Adventures In the area - Elephants
Meeting the great old tusked ones.
As one of the first adventures in the area, it starts perhaps with one of the biggest, literally speaking as I got to go meet the Elephants that are homed at the Knysna Elephant Park but a few kilometres from the Lodge. Having always been a huge admirer of the great old ones, this was a treat for me unlike any other. Anticipation built up as we arrived at the park and did the introduction to the tour, in the museum area, after which a film was presented. We then headed off to our transport that would take us right to them in an open field, each with a bucket of fresh fruits and vegetables, given as treats and as positive reinforcement. Our guide explained to us that the Elephants are mostly rescues and are at the park for care and rehabilitation, some will be relocated to other sanctuaries or game parks to roam freely.
Upon arrival where they were waiting to meet us, one starts to feel this silence come over as you realize just how big these creatures are. Having been to the Kruger National Park on a yearly basis I had a good idea of their size and their power, but for the first time I got to see them up close without the danger of being charged or trampled as is the norm in the Kruger, and also there one does not leave the vehicle to go greet the animals. This made the adventure all the more special to be able to walk right up to them and to offer them food from the snack buckets which they eagerly and very greedily took with great strength, nearly sucking my hand up into the trunk as well, which I found rather amusing, as the trunk made the sound of a giant vacuum cleaner as they took the food. To stand before these giants is a very real feeling of being very small compared to them and also being very helpless should they decide to suddenly have a mood swing and do something that would not be part of the tour. Our guide constantly kept giving instructions and info as we were interacting with the Elephants, which was helpful as well as a comfort to have some measure of safety present.
After feeding them their treats we got to meet them up close without a safety barrier as with the feeding. Now was the time to touch them and also to see the real measure of their size when standing next to them and having to look up high into that small brown eye staring down. The Elephant I got to meet with for a while is named Thato, meaning Love or beloved, she was most docile and so gentle. I spoke to her and asked her how she’s doing, at which point she reached to me with her trunk and I took her trunk in both hands and gazed up in to her eye, it felt as though for a moment time stood still as we made contact. She gently squeezed my hand and then let go again. What a breath-taking experience to have such a meeting with this majestic creature. All the while being so close to such a large and powerful creature, does make ones heart beat just a little faster in anticipation of something going wrong. The guide told me if she moves, I must just slowly step away as to avoid being stepped on, for that reason I constantly watched her feet and her movements to make sure I don’t get flattened as I am very small and it would not take much to reduce my size some more, the Elephant would barely notice if she had to step on me.
I saw how the other people seemed rather terrified to go near them, and that it was for them as for me a very unique experience. I did not feel anxious or fearful; instead I felt a great amount of respect and awe for these beautiful creatures which I have always so deeply admired in my years going to the Kruger. To finally be able to feel their skin, and see it is covered in small very hard hairs all over which seem to act like a nervous system for touch. The skin itself felt rock hard, almost like cement. Behind the ear was the softest place I felt compared to the rest of the skin, it felt like the softest smoothest warm leather and was rather amazing to rub and feel over the veins that lay behind the ear. Their tummies rumbling loudly and the soft growling sounds they made were unforgettable to say the least. What an amazing experience, one I can highly recommend to anyone touring the area. It was definitely an adventure I will cherish forever and never forget, the most humbling feeling in the world.
A huge thank you to the Knysna Elephant Park for allowing us this opportunity to spend time with the Elephants and to learn more about what the Park does for them.
I wish to also thank the staff at the Elephant Park for doing a really great job with these special creatures and for paying such careful attention to their care. For more information on what they do please visit their website at https://knysnaelephantpark.co.za/