Elephant Racing Festival in Dak Lak

As one of the most frequently-visited attractions in Dak Lak, Buon Don is famous for its unique culture which has been described in literature and music for years. However, even though many people come to Buon Don to ride the elephants, a lot of them fail to witness the most important and interesting event of the village in a year: the Elephant Racing Festival, which is organized every March. Yes, you should not be one of them, because this is one of the many things that make your trip to Tay Nguyen unforgettable.

The racing track of the festival has a length of about 400- 500m and a width which allows 30 elephants to stand side-by-side. Before the race starts, people give a series of horn sounds in different pitches.  Following the orders of the organizers, the elephants form a line in front of the judges. Each of the intelligent elephants knees down to greet the judges and the audience.  After that, each group of elephant comes to the starting line.

Right after the signal, as if they are made of spring, the elephants dart ahead while the sound of drums, gongs and the crowd spread all over the forests and mountains. The elephants compete for many rounds until one of them wins. This “winner” is then awarded with a laurel wreath. It raises its tusk to thank the audience; its ears wiggle and its eyes are half-closed when receiving the cheer of people, as well as their gifts: banana and sugarcane!

Even when the racing would have already left a deep impression on the audience, the other competitions of the festival are so interesting that they attract everyone who has been already filled with joy after the race. One of them is the swimming competition in which elephants swim across Serepok River.  In addition, there are a plethora of games such as tug of war or soccer. Not surprisingly, the elephants are again the competitors!

The Elephant Racing Festival in Dak Lak will surely mesmerize you with the bubbly feeling of a feast and the echoing sounds of gongs and drums. Witnessing the spectacular performances of the smart elephants in Buon Don for yourself, and you will understand why this event intrigues thousands of people coming to this region every March. It is indubitably the biggest cultural festival in Tay Nguyen, honoring the brave spirit of the M’Nong Ethnic people, who are the pioneers in hunting and taming the wild elephants of this land.

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