For me, nothing quite beats a simple, quiet moment with Africa’s grey giants. If ever asked what my favourite animal is here at Londolozi, I can answer without any hesitation…
Yes, for some people they might not be as beautiful as the leopards or as awe-inspiring as a pride of lions, but almost every moment spent with them fills me with joy and a sense of deep respect.
For those of you who have watched elephants, you would have noticed that they are always doing something. Whether it is bathing themselves in dust, drinking at a waterhole, strolling through open grassland or even just feeding on the top of an open crest, there’s always at least one of them keeping us very entertained. Other than their sheer size and intriguing skin and tusks, watching elephants carry out their ‘tasks’ is much-loved by our guests who come to visit. Their behavioural traits, social structures and characteristics also fascinate me.
One of my favourite ways to spend a game drive is to sit quietly with a breeding herd of elephants around a watering hole. It allows us to switch off the vehicle and just sit and enjoy so many different forms of joy.
As we enter the heart of the dry season we see the congregation of breeding herds and bachelor bulls who flock down to the flowing Sand River. The chances are high that during your delicious lunch on the deck at any of the five camps you will be accompanied by large herds of elephants feeding and drinking in the river below. We are often spoilt on both morning and afternoon game drives with elephant sightings, with herds sometimes thirty strong. Tiny calves and playful teenagers allow for hours of entertainment and are by far, my favourite.
I encourage you to spend as much time with elephants as you can. Take in all their behaviours and actions. Notice what they are doing and why they are doing it. The little bits of behavioural differences and character from each member of the herd and all the dynamics and relationships between them make me often compare their behaviour to ours. I believe there is so much we can learn from them.
For me, no encounter is more special and meaningful than that with an elephant. Here at Londolozi, we are fortunate enough to spend time with elephants where we are up close and personal, yet safe. The size, the sounds and the lessons we can take from elephants is something I will never take for granted. If you are lucky enough to sit in and amongst a herd of these gentle giants, enjoy and take in every moment with them. Have you had a special encounter with an elephant? Let us know in the comments below…
Filed under General Nature Wildlife
I love nature generally speaking and appreciate each creature in its own value. Elephants are among big five so they certainly are most sought after
ElephantS the wonderful gentle giants of the bush!! They are my favorite s! Thanks for sharing!! Victoria
Experienced a warning charge from a cow after her baby had crossed the road in front of us and put our vehicle between baby and mother. No harm was done to people or vehicle, and once the cow was on the same side of the road with her baby, she went about her normal routine of browsing. It was an amazing experience and a reminder of how powerful these beauties are and how quickly they can respond to a potential threat.
Yes, indeed, spending time watching elephants is always just wonderful! I love the cheeky teenagers who are always so active, the very protective mothers and the cute tiny babies who do not yet know what to do with their trunks.
You are asking for some special encounters with elephants. Well, there are hundreds. One I remember most clearly was the very first elephant I saw in the African bush. It was just so awe inspiring and amazing to really see an elephant in the bush.
And another, very funny encounter was a mother with her teenager and a tiny baby. The two youngsters approached our car and started licking soil on a termite mound right in front of our car. The teenager pushed the baby and it protested loudly. And mom came up to us, quite upset, because obviously she thought the little one had protested because of us. We stayed calm and spoke softly to her and she relaxed again.
I love ellies…………. Once I was on a drive and we stopped to watch a young bull, probably just kicked out of his herd because of his age. He looked very lonely and came towards me (I was sitting in the high seat at the back of the car). And he put out his trunk to me, he was only about 20 cm away, but I didn’t dare touch him……… I don’t know what I would do now, if I would touch or not.
Anyway, I also just read Elephantwhisperer by Lawrence Anthony, which is a beautiful book for every person who loves the bush and ellies especially!
It has been a bumper time for Ellies in the Sabi Sands right now!
I also love watching elephants going about their daily activities, they are always busy with either eating, drinking or dusting themselves with dust. They are gentle giants and they have a close family structure. We were in Kruger a few years back and a huge elephant bull was coming straight for our Land Rover. We had to reverse our vehicle for quite a way, he just kept on coming and even started to move faster. My nervous were finished and could not understand why he was so aggressive. Because we did not irritated him or come close to him. Finally he stopped and just went into the thickets. We always have respect for elephants and all the animals in the Park, for they have the right of way. We are the intruders in their domain.
Elephants, the entertainers of the African bush, plains and rivers. Some of my best safari memories include elephant watching from a small boat on the Chobe River, just metres away from the best show in Botswana. Imagine family after family of breeding herds running down a dusty hillside to the river, some stopping to drink thirstily whilst others swim and play. Calves, days old, make us giggle as they try to drink for the first time, not sure what to do with that unruly trunk. They slowly and unsteadily bend to drink, sometimes falling over, but mom and aunties are there to make all well again. Priceless moments!
This is by far my favorite post. Elephants are my favorite as well. Saying ‘we have so much to learn from them’ tells me how much you actually ‘see’ these wondrous sentient beings, how heart centered you are, without the ignorant questioning of how smart are they (?), do they have emotions (?) etc… Thank you for your thoughts and these dynamic photos. Londolozi is blessed to have you. I have not yet had a wild encounter, only captive ones, sadly. A wildlife park I once worked at had bought an elephant who had been chained up alone all of her life. They began to take her out, chained to a bigger elephant to start getting her used to walking on her own. She spooked at something one day and started charging, dragging the bigger elephant as her handler kept yelling ‘halt!’ to no avail. I watched and was panicked for her because I knew if she charged past the gate they would shoot her because the park was amidst a large residential area. I intuitively closed my eyes and connected with her somehow and asked her to stop, picturing her standing still about 20 ft from where she was. Everything suddenly got quiet. I opened my eyes and she was standing perfectly still exactly where I had envisioned her. Her handler was pale and slowly got his composure back, stroking her and telling her what a good girl she was. I knew in my heart that something had transpired between us, or maybe I was simply a catalyst for clarity in that moment. I don’t know but that connection has always stayed with me. I look forward to viewing a wild herd one day.
