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  • Writer's pictureKhoa Pham Nguyen Dinh

The story of Yok Don’s elephants from Đắk Lắk

Updated: Jul 10

Throughout Vietnam's rich history, elephants have played a significant role as a symbol, from the nation's founding to its ongoing development. Before going on a journey with your kids and family to Đắk Lắk, let’s have a brief look at this elephant-friendly land with Chôm Chôm Travel.

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Elephants in Yok Don National Park

Đắk Lắk - the elephant-friendly land

Where is Đắk Lắk?

Đắk Lắk is one of Vietnam's Central Highlands provinces, which share the borders with 5 other provinces (Gia Lai, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Lâm Đồng, Đắk Nông) and Cambodia. There are around 44 ethnic communities residing in Đắk Lắk, mostly Vietnamese, Ede, M’nong, Thai, Tay, Nung, etc. This makes Đắk Lắk a diverse cultural tapestry where your kids and families can dive into exploring and learning about this elephants' wonderland.


Yok Don - the first Vietnam’s National Park that has elephant-friendly tourism

Yok Don's elephants hold a special place in the hearts of many Vietnamese thanks to a children's song , “Chú Voi con ở Bản Đôn”, which tells the tale of a young, wild yet friendly elephant venturing into a village. The villagers eagerly hope that he would grow bigger quickly so he can help them build the village stronger and more resilient.


Unfortunately, in addition to their role in building and protecting villages, elephants were also exploited for commercial purposes! Elephant riding used to be a very popular tour in Đắk Lắk which helped many families to ease poverty and have a better life. However, this practice had a severe impact on the elephants' well-being, causing a significant decline in their numbers! While there were over 500 domestic elephants in the province during the 1980s, today, only 37 remain. Fortunately, Yok Don National Park has taken responsibility for the care and protection of 22 of these precious elephants.

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Family watching elephant in distance

In 2021, a short movie was released on YouTube sharing the story of Mahouts (quản tượng, nài voi) in Yok Don National Park and announcing this national park as the first organisation in Vietnam to transition to elephant-friendly tourism. Most of the Mahouts come from the villages and families that had done business by providing riding elephant tours, or feeding and selling elephants to other provinces. However, driven by a deep love for nature and animals, they made a resolute decision to champion the cause of elephant conservation. This marked the start of elephant-friendly tourism in Yok Don, Đắk Lắk, Vietnam. Fortunately, in 2023, both the provincial government and the sole organization that facilitated elephant riding officially announced their commitment to sustainable tourism by completely ceasing elephant riding activities in Yok Don.


Elephants in Vietnamese Culture

You might not know but elephants have been regarded as symbols of wealth, affluence, health, and power of an ethnicity or a village in Vietnamese culture for a significant period of time. In addition, elephants also played prominent roles in valiant stories of heroic Vietnamese figures who courageously defended the nation as seen in events like the Trưng Sisters' Rebellion and Quang Trung's elephants' warriors.


What to do in Đắk Lắk with kids and families?

Your kids and family can go deep into Yok Don National Park to see the elephants living their best, wild lives in nature. Unlike animals in zoos, these elephants roam freely and require a bit of adventure to spot them in the distance. As they were previously domesticated and recently introduced to the national park, they are in the process of transitioning back to a wild state and may display caution around larger animals. Consequently, mahouts carefully monitor and supervise them from a safe distance.


After visiting and learning about the exquisite story of these elephants and mahouts, your family can extend your journey in this magnificent land by exploring coffee plantations, witnessing the marvellous nature of Đắk Lắk or visiting neighbouring provinces.

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The locals of Đắk Lắk doing farming

Coffee Museum

The marvellous architecture of this very first and unique coffee museum in Vietnam is the pride of Đắk Lắk and the Central Highlands people. The mixture of Ede, Central Highlands, and modern architecture makes people more interested in discovering the story of coffee. In this museum, your family will have a wonderful opportunity to delve into the rich history of coffee cultivation, production, and the art of coffee tasting.


Lak Lake

Lak Lake is considered one of the most stunning lakes in the region, offering a warm community atmosphere with the M'Nong people. Surrounding by mountains, the lake's beauty is enhanced by the reflection of lush greenery on its surface. Your kids and families can easily observe the locals catching fish on the lake using the dugout canoes (thuyền độc mộc). This lake also supports local business by providing water for the two annual rice harvests.


Hiking through waterfall waterfall

Our experiences and kid-friendly local guides can assist you to hike through two enormous waterfalls in Đắk Lắk - Dray Sap and Dray Sur Waterfalls. Your family will have a good chance to escape the city's hustle and bustle and indulge in a refreshing getaway to enjoy the fresh air, natural bath, and greenery here. After that, Chôm Chôm Travel’s local guides can bring you closer to nature to explore authentic hidden gems in the area by trekking from 2 to 10 km.


When to take an adventure to Đắk Lắk?

The best time of the year to go on an adventure with your kids and families to this province is from April to the end of August. If you travel to Đắk Lắk during this period of time, you can enjoy the serene beauty of waterfalls and lakes in Đắk Lắk. April is particularly special as it marks the blooming season of coffee flowers. You and your family can immerse yourself in the fresh smell and farms covered with pure white flowers.


Where to go for a duo destination with Đắk Lắk?

After exploring the elephant-friendly land, your family can easily access neighbouring provinces, includes Gia Lai, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Lâm Đồng, or Đắk Nông.


From Đắk Lắk, you can go further, around 170 km, to the north to visit Pleiku (a city of Gia Lai) and extend the journey of learning about Vietnamese ethnic communities, especially those in the central highlands area. You can also have a mountain-beach journey by going to Tuy Hòa (Phú Yên) or Nha Trang (Khánh Hòa) to enjoy some relaxing sunny days on remote, peaceful and beautiful beaches.


Visiting the elephants in Đắk Lắk and exploring the wide range of cultures there will give your family a chance to return to nature and delve deeper into ethnic communities' lives with very meaningful stories. Contact us to design the only-for-you journey in Đắk Lắk with kids and families!

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