If you’ve ever taken a gander around the ranger stations or visitor centres in the parks in South Africa, you might come across a few postings and bulletins reminding you to respect the wildlife with pictures of cars and jeeps rolled into ditches. And rightly so. Because if you’ve ever been chased by an elephant, you get the idea that they really aren’t kidding.
In addition to getting loved, oo-ed and ah-ed over, and necessity for being protected by international anti-poaching laws, elephants ought to be respected. Their sheer mass commands it. Thusly, this is purely anecdotal, a memory rekindled by a blurred photograph, and simply a gentle reminder of how awesome they are. (See the inspiration at the bottom of this post.)
While exploring the stunning parks in South Africa, there are quite a few occasions where a bull elephant might non-chalantly saunter along the road, blocking passage and casting a rueful glare if you creep too close. But even if you give a wide berth, sometimes your mere presence is just annoying. (Tourists tend to be like that).
I distinctly remember one bull in Kruger who decided he would flap his ears and threaten our van, taking a few steps toward us while the driver gunned his engine to back off before finally revving around him when our roadblock gave way.
But my favourite elephantine-altercation was at another park.
After being held up in a traffic jam while enjoying a safari – and by “traffic jam”, I do mean being caught in the middle of a herd of elephants that decided they would celebrate their social gathering across the only road that passed through that section of the park – we made our way around a bluff and found ourselves caught at the back of a line of cars waiting to crest the next hill.
Oh, but why? Por favor!
Well, at the top of that hill, where the road ran right along the edge of the bluff, was a very large elephant, its wee tail raised and massive Dumbo-ears spread, chasing a car backwards back down the hill. Naturally, everyone in wait, backed up to give that poor driver and their likely-slightly-terrified passengers some escape room. After about 20 metres, the bull was content that his point was received and, after a satisfactory humph ambled back up the hill to take up his roost at the crest.
And we waited.
…watching that bull exercise his authority with all the pride due a physique that impressive.
A few drivers turned around to double-back and presumably take the long way around, but eventually, that bull got bored and wandered aside.
One by one, the cars would creep up the hill, then gun it past when it was evidently safe to do so. Occasionally, the bull would turn around and terrify the crap out of another car-load of pesky tourists, as if the startled looks on their faces brought him simple joy. Feeling obviously chuff with his power to intimidate the wiggly little creatures inside, he’d wander off again, leaving just enough room for cars to squeak by.
When it was at last our turn, I was glad to be seated on the left side of the van to hopefully snap a photo in passing. The bull decided he would amble back, and after a momentary hesitation to gauge his path, our driver floored it past while the bull watched with smug satisfaction.
I can’t even tell you how sad I was that it was blurred… but I don’t think I could have actually expected anything better, considering…
Still, this is still one of my favourite photos of an elephant. And possibly just because of the morning it reminds me of. :)
You can view the latest TROG PHLOG right here for a gallery of the highlights from the Addo Elephant National Park.