My absolutely favorite animal! 2012 ? Last morning drive of my stay.Alone in the vehicle with Talley and Freddy. Watching a breeding herd who slowly walked across the road and walked toward us….surrounding the vehicle completely. Freddy on the tracker seat had one of my cameras and got video of the entire encounter. So…..thankfully I can watch it again and again and I do.
I think what always fascinates me with ellies is how much they are communicating with one another. Sometimes is through the low rumbles that we can and can not hear, to the loud trumpeting sounds. Through the flare of their ears or their tail sticking out straight. Plus, how they communicate through touch whether it’s to the head, mouth, back or tail. It fascinates me when they hear something they form a circle around the young to protect them. I enjoy how they play whether in or out of the water. These are a few of my things I have witnessed during my sightings.
If I had to choose only one amazing sighting on a drive it would be a breeding herd of elephants. The joy and peaceful feeling I get while watching them is something I don’t feel anywhere else. They are such a cohesive family. They are also the only animal who has made my heart literally skip a beat if they flap their ears and start walking toward the vehicle. They are so powerful! However, I always trust my ranger and guide and have never felt threatened, just excited.
Like you, Dan, one of my favorite things to do is to sit with an elephant herd and just observe them as they interact with the environment and each other. My best elephant story- I was alone in a tented camp in Tanzania when 2 ellies decided to come eat the tamarind pods on my tent roof. All fine til they snapped a tent pole! The canvas shivered, but held!!
Wow Dan what a wonderful blog and the most amazing photos from all of you! Thanks made my day!
I remember my first trip to Africa, we were in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and encountered a herd of elephants heading into a water hole. We did exactly as you described Dan, switched off the engine and just sat and watched… magical.
Special encounter just yesterday-same day as this blog entry: Standing with Guide Greg and Tracker Joy, we watched in amazement as a herd of 57 elephants walked past us on all sides of the vehicle. We were mesmerized and stayed still as all passed us peacefully A thrilling moment but filled humility and feelings of insignificance.
Couldn’t agree more Dan! Elephants are my absolute favourite! They are so incredibly intelligent and have such human-like qualities, with family meaning everything to them. They are just so special. Do you have much trouble there with poaching? This is something that always worries me. Thank you for the great article.
I had a special moment with a large bull during our visit in 2018. We locked eyes, and for a moment I truly felt we were one. I could feel his soul. It was only a few seconds, but that memory will stay with me the rest of my life.
Fabulous photos Dan to match your touching story. Indeed there is nothing quite like watching these magnificent beasts. They seem wise beyond their years and so caring for their family members. The babes always bring a smile to my face. My favorite memory was a wee chap who mock charged our vehicle several times, trying to look as big as his Dad. When he realized it wasn’t having the right affect he turned around, sauntered off and promptly tripped over a small log and went flat on his tummy.😆
Hi there. The only elephant story I have was when we were staying at Pilanesberg and watched a large Bull elephant in the road with his bottom in the road and his head inside a large bush at the side of the road. We stopped a decent distance away and waited for him to move off. We had been there for about 20 mins when a white Combi came over the brow of the hill and was trying to get past him. The next thing the Combi disappeared backwards down the other side of the hill with the Ellie chasing it. It left in reverse. We were on our way to Manyane Camp for breakfast. We arrived by another route and were sitting at our table when a large crowd of chattering people came in and sat down at a long table near us. At first I thought they were talking a foreign language, but then the one chap said “I nearly died with fright.” with a very broad Scots accent. Evidently he had driven at speed BACKWARDS all the way to Manyane Camp. I said to my husband, Neil, that I thought it was the White Combi crowd who were new to the Bush. When we went out to our car, yes! There it was. A White Combi! Those poor people had been terrified and REALLY needed a cup of tea (or something stronger!). Needless to say, we went home on another road. That afternoon we thought we would go and have cocktails down the road at Kwa Maritane Lodge.just down the road to get the picture of the Combi and the Ellie out of our minds., Three minutes inside the gate we found ourselves SURROUNDED by about 50 plus ellies. We slowed right down to a tortoise crawl and we slowly getting through with ellies on both sides. Then we ground to a halt because a baby Elephant had gone to sleep in the middle of the road. We sat there about half an hour with cars queueing behind us and then Mom came and got baby up after its siesta and we crawled through. We got to reception and were ushered out on to the verandah for something to drink – and we looked below and saw ellies drinking at a pool and a herd scattered over the plain all coming down to drink just below us of around 40 to 50 Elephants! We then gave up and drove back to the Lodge where we had been staying. That was, indeed, an “Elephant Day” in the Bush! Wendy and Neil M
Hi Dan, I love elephants too. I have fostered two baby elephants through the Sheldrick Wild Life Trust and I follow their stories month to month as they move from the nursery to the reintegration unit to their lives back in the wild. I am constantly amazed at how empathetic they are, and how fun-loving. And I love it when a mother will bring her baby back to show her keeper after years of being away. Truly amazing animals.
Dan, thanks for the reminder of the amazing experience of being with elephants! We’ve had many amazing encounters with them over the years at Londolozi, but none quite so exciting as when a huge male decided to check us out and sniff my wife Terri! Never to be forgotten!!