neighbours so it is definitely worth a trip if anyone is wanting to see it before it gets too busy.