Thursday, July 26, 2007

Elephant Encounter!

On our third day in South Africa, we went to the Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park to get a wider variety of animal sighting opportunities. Not long after we arrived, we saw a couple of elephants behind some bushes on the right side of the car and the driver pulled forward some and stopped. We said, "look, on the right!" but he just laughed and said "check out the left side." Not 20 yards away there was a herd of maybe 10-15 elephants, slowly working their way through the trees towards the road.

One by one, they passed a short way in front of our truck, usually stopping to flap their ears and look at us as if to say "Hey, don't mess with me!" and then they crossed into a giant muddy area where they started rolling around, and in some cases playing with each other in the mud. A couple of adorable baby elephants joined in the fun, one of them got some mud in his eye and was trying to remove it using his trunk the way we might use the palm of our hand to mush something out of our eye.

A couple of younger elephants were playing off to the side. Chasing each other around, mock-attacking each other and pushing them to the ground. They looked like they were having a blast. I swear one of them looks like he's smiling in this shot...

After about ten minutes of watching this, a young bull came up the road and right up to our truck. Armand clapped his hands once to tell him to chill out and then the elephant just stood there, right at the end of the hood and ate some grass for a few minutes -- just a few feet in front of us! Now, with the long lens on, you're not going to get any full body shots of this, but it was a great time to get the closeups to see how amazingly textured their skin is. He raised his trunk once to tap the top of our truck and Armand said "ah.. ah.." to him, then he wandered off to play with the other elephants. It was really reamarkable to have them so close to us, but even cooler to watch a person who is so experienced with them communicate with the elephants and keep them from getting too frisky.

We saw a variety of other animals in the park over the rest of the day, including a white rhino that was quite the poser but the highpoint of the day, and perhaps the week, was watching the elephants just playing and romping in the mud.

1 comment:

Emily Patterson-Kane said...

Love the elephant shots!