Dodging elephants in Northern Kruger

The north of the Kruger National Park is elephant country. When visiting the area, as we did at the end of September (again 😉 ), the problem is not so much finding elephants as it is staying safely out of their way while enjoying the sighting!

Take this bull as an example. When we arrived at the scene, he was standing out in the open in the middle of the road, but immediately then walked, in reverse, to behind this big tree, from where he kept watching us from either side. Having seen this behaviour before, we knew that he was planning an ambush and was just waiting for us to get closer so that he could have some fun with us. We thought better of the challenge and turned back…

Travelling along the rivers in the heat of the day, we came across breeding herds and solitary bulls making their way to the water for a drink and a swim, and resting in the cool shade of the riparian trees.

Kruger is famous for its big tuskers, and we were fortunate again to encounter about half-a-dozen bulls carrying above average ivory. We always cherish sightings of bulls this size as they’re living proof of the successes of those working very hard, day in and day out, to preserve and protect our natural heritage. The Park has a dedicated researcher monitoring these enigmatic animals, to whom you can submit photos and the location of any sightings.

 

If you love elephants as much as we do, then head for the north of the Kruger National Park. You are sure to have some special encounters, and if you treat them with respect, heed their body language and don’t invade their space, you’ll be perfectly safe.

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50 thoughts on “Dodging elephants in Northern Kruger

  1. Pingback: Getting to Pafuri | de Wets Wild

  2. Pingback: Spring in Kruger: September 2014 | de Wets Wild

  3. dendymactoodle

    In the Gonarezhou (Place – or horn – of the Elephants) in the South East of what is now Zimbabwe, as we travelled a very winding road in thick bush we saw an elephant up ahead, and he saw us. He moved back into the trees and just stood there, and although our driver knew what would happen he kept going. Sure enough as we came level round the bend the elephant charged our of the bush, our driver speeded up (but not enough for my liking), with the elephant hot on our heels and closing the gap. With me shouting Go, Go, Go, at last we went faster leaving the elephant behind. But, on looking back, we saw him thoroughly frustrated, enraged, trumpeting and stomping furiously on our tyre tracks in the sand.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Terrific story Dendymactoodle! I can vividly imagine the scene! Isn’t it amazing how they can act all nonchalant, as if they don’t even notice you, sometimes even pretending to feed – but if you look closely you can see them watching you out of the corner of their eye, waiting for you to come closer. I love elephants!

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  4. Spokie sny spoor

    Wow!! Lekerrr … pragtige fotos. Ja nee, die noordelike kant hou jou op jou tone met olifante. En as iemand laat is vir die hek, kan jy maar weet – olifante in die pad!

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  5. joannesisco

    I LOVE elephants and I had no idea they will attempt to ‘hide’ to prepare for an ambush! Thanks for adding the description of the ‘body language’.
    Between you and Bulldog, I’m falling in love with a place I’ve never been to, but hope to visit one day 🙂

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We’re glad to hear our efforts to lure you to our shores are working Joanne 😀 . Thank you for the kind comments! Indeed, elephants are pretty clever and apparently take some pleasure in matching wits with the humans gawking at them!

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  6. donnaanddiablo

    What incredible photos! I had the good fortune to see a number of these magnificent animals on my visit to Krueger–an experience I will always treasure. I recently read “The Elephant Whisperer” by Lawrence Anthony. It was a delightful story and gave me a new level of appreciation for these amazing creatures…. Thank you for sharing your experience with us….

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Lawrence Anthony’s story of his interactions with the elephants at Thula Thula really gives one hope that humans can live with wildlife after all, doesn’t it Lori? You just shouldn’t read a newspaper straight afterwards, ‘coz it will burst your bubble very quickly.

      Thanks for the kind comment!

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      1. donnaanddiablo

        It really does. I think if humans were just a bit more patient and understanding, sometimes, rather than trying to impose their will on nature, we’d be better off. Thanks again for sharing your lovely corner of the world…. 🙂

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  7. bulldog

    Great photos…. I love that you explain your reading of the behaviour of the elephant… so many have no idea what signals they are giving off and it those that cause the demise of some of our tuskers….

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  8. UnderAnAfricanSun

    Lovely photos, we always enjoy seeing elephants and we are sure to give them space and respect. One time in Kruger we had to reverse over 3 km on a small gravel road as a big bull was coming towards us and very determined to get to wherever he was going. We would reverse out of sight and a minute or so later there he was again. Of course this always happens when you need to make it back to camp before closing. We have even been locked out of camp once but at Addo thanks to Valli Moosa in the road. I love reading your posts, you always make me want to start planning my next trip to Kruger, which I am going to try and do before the Dec holidays if possible.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      You are so right Kelly! They have an amazing knack of blocking the road when it’s time to get back to camp. Or when someone in the car BADLY needs a bathroom 😉 . And isn’t it nice to exchange “elephant stories” with other Kruger fans!?

      Hope you got some good photos of Valli Moosa while he was holding you up :-). We saw him only once before, and at quite a distance in fading light, so our photos of him are terrible.

      November’s a great time to visit Kruger; the first baby animals are appearing, the summer greenery is sprouting, the first summer rains start dampening the dust and best of all the Park is relatively quiet human-wise, so the sightings are less cramped. I hope you get an A+ booking 😉

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      The stories we could tell you about sneaky elephants Linda!

      Sometimes they’re just having a bit of fun, other times they could be genuinely aggressive. That’s why you should never take chances with them, always be respectful and give them their space. Some visitors underestimate them dearly; YouTube is full of video clips of elephants turning over vehicles in Kruger and in all the examples it is plain to see that the people were too close and not paying attention to the warning signs the elephants were showing them…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That they certainly are! Th confident swagger of a bull in musth, the protective cows herding their youngsters across the road, the playful calves trying to intimidate you with outstretched ears and head held high. No other animals I know has so much charisma.

      I’m sure you must have had several unexpected encounters with them in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe?

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      1. mjculverphotography

        It’s gorgeous right now. Blue skies, low humidity….sigh and lower temperatures. I even have the windows open this morning and the air conditioner is off!! Blissful but it only last a short time in Florida 😉

        Both of us will make use of it while we can. Do I hear my Harley calling my name?

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