In the quiet central highlands of the Indonesian island of Bali, just 20 minutes from Ubud, is the small town of Taro, home to some pretty impressive residents: Sumatran elephants!
After deforestation in Sumatra, the elephants were left homeless and with a depleted food supply. Fortunately they were rescued and now live happily at the Elephant Safari Park. What's more, it's the only park in the world where you can sleep in luxurious surrounds near these rare indigenous animals.
The park was founded by Australian Nigel Mason, who took nine neglected elephants from the village and travelled to Sumatra and rescued another 18. His operation is part of the World Zoo Association, so animal welfare is the priority.
Bali Adventure Tours, a long-established operator, takes visitors to the elephants. You can touch them, handfeed and interact with them. You can even paint them and help bath them.
There are safari rides through Taro's jungles with riders perched in a teak chair on an elephant's back. After the trek, lunch is served at the Park Restaurant beside the elephant bathing lake. Then everyone heads to the Elephant Arena for one of three daily talent shows.
Some elephants really adapt to the fine art of painting and their works are exhibited and sold worldwide. That generates much-needed funds for continued rescue, care and upkeep of the Sumatran elephant.
Afterwards, you can stroll through the botanical gardens, which feature a pond of giant arapaima gigas fish from South America.
Elephant Safari Park Lodge opened its doors last year. It is set in three-and-a-half hectares of the park and offers 25 luxurious, purpose-built safari-style rooms.
The Taro Executive Suite has two bedrooms with floor to ceiling glass. It has a separate relaxation lounge with bar, a 20m wrap-around terrace with outdoor dining, two marble bathrooms with shower and jacuzzi tub.
Five Park View rooms each have one bedroom with a king bed, sitting area, marble bathroom and large verandahs with pools.
There are 17-one bedroom Garden View rooms with king, twin or triple combinations of beds with carved elephant feet, bath and shower. Outside the main lodge are two one-bedroom Paddy View rooms with views across emerald-green rice fields. They are secluded and closest to the elephant action. You wake to the sight and sound of the herd meandering to the lake for their morning ablutions.
Gourmet breakfast is served for guests on Mammoths Head Bar terrace overlooking tropical parklands and unspoiled forest.
The Safari Wellness Spa is the first safari-themed spa in Bali. It has a glass atrium lobby and the spa features a range of signature treatments.
If you fancy working out while watching the elephants at play, visit the air-conditioned fitness and weights room. It has the latest Matrix equipment, adjustable decline benches, Smith machine with multi-adjustable bench and a 10-pair free weights dumbbell rack.