A silence fell over the day. An earthy scent mixed on the cool morning air and I sensed a familiar calm. It was time to venture back into the South African bush and re-ignite my passion with this land. Little did I know I would fall in love all over again, with 4000 kilograms of wrinkles.
Three African elephants that call Buffelsdrift Lodge home eagerly awaited their breakfast. With a bucket of fruit in hand and my breath ready to be taken away, I approached these gentle giants in pure amazement and awe.
Having seen elephants up close from a game viewing vehicle, the first thing that blew me away was the sheer size of these animals as I stood next to them. I looked up at the towering mass of wrinkles caked in dried mud from his last visit to the waterhole.
My eyes were met by a big brown friendly eye which was guarded by the longest lashes I have seen. To stare into an African elephant’s eye like that brought tears to my eyes. What a magical connection.
Holding the gaze and feeling as if he felt it too, the elephant lifted his enormous trunk and wrapped it around me in a welcoming elephant hug. Smelling of an earthy musk, the heavy trunk rested around me awhile.
The folds of wrinkles felt rough like leather, covered by coarse hair. Unable to help myself, I gave him a kiss on the trunk before rewarding him with a tasty treat of pear.
Encouraged by the guide who watched over the encounter, I stuck my hand curled around a pear into the elephant’s mouth. Not letting go of the prized treat straight away, I rubbed his tongue teasingly. This triggered him to open his mouth wider; a deadly pair of tusks cradled me from under his trunk.
Toying with an animal that could crush me instantly didn’t seem wise and so I released the pear onto his tongue. At that moment I am almost certain I saw him smile, which extended to a smiling glint in his eyes. He was happy, and so was I.
After the personal encounter with the elephants it was time to take a stroll along the dam wall down to the waterhole. I could see the elephants enjoyed the interaction as much as I did, and couldn’t wait to see these mighty mammals moving freely.
Walking a slow peaceful saunter between such gigantic masses was humbling. Each lift of the elephant’s foot seemed careful and measured and was placed down again as gently as it took off. They were footsteps that had such purpose, direction and meaning.
The elephant interaction was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in South Africa to date. They say an elephant never forgets, and neither will I.