My experience with the elephants of Thula Thula.

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“There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks great fires and the sea.”- Peter Matthiessen.

 

 

Returning to Thula Thula and being greeted by part of the elephant herd. The interesting part is that you do not have to look for them. If they wish to interact, they will find you! As turned out to be the case on our very first drive on Day 1 of our stay. The interactions with these pachyderms were almost surreal as they got as close to us as any wild elephants have ever been. And more importantly, there was no feeling of fear or intimidation. But I have to be aware that at other parks not all elephants are this relaxed. Having been in a couple of life-threatening elephant situations before made me hyper-aware, but the demeanor of these particular animals made me feel that I could relax and enjoy the experience.

 

 

This particular youngster has already tried to eat the canopy and taste the dashboard! But once again, in a non-threatening way.

 

 

When an elephant THIS large steps out from behind a bush, you very definitely sit up and take notice. Once again, he was so close when he strode by that it was almost impossible to take a picture. He loomed above the vehicle with a commanding presence, yet at the same time, his demeanour was one of a relaxed interest rather than an aggressive superiority.

 

 

There is an old adage that says “How do you eat an elephant”? and the answer is “One piece at a time”! It is the same when you try to photograph them. And it seems that one piece at a time works…

Did you know that the trunk of an elephant has more than 40000 muscles? Allowing it to tear down huge branches or pick up a single blade of grass. Could you imagine if humans had that level of dexterity? That won’t happen any time soo as we  Homo sapiens only have a total of 600 muscles. Many humans have two left feet or are all thumbs when it comes to performing tasks that require fine motor skills.

 

 

 

There is wisdom beyond our understanding that can be seen in the eye of one of these gentle giants.

 

 

 

Mid-afternoon snack time. Eye spy? It was about all that I could get in focus given how close this animal was to our vehicle.

 

 

Striding purposefully along the side of the road, this particular individual decided that we were not worth too much attention. After a brief sniff, he sauntered off to go and do what ellies do best…eat, pee and poop. Although not necessarily in that order.

 

 

We found this group on the way back to the lodge. Milling about at the edge of the dam, drinking and having fun.

 

 

Humans pay BIG money at beauty salons for a treatment like this. Here the herd gets it for free.

 

 

Checking the quality of the mud?

 

 

Each of the following images highlights the difference between the tusks on several individuals in the herd.

 

 

This is the pointy end…the one that you DO NOT want to mess with. Tusks are as individual as fingerprints and each elephant can be easily identified by them.

 

 

Glistening water drops on the chin hair of this individual…

 

 

And to think that they are still hunted for the ivory! You would think that in 2021 there are enough man-made products that replicate ivory so that the need to poach would have been eradicated.

 

 

In the fading light, the last member of the herd bids us farewell. The length of the tusks is ALMOST equal to the width of the game viewer vehicle!

 

 

The end of another perfect day in Africa!

 

 

 

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