About the Author

Jess Shillaw


Jess was born in Kwazulu/Natal but grew up in Cape Town. Having an innate love for all things wild but getting to spend little time in the bush while growing up, she headed straight for the Lowveld after school. She completed a guiding ...

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on Sitting with an Elephant

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Joan Schmiidt
Master Tracker

Jess, I saved the elephant, I saved the elephant🤗

Joan Schmiidt
Master Tracker

Jess, I saved the saved elephant, James Tyrell, and saved the James Tyrell🤗

Linda Mansell
Senior Digital Ranger

What a lovely meditative piece. Thank you Jess – and the photos are so evocative of the scene that I can almost hear the bush around you and feel the space to breathe.

Ann Richardson Berg
Digital Tracker

Hello Jess! Beautiful written and beautiful photos! It must have been a fantastic moment to sitt near him! Thank you for sharing!

Christa Blessing
Master Tracker

Great photos and a wonderful story.

Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

I love your blogs Jess. You write beautifully. A lovely experience with the elephant bull. Great photos.

Marcia Parker
Digital Tracker

Great pic of the elephant reaching!

R Jr Caromna

Nice video but we only went to Botswana to see lions only. Paid plenty but it was well worth it. You have no lions?

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

Jess, What a great experience! Just like a puppy dog looking for a treats, the elephant was doing the same thing only on a much larger scale!


Great pictures and commentary. Many thanks for brightening our day!

Ivy Wilensky
Digital Ranger

Simply Lovely 🙂

Dina Petridis
Senior Digital Ranger

serendipity is my husband’s (Guido van der Groen) “stopword” , ask James Souchon 🙂

Valmai Vorster
Master Tracker

What an experience you had watching that lone bull elephant, especially when he lifted his head up to warn you and then reaching higher up for the marula fruits. Spectacular sighting. Beautiful foto’s and story. Jess do you now how many toes an African elephant have on their front feet, and how many toes on their back feet.

Denise Vouri
Guest contributor

How fortunate you were to have the time and mobility to experience this wonderful time with a bull elephant. It’s these peaceful moments that nurture and feed our souls, especially in these trying times. Your images are lovely, soothing in their colors and simplicity. I’m not sure who came away with the best morning- the solo elephant feasting on the marulas, the fork tail drongo gobbling up the grasses’ insects or you……

Raisa 5044

Ooh, Jess, what a beautiful moment you got to share with him. I’m in goosebumps. That would be a dream come true for me. I’m sure you treasure that silent conversation you had together. Great photos!

Susan Strauss
Digital Tracker

Just Wow!!

Dear Jess,
This is beautifully written and the photos are truly spectacular. Thank you!

Linda Deutsch
Digital Ranger

What an experience and many thanks for sharing. Absolutely magical to be so close to this seemingly gentle giant. Your photos took my breath away and your narrative was like actually being there with you. Much appreciation.

Linda Polley

How true. Take the road less traveled and you will be all the better for it.

Ian Maclarty
Guest contributor

Thanks for a wonderful post Jess. The photographs are marvelous and the words encapsulate my feelings when asked what I would most like to look for on a game drive, and my silent answer is usually nothing in particular but I am sure that something lovely will turn up. It takes all the angst out of not finding what you are looking for, and then you find an elephant on his tippie-toes or myriad other things which just make your day. How are those hornbills doing?.

Karin Maclarty

Lovely blog Jess. Would have enjoyed being at this sighting with you.

Jennifer Ridgewell
Senior Digital Ranger

Beautiful photos Jess and an enviable experience!

Wian Eloff

Wow, this is really something magical. It is such an exciting sighting to have witnessed.

Lisa Antell
Master Tracker

Lovely……I find Ellies so very peaceful to sit with….

Victoria Auchincloss
Master Tracker

Beautiful!! Victoria

Rene Lummer

Thank you Jess. My dream of visiting Africa began at age 10 after reading a book. As a farm girl in the plains of the U.S. it was a very distant goal. But my passion for animals led me study animals, primarily domestic, in college. I’ve worked, played, rescued, rehomed, released, and continued to educate myself about animals while slowly shifting me focus more on wild animals.
In my 50’s I finally fulfilled my dream and experienced safaris in several Southern African countries. It was more brilliant than I could even imagine. Your post reminded me of a moment during that trip when I had a desired to stop searching for wildlife and instead spend hours, quietly in one place, just observing nature unfold. On my next visit I hope I can find a way to do just that.
Thank You

Ron Platt

Jess, your story reminds me of 17 May 2019 when I was driving around Sinamatella and descended to a low-level bridge and close to the bridge on the right was a group of 6 or more Elephhant standing on the sand bed of river with their trunk ends buried in the sand. One closest to the bridge turned its head to look back at me without removing it’s trunk from the sand and turned back to the matter at hand or should I write “at trunk”? I sat there, alone, until they left. Sadder for their departure but time, tide and Nature waits for no mere man.

Paul Canales
Master Tracker

Wow, incredible photo captures, and very sage advice!!

Callum Evans
Guest contributor

That looks so special!!

Joanne Wadsworth Kelley
Master Tracker

Jess I’m glad your dream came through with this sighting. What makes me happiest for you was that it occurred when you were alone. Zero distractions of any kind with plenty of time. It’s a lifetime memory that you will never forget!

Kara Taylor
Master Tracker

Lovely shots and how wonderful to sit and spend time with this ancient species!

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