Riding on Elephants | Addo Elephant Back Safaris

Elephant handlers riding the elephants.
The once-in-a-life-time, definitely tick-off-the-bucket-list opportunity of riding on the back of an African Elephant in the Addo region of the Eastern Cape is an incredible experience that is not to be missed. Reading the information aloud; "bordering the Addo Elephant National Park, Addo Elephant Back Safaris is situated off the N10 110 kilometres (68.3 miles) from Port Elizabeth" we climb into our car on a beautiful sunny morning, and begin our adventure.

It has been a dream of mine for many years to experience an Elephant back ride. Elephants are without a doubt my favourite animals. Their magnificent, powerful, hefty size. Their long eye lashes. Their deeply carved wrinkles and their incredible grace mean that they hold a fascination for me - a fascination that was seeded many years ago when I first went on safari with my family as a child.

The Addo Elephant Back Safaris centre is located on the heart of the Zuurberg Mountains and the scenery and landscape is beautiful. As we were asked to, we arrived at the Elephant Back Safaris day centre 25 minutes before our tour. Well we were actually 5 minutes late, but who's checking? We are greeted by huge smiles from the staff members and are offered a much appreciated cold drink. We start to get excited as we chat to the other visitors around us and the anticipation starts to mount. Luckily we aren't kept waiting for too long as we soon hear and then see a line of Elephants walking towards us through the bushes.

Accompanied by their handlers, the Elephants saunter over to us and the handlers dismount. Walking down to where the Elephants are I am struck by just how big these giants of the African bush really are. Towering above me their tucks jut out and their inquisitive trunks wander through the air - taking in the new smells. They are checking me out as much as I am checking them out!

The guides ask the Elephants to kneel and bow and we are allowed to get closer and greet the Elephants. Their skin is hard and course. We get to feel their paper thin ears and wet, sensitive trunks. While we are getting acquainted the guides teach us all about the Elephants; how they cool themselves down, what they eat and how they sleep. It is a truly amazing feeling to be so close to these beautiful animals.

After we have had some time to get to know each other, we return to the top of the day centre podium and the Elephants line up alongside the building. We are helped onto their wide backs, positioned behind the guides,and away we go. It was recommended that we wear long pants and suddenly you understand why; though their skin looks soft and wrinkled it is actually very hard and their coarse hair is quite prickly. What a surprise!The Elephants saunter through the bush, softly moving through the landscape. They effortlessly carry us up a hill, stepping over a tree branch that is lying in the pathway. We look all around us as we move forward, rocking gently from side to side to the rhythm of their walk.

Once the walk is over it is time to reward the Elephants for their time and we are allowed to feed them some of their favourite treats as a way of saying thank you. It is then time for us to say goodbye and to go and enjoy a meal. The Elephants walk with us up to the restaurant and then we wave goodbye, feeling as if we are saying goodbye to a friend.

The feeling of being so close to nature is highly rewarding and one that is definitely worth experiencing, at least once in your lifetime. The entire excursion lasts around 2.5 - 3 hours and there are 3 interactions per day at specific times.

By Katie EdgeFor excellent Elephant Back Safaris stay at Addo Elephant Safari Lodge or enquire about day tours.

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