Elephant Safari Park Lodge
Set right on the grounds of an elephant sanctuary 30 minutes north of Ubud, the Elephant Safari Park Lodge—opened in March 2008—allows guests to get up close and personal with the park's 27 resident Sumatran pachyderms. (Aussie expat and proprietor Nigel Mason put together a crew to rescue the ellies from growing deforestation and agricultural areas back in 2000—a labor of love that was chronicled in a Discovery Chanel documentary, Operation Jumbo.) In the guest lodge, 25 spacious rooms—each with Wi-Fi, LCD TVs, custom bath amenities and elephant-themed décor—overlook either rice paddies, gardens or, best of all, the main animal "residence"; the latter is where the elephants eat, sleep and hang out in between bathing in the small on-site pond or painting colorful abstract artworks (which hang in the guest rooms and are also available in the gift shop.) The lodgings also include a pachyderm-height balcony from which guests can slide right onto the backs of their own personal elephant "chauffeurs" for trips around the surrounding forest or a lift to the open-air main restaurant. A comfy café/lounge, swimming pool, wedding gazebo and small workout facility are also on property, as is a two-room spa offering classic Balinese massages. Lodge guests have complimentary access to the Safari Park's museum, educational exhibits and hourly Dumbo "talent shows."
Tip: Basic room rates include breakfast, but it's worth splurging on the package deals, which also include four-course dinners, nightly elephant rides, one adventure activity per day (choose between white water rafting, mountain cycling, jungle treks and spa sessions), participation in elephant bathing time, and round-trip hotel or airport transfers.
Room to book: The five Park View rooms and one two-bedroom Taro Suite offer the best views of the gentle giants, whose paddocks are located just below the guests' balconies.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.