Prepare properly for your African safari by knowing your Jumbo facts, ensuring utmost fun while staying out of harm’s way. We discuss 6 things to keep in mind while on safari.
South Africa is blessed with a healthy population of the African elephant, particularly in the Kruger Park, where approximately 17 000 elephant roam freely. That is almost one elephant per km².
While we are preparing to leave this part of the world for a while, we want to share a few things we have learnt.
#1 Warnings are not irrelephant
The proverbial “elephant in the room” is the fact that elephants generally look docile and most of the time they are. They don’t have an aggressive disposition but add tourist stupidity to the equation and Jumbo will ensure that clean underwear becomes necessary.
Unless you are accompanied by an official game warden, space or distance is the key to safety. Common sense also works well.
#2 Add insurance to that car rental contract
Sometimes an elephant will come very close to a vehicle, in a friendly manner, because no threat is perceived. Although it creates amazing photo opportunities and long lasting memories, be aware that Jumbo might have an itch in need of a scratch. If your rental car becomes the preferred scratch pad you will have some explaining to do at the rental return office.
#3 Enjoy responsibly
An irritated elephant will show it’s annoyance through a number of signs: one foot rocking up and down, holding ears out instead of gently flapping, shaking of the head, tail held stiff out and trumpeting.
If the annoyance doesn’t stop, a mock charge might be forthcoming to warn intruders of a pending elephant spanking. With a mock charge the ears are fanned out, head is held high and loud trumpeting is done.
When the spanking becomes imminent, the real charge will follow: the ears are pinned back against its head, the head is held down and the trunk is curled inwards.
To witness an elephant charge is awe-inspiring. To cause one is stupid.
#4 Jumbo’s testosterone means “back off”
Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behaviour, accompanied by testosterone levels as much as 60 times greater than usual.
One sign of musth is the dribble that you sometimes see on the temples of a bull elephant. But be aware that this is not exclusive to bulls in musth, it can also be exhibited by other elephants, including calves.
The really important sign to look out for is a constant dribble of a foul smelling urine down the back of his legs. This is a sure sign that the elephant is in musth and should be treated with space and respect, otherwise, he won’t be the only one with a wee problem!
#5 Size does matter
Jumbo doesn’t really run, he gaits; he has a fast gait with which he can reach a speed of 30km/h. Not very fast, but combine that speed with an animal that can reach 3,3m at the shoulder and kick up dust like an army tank, you have a dreadnought. Then add a trumpet of 112dB (intolerably loud) and you can understand how an adult bull has right of way – his way.
#6 Pick your tree carefully
Jumbo can reach a snack as high as 7m off the ground. That is about the height of a double storey house roof – the ridge that is. And with a trunk tip as nimble as your fingers, your safari suit will be unbuttoned in a jiffy.
And if you are higher than that you may ask? Well, Jumbo might just push over the entire tree – he is all of 7 tonnes of testosterone fuelled savanna muscle, versus the tree you picked. Pick with care!
“When you have an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run” – Abraham Lincoln
I would love to have your thoughts, please share your elephant story with us.
PS: What did the elephant say to the nude man? “Cute, but can you breathe through it?”