You might be surprised to learn there are many interesting attractions within an hour or two of Okeechobee.
Helen and Bobby Justis, Okeechobee residents, were excited to celebrate Bobby’s birthday by going to an elephant spa.
The Myakka Elephant Ranch is about 100 miles from the city of Okeechobee. There, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about both African and Asian elephants. The ranch is open to the public year-round by reservation only. Myakka Elephant Ranch is a non-profit conservation center. “From tusk to tail we strive to educate our guests on elephant conservation while providing a memorable once in a lifetime experience,” states their website.
Helen said she found out about the elephant ranch while scrolling through a Facebook page and knew it would be something special for her husband’s birthday. The couple rented an Airb&b in Arcadia and spent several days exploring the area.
She explained the ranch has three experiences to choose from. The first is an elephant Educational Encounter. It is a 45-minute experience where you learn everything about elephants. You will also be able to touch the elephants and take a family photo. It is a large-group encounter and typically sells out about a month in advance.
The second is the Spa Encounter. This one includes the educational experience but also allows participants to help bathe the elephants, which must be done daily.
The third choice is the Rise and Shine package. This one includes the educational experience and the spa encounter but also allows these guests to watch the elephants eat breakfast and to give them treats.
Helen and Bobby chose the spa experience and said it was a once in a lifetime experience. “You also get to do a pedicure, so I got to do one of the elephant’s feet,” she said. “It’s kind of a paint brush you paint on their toes. The whole thing was just fantastic.”
One of Helen’s favorite things about the visit was seeing an African Elephant and an Asian Elephant side by side. “It was so interesting to see the differences.”
Helen said some of the profits from the experiences go toward the International Elephant Foundation and the Rory Hensman Conservation and Research Unit.
Coming from many different places, all of the elephants were rescued from places where they were not treated very well, she said.
Right now, the ranch is experiencing a challenge. The state wants to put a four-lane highway right beside their facility. This would not be a good environment for the elephants, and the facility is trying to fight against it now.
You can learn more about the Myakka Elephant Ranch at their website: www.Myakkaelephantranch.org