For the publication of our recent ‘Miles Away’ magazine, we spoke with Htun Htun Wynn and Tin Win Maw who are the founders of Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Burma. There are so many elephant experiences that tourists can take part in across South East Asia, but many of them are simply tourist attractions that have no concern for the elephants’ welfare. At Green Hill Valley, love and care for animals is at the very centre of everything they do.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I got interested in elephants when I was working with a French documentary filmmaker. Maw grew up in a family who had been working with elephants in the timber industry for three generations. Her uncle, Dr Ba was an elephant vet.
How did you get involved with Green Hill Valley?
Around six years ago, both with backgrounds in tourism, we decided we wanted to set up a new, sustainable attraction for tourists involving elephants. We took the plunge, and set up Green Hill Valley.
How would you summarise your aims and values?
We started with two family-owned elephants in 2011. Then, we managed to lease five old elephants from Myanmar Timber Enterprise. We are not interested in creating a circus-type environment with visitors riding elephants. We’re focused on the elephants’ welfare and providing care for retired timber elephants. We welcome visitors who want to participate in this kind of work. That’s also a way of educating people from the local village who see how we care about nature and animals, as well as trying to reverse the process of deforestation.
Who has been your most interesting visitor?
The most exciting thing is that visitors come from all parts of the world and all have different stories to tell. It’s incredible to meet so many people who want to learn about and spend time with the elephants during their visits. So, my answer is everyone!
What are your plans for the future?
We want to share our passion for looking after retired elephants. Of course, we can’t look after all the retired elephants and so the aim is that others will follow in our footsteps.
What do you love most about Burma?
People are what we love most in Burma.
Which part of untouched Burma are you willing to share with us?
The northern and southern part are the places most visitors don’t get to see, like Putao and Myeik.
Can you describe your dream holiday around Burma?
We recommend starting with our culture and tradition, such as the temples and villages. Then, a cruise along the Ayarwaddy River is something you should not miss – it is the lifeline of Burma and the further you cruise, the more you discover about the country. Finally, relax at one of the beautiful beaches.