Autumn Adventure – You “musth” give way to this giant!

Well, we’re back home in Pretoria after a wonderful two weeks exploring the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Lots of stories to tell you in the coming weeks about our trip, and we’re going to start with a sequence of photo’s from yesterday’s drive through the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park to Memorial Gate on our way home.

By 07:30 we had made our way to within 3 kilometers of Hilltop Camp when we found our way blocked by a big male elephant in musth. “Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones” (wikipedia). To top it all this bull had a broken tusk and a sore on his face – even more reason for him to be agitated! Predictably this bull quickly showed us who rules in Hluhluwe – most of the following images were taken by Joubert as I had to concentrate on reversing downhill at speed for much of the half hour that followed.

A few minutes into the encounter a ranger arrived on the scene. Obviously he has much more experience in dealing with irate bull elephants and I would strongly advise against any visitors trying to play chicken with an elephant in such a mood like this ranger did…

With the ranger gone, the bull turned his attention to us again. Eventually he pushed us back about 1.5km to the start of the Mansiya Loop Road, offering us an opportunity to escape. Whether he chose to keep walking along the tar road, or exit onto the Loop road, we’d have an opportunity to pass.

The bull chose to stay on the tar road, so we used to Loop Road to get past him. As we rejoined the main road we could still see him slowly making his way up the hill.

Elephant bull in musth walking along the main road through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

For most of the rest of the way to Hilltop Camp his path of destruction could be seen as parts of trees and bushes littered the roadway.

Big branch lying across the road in the elephant’s wake

Marilize got this shot of Joubert taking pictures of the irate elephant bull with her cellphone.

28 thoughts on “Autumn Adventure – You “musth” give way to this giant!

  1. naturebackin

    Gosh he certainly is impressive and intimidating. It probably didn’t help the situation to have the elephant being followed by a line of cars. Glad you were able to ‘escape’ on the loop road. I wonder what experiences the animals go through in relation to people and vehicles after I read yesterday that 75 rhinos have been killed for their horns in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi alone since the beginning of 2022. Shocking and sad.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Yes, that is a terrible statistic and I hope that the park authorities and law enforcement can crack down on the trend fast. During our visit the presence of armed rangers and police were very clearly on display and I can only wish them well with their enormous task.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Oh absolutely, Kathy. One of the reasons why we keep going back to the bush; you just never know what you will see or experience around the next bend in the road.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      From your lips to God’s ears, Tracy. Joubert would love that!

      For us it was thrilling more than nerve wracking; we know to keep a safe distance. I would never have gone as close as the ranger did. Elephants can and do toss cars like they’re feathers…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Indeed it isn’t rare for elephants to break tusks while uprooting trees or during fights, Anne. Much rarer for them to actually hit a car though and it usually makes the local news when that happens – most visitors to our parks give them the required respect. There was an incident earlier this year near Cape Vidal, which we also visited as part of this trip you will recall: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-01-16-family-survives-after-bull-elephant-batters-and-flips-car-at-lake-st-lucia/

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  2. sustainabilitea

    Another wonderful series, Joubert! I like seeing the elephant with the cars as it gives a wonderful look at how big he really is. I wouldn’t want to mess with him either as I think if he got angry, the car would suffer. Also “liked” seeing his destructive path. Reminds me of a child just breaking something because it could.

    My husband wants to know if the women’s 7’s team is good. They’re coming to Singapore and we’re curious. The All Blacks are coming too and I’m sure the men will be anxious to show that the Boks are not the best in the world. Hopefully that won’t work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      This was a huge bull, Janet, and really actually quite funny seeing him look down at the ranger’s vehicle from so high and still back away. No way I would ever try to do that with an elephant bull in musth but the ranger must have much more experience dealing with situations like this.

      Our women’s team is the best on the continent but sadly not as competitive as the men’s team (yet!). I’ sure now that New Zealand is finally allowed to take part in international competitions again the ‘Boks is happy to have there old rivals back!

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  3. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    I continue to think that we are all blessed to witness Joubert’s path, one that is so unique and special – unconditional love not only from his parents, but from all of us as well.

    He will surely pen a book or more about what it was like – just a normal day/week/month for the three of you – but so very unique for most everyone else.

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  4. Writer Lori

    Wow, what a thrilling series of photos. That bull is quite imperious. We, too, ran into a big bull in musth when we visited the park, and he was equally irritated. It was amazing to watch him, but also the only time during our visit that I was well and truly terrified. Was grateful to have a knowledgeable guide with us to get us safely through the encounter. Kudos to Joubert for so beautifully documenting the encounter. ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. wetanddustyroads

    Gaats, julle het omtrent op ‘n hoogtepunt die park verlaat! Ja-nee, met so ‘n olifant sal ek nie enige kanse waag nie … welgedaan om ongeskonde uit die situasie te kom en aan Joubert om sulke mooi foto’s te neem (en sommer ook aan Marilize wat die aksie agter die aksie vasgevang het) … julle is voorwaar ‘n span!
    Sien uit na al die stories en foto’s!

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Anne

    Well done to Joubert for focusing on the elephant – and bravo to you for reversing all that way. It is fortunate that you were not towing a trailer! I am glad you’re back and look forward to reading the tales as they unfold. We will soon be spending two nights at the Karoo National Park, which will ultimately give me some new ‘blog fodder’ to share 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Luckily I didn’t reverse all the time, Anne. First breather the bull took I used the opportunity to turn around.

      I am sure you are looking forward to your Karoo vist very much. It is such a special Park.

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