OURLAND: A nature conservation effort in Kanchanaburi

by Aparna Sharma

I visited Ourland with my eleven year old daughter. I was looking for an authentic experience near Bangkok to connect deeper with nature and learn about different aspects of nature conservation. I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested Ourland, this place gave me such a memorable experience. It is not a candy floss eco friendly resort, this is as real as real gets and it’s run by a person who is genuinely interested in conserving nature.

When I spoke to the owner, he mentioned that the idea was to take commercial land and return it to nature by letting flora and fauna thrive there. He wanted to create a space which focuses on developing and sustaining an eco friendly lifestyle which is technologically advanced. This is located in the last wildlife corridor through which animals can pass between the lower half of Salakhpra wildlife sanctuary which is Thailand’s oldest wildlife sanctuary. It is located on the edge of Kwae yai river and my favourite activity was to float down the river. 

This was the first time I tried that activity, I was nervous but Vijo(the owner) who took care of my daughter and I made me feel extremely comfortable. He assured me that there is nothing to worry about and it will be a memorable experience. There were so many colourful and beautiful birds by the river but I could not take any pictures because I was not able to take my phone with me while I was floating down the river. I had no clue about this activity so I did not take my waterproof gopro with me. I wish I had, I could have captured some beautiful images. 

It’s only three hours drive from Bangkok so I can go back anytime. On our way back to Bangkok, my daughter was asking me,”Mommy, can we go back again soon”. The connection with nature is so addicting that the place entices you to visit again.

We were fortunate to see a baby elephant when we visited, we gave it a bath and we also cooked food for an older elephant which did not have teeth so we had to ensure that the rice was cooked to a soft consistency. My daughter also cut banana leaves to feed the elephant, she loved that activity. The conversation with Vijo on how elephants that are rescued usually live up to 100 years compared to 60 years for elephants who are in the wild really got me thinking on how much it must be costing these elephant sanctuaries to feed these elephants 300kgs a day. I am always amazed to see how friendly and loving elephants in captivity are, I have visited a few of these places and always loved my experience with elephants. There is so much compassion in their eyes and it is completely unethical to use them for trekking. The elephants in this sanctuary are usually rescued from trekking camps which use them as a vehicle for humans to sit and ride.

One of the main activities of Ourland is snake education, my daughter absolutely loved that experience. Honestly, I found it so creepy in the beginning but I was okay towards the end of the day. It’s important to understand that these snakes in Ourland were not taken directly from the wild, they were given to the owner and he specifically told me that we must never take out an animal from the wild and we should not breed the wild animals which are in captivity. As we humans evolve, there is so much to learn and I am happy I found this beautiful place which not only gave me and my daughter a wonderful experience, we also learnt so much.

Ourland is situated in the middle of a forest and they focus on wildlife tracking, organic farming, wood construction, snake education, honey hunting and much more. We got a taste of all these activities. Ourland also works with the local communities to enhance understanding and acceptance towards conservation. This includes:

– Collaborating with local communities to address Human Elephant Conflict (HEC)

– Working with local orphanages to inspire children to take active leadership in nature conservation

– Serving as a meditation centre that allows groups who prefer the safe haven of a jungle over the hustle and bustle of the city

 In a nutshell, at Ourland they are creating a new way of life, where nature is respected and conservation is seen as the crucial link between progress and tranquility . All this is viewed through a scientific lens to better understand how we can continue to coexist with nature with the least possible damage.The details of their packages are on their website, www.ourlandthailand.com

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