These revered encounters have got to be the closest one gets to the ultimate wildlife experience. Mounted High above the grass and reeds, enjoy an undisturbed connection with the magnificent host beneath you, prolific wildlife and the breathtaking wilderness surroundings. Africa Safaris offers a comprehensive Elephant Back Safari where the entire focus is on riding and interacting with Elephants.
:: Randall Moore’s Elephant back safaris
Elephants are complete hedonists. Their stately being is animated by a streak of pure frivolity. Always unthreatened, except of course by drought and man, they have been able to cultivate and polish a daily routine of relaxed enjoyment, eating, bathing, meditating and going for long walks through bush and that is exactly what this safari is all about. Randall Moore’s unique Abu’s Camp has elaborated this lifestyle into a series of dreamlike adventures, simple dawn and sunset rambles or daylong outings across the floodplains in the company of Africa’s finest traveling companions. There is no better way of interacting with the wilderness and wildlife of the Okavango Delta.
Randall Moore pioneered the use of African Elephants for Elephant back safaris. The safaris are based at Abu Camp, which is named after Abu, the lead African Elephant. Abu, the legendary tusker star of such motion pictures as “White Hunter, Black Heart”, “Circles in the Forest”, “Power of One”, leads the herd of twelve elephants with matriarch Cathy, Benny the gentle giant and the dependable Mthondo Mbomvo. The nine youngsters range from independent-minded teenagers like Thando to the lovable, cheeky youngster Seba, and new arrival Pula born late last year. Guests get to know them all and will be enthralled by the interaction between as they move in stately, silent grandeur through the bush.
The Camp concealed in an ancient riverine forest, consists of five custom built, stylishly furnished tents with en-suite bathrooms. The private, tree-shaded deck with hammocks overlooks a lagoon frequented by a myriad of bird and animal life. Facilities include a raised dining and bar area with deck and a curio shop. An expert safari chef offers a variety of mouth-watering bush cuisine.
The Elephant back Safaris on the six adult elephants with the family of youngsters in tow are generally offered twice daily. The Elephants walk at approximately 5 miles an hour and each safari lasts between 2 to 3 hours. All outings are accompanied by a professional guide who is licensed by the Botswana government and has several years of experience with the African wildlife. Guests are transported in large comfortable custom made saddles into the shimmering watercolor of the Delta, on the most effective of all “4x4’s”. An Elephant is able to cope in water and sand with equal ease and can get really close to other game, which is generally unaware of the human presence aloft. The real adventure lies in the extraordinary experience of the Elephants perspective, walking beside them or riding high through the bush. The youngsters cavort and roll in the water, wander off and come charging back. The adults amble quietly on, browsing, snapping off the odd branch to munch on as they go. Expressive long-lashed eyes reveal patience, mischief and pleasure. The herds of giraffe, zebra and antelope are unconcerned by the approach of the Elephant herd of which guests are a privileged part. No effort has been spared to ensure that guests enjoy this unique experience in total comfort and safety.
Game drives are offered in Landcruisers, which have been specially built for game viewing and photography. Game viewing in mokoros, guided nature walks, night game drives and fishing are also available.
:: The Elephant Camp, Victoria Falls
The Elephant Camp offers one of the newest and most thrilling safari experiences in Africa, making it possible to not view wildlife from the back of an elephant, but more importantly to share a day in the life of an African Elephant at close quarters.
“An age-old concept a new adventure”, aptly describes The Elephant Camp. Situated only 20km’s west of Victoria Falls on 35000 acres of privately owned wildlife estate.
All Elephants at the Elephant Camp, including Miz Ellie, Jumbo and Jack are orphans from culling operations, and rather than spending their lives in a zoo far from their natural habitat, are able to interact with both humans and wild animals on a daily basis.
The Elephant Camp accommodates just 8 guests ensuring maximum interaction with the Elephants as well as an intimate and homely atmosphere. Accommodation is in 4 thatched en suite chalets, with a central dining/lounge area, swimming pool with raised deck for meals outdoors or “under the stars”, all with sweeping views of the estate.
A number of activities are offered, with emphasis on spending time with the Elephants either game viewing from their backs, picnicking with them on the Estate, grooming and feeding them or just experiencing the pleasure of being close to such magnificent animals. Game drives, both day and night, as well as walking safaris and trips to Vic Falls are also included.
:: Elephant interaction at Stanley’s Camp [Please note: Only interaction, no riding]
Set in an amphitheatre of ebony and sausage tree on the southern tip of Chief’s Island, Stanley’s Camp sits amidst 260000 acres of untamed African Bush. Bordering the southern section of the famous Moremi Game Reserve, this private concession is located by definition in the seasonal delta. That said, the high water regimes of the past 4 years, has seen water in residence year round. The area is home to a wide variety of big game including Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe, Hippo, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, and Wild dog.
The Elephant activities at Stanley’s Camp focus on the educational interaction between guest and Elephant. Please note that there is no riding offered. Elephant activities are offered in two sessions: “Meet the herd” and “Join the herd” and depend on time constraints of guests including length of stay, arrival and departure times.
The Meet the herd late afternoon session is approximately 2.5 hours and includes a basic introduction, seasonal mokoro trail and sundowners. The Elephant hosts briefing covers safety instructions on Elephants and other wild animals; comprehensive details of the Elephants, radio communication, protection and first aid. Guests are introduced to and are able to touch the Elephants. Elephant facts such as social structure, form and function will be shared throughout. Just after sunset a game drive vehicle arrives and transports guests back to camp. The Join the herd morning session is approximately 4 hours and includes a full introduction, foraging walks and brunch. The Elephant host outlines the morning ahead and gives a full briefing. The Elephants enjoy interacting with guests and many structures channels have been devised for this. Personal interaction is essential is developing the guest’s bonding and sense of kinship with the Elephants. Guests lead an Elephant while it gently rests it’s trunk tip in their hand and are invited to experience an Elephant kiss [Thembi gently pinches the skin of the guest’s offered cheek and makes “kissing noises”] Different interaction themes and techniques are used than that of the previous afternoon. During the course of the day there is ongoing discussion with guests and numerous themes are explored the physical Elephant sensory systems, ecology, management and conservation issues, the basis of man’s relationship with Elephants, intelligence etc. After the previous afternoon activity, the foraging walk is like being with old friends. The Elephants stop to feed and while reviewing feeding strategies, guests observe how the Elephant’s trunk, feet and tusks work together to allow amazing versatility in feeding. Discussion on other animals, birds, the vegetation and their relevance to Elephants takes place en route. The walk ends at a picnic spot under large shaded trees near a lagoon for a luxurious brunch. The Elephant’s are fed a pre-cut fodder close to the table so their presence can be enjoyed. While guests relax in the shade after brunch, Jabu demonstrates a number of vocalizations on cue. The different noises that include rumbles, screaming, squeaking and trumpeting and their significance are explained. A vehicle then arrives to collect guest and transfer them back to the lodge.
For more on Abu Camp and Elephant back Safaris, please click here