Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Won't Forget You Either

Our first encounter with The Big Five came at Addo Elephant National Park where - you guessed it- we saw a ton of elephants. But the park has a lot more than just ellies. They also have the flight-less dung beetle.

We arrived at the park at 6:00 am when the gates opened and drove ourselves around for a few hours before our scheduled game drive. Immediately we saw elephants on the side of the road. We also saw ugly but endearing warthogs, elegant ostriches and beautiful kudus with their meter long spiraling antlers. You can get amazingly close to these gigantic animals. They just continue chewing on the closest bush and sometimes cross in front of your car.

I was excited to leave the driving to someone else and climb into an open air Land Rover for our safari drive through the park. Our driver was not afraid to pull right up to the elephants. The excitement level kicked up a notch when we heard there was a lion down the way. We hurried to get there stopping only to see some elephant babies with their moms. We sped past antelope and ostriches and took a right at the buffalo carcass. And there she was, about 200 feet away just sunning herself and checking us out. After a crowd gathered the lioness headed back into the bush.

Back in the Hyundai we sat for a while at a watering hole watching a family of elephants nap, nuzzle and assert their masculinity.

Heading out of the park, we rounded a corner and saw a huge male elephant walking on the dirt road. It wasn't the first elephant we'd seen in the middle of the road but this one was marching directly towards us. I quickly hit the car in reverse to give the alpha male some space. Our hearts were racing as he continued to advance on us. Finally we got to a part in the road wide enough to pass him. 'What a great way to end the day,' we thought as we continued towards the gate. Not even two minutes later, just as I said the word 'awesome,' an enormous male kudu bounded out of the bush landing almost on top of the car. I slammed on the brakes and it was already back in the air jumping over the hood and landing on the other side of the road, before jumping out of sight. That is why there are speed limits in African National Parks.


Addie said...

I love elephants. They are my favoite animals. They are strong women and dedicated mothers...very jelous yall were so CLOSE to such magical creatures! I glad the elephant decided to share the road. A W E S O M E!!

foster said...

Eye contact with elephants! Unforgettable! I'm so impressed with the clarity of your photos..all that wrinkly texture and eyelashes! And those babies!

Mary Moore said...

Ditto,ditto, Temple you know my love for elephants, and oh, the babies, how precious, your photos are fabulous, Natl Geographic quality, m