Tuesday, February 14, 2012

South Africa: Safari Pt. II Elephants on Parade

As I mentioned before, we really lucked out while on safari in Kruger Park. We spotted hundreds of animals during our day long drive, thanks in part to the overcast, dreary weather which brought the animals out to roam freely. 

Nearing the end of our day we still hadn't gotten a very close sight of any elephants. No one wanted to express their disappointment because our drive that day felt really successful, but in all honestly, what's a safari without a few elephants!?

As our day was winding up, our ranger drove us through a long stretch where we spotted the occasional impala but not much else. We were all beginning to feel exhausted (yes, exhausted from sitting in a cold, damp truck all day) but no one even had the energy to complain, it almost seemed fair that by now maybe our good luck had run out, or so we thought... As we went rolling along the ranger slowed down quickly and spotted a herd of elephants on the horizon!

I was so excited to finally see elephants in the wild and didn't even care that they were hardly visible. At first, the herd blended in almost perfectly with the horizon line but as we waited, silent and patiently, they slowly started to creep closer... To our amazement these curious elephants just kept moving towards our jeep. Suddenly, they were just a stones throw away from the road where we sat! It's quite intimidating to be so close to such a massive wild animal. Our guide warned us to stay quiet and keep inside of the jeep, since an angry elephant can flip the vehicle with no problem, yikes!

Needless to say, I couldn't keep my hands from shaking while attempting to take as many pictures as possible. At this moment I was so happy to have be surrounded by well behaved tourists after hearing horror stories of loud jerks being noisy and scaring off the animals. Aside from the strong winds, the only sound we could hear was the clickclickclick of our cameras, snapping rapidly to capture lots of photos. We were all under the assumption that this herd, roughly 20 mothers and calves, would get scared and head in another direction. But no, to our amazement, the entire herd eventually came up to the road and crossed just in front of our jeep!

It was incredible to sit quietly in nature and watch the elephants communicate with one another. They clearly made a plan: one larger elephant stood on alert, eating from shrubs to the left our jeep while keeping a very close eye on us as the others formed clusters protecting the calves to cross the road. If you watch in the video below, one of the curious babies lingers too long watching us and gets a big smack from its mothers trunk. The whole scene probably lasted about 25 minutes total but in my memory it flashed by rather quickly.

Look below for a few photos and a little video, I'm so glad my camera battery stayed alive to capture it all.

I'm curious, what animal would you most look forward to seeing on safari? 

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