Autumn Adventure – Elephants: Cape Vidal’s Highway Patrol

Over the years we’ve visited Cape Vidal, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, many times – our most recent visit was the twelfth time I had been there – but up until this latest visit we’ve only had one fleeting sighting of an Elephant there before. Seeing them so frequently this time around was therefore a real treat! It must be noted that the elephants roaming the shores of Lake St. Lucia have a reputation for cantankerous temperaments; this year January a family were lucky to escape without serious injury when a bull flipped their car on the main road leading to Cape Vidal, and so it goes without saying that we treat them with the utmost respect.

Soon after arriving through the Bhangazi Gate on the 23rd of March we took a detour along the Vlei Loop, where we had our first encounter with a herd of elephants emerging from a dense thicket into the road. Aside from one youngster who wanted to show off his menacing moves, this encounter went off calmly and without incident.

Where the Vlei Loop rejoins the main road we found a lone bull on his way to the iZindondwe Pan, and we couldn’t believe our luck!

After the bull walked off from his drink we got underway ourselves again, only to find the herd of elephants now also at the junction with the Vlei Loop. They were still very calm, though the older cows were keeping a vigilant eye on us, and we could watch them at leisure from our Duster. We especially enjoyed a youngster having a good scratch on a road marker! Eventually the matriarch gave the signal and the entire herd set off in the direction of Mission Rocks.

Well, we thought that it was the entire herd, but as we started rolling this frantic youngster came charging from the thick bush along the road. These “teenage” elephants can be real pranksters so there’s no telling whether he “ambushed” us or were really feeling lost having fallen behind the rest of his herd.

The next morning we were heading to St. Lucia town to stock up on groceries, and just after our picnic breakfast at Mission Rocks we found the herd blocking our way yet again. This time they were solidly laying claim to the road and we were not going to argue their right of way. Besides, elephants walking towards you always make better pictures than elephants walking away!

Eventually the herd reversed us back all the way to the Mission Rocks turnoff, and we thought that was a splendid spot to get out of their way and watch the parade pass in front of us.

What we didn’t know was that a portion of the herd decided to do some bundu-bashing and emerged from the forest immediately next to the spot we chose to watch their family members walk along the road. We very quickly had to start the car and get out of their way, because now THEIR way was blocked by US and they were not happy!

Once the road was clear ahead of us we could return to the junction. Looking right we could see the herd moving along in the direction of Cape Vidal, but as we turned left in the direction of Bhangazi Gate and St. Lucia town, we were stopped in our tracks again by two young stragglers chasing each other around.

Altogether we saw elephants 6 times during our 3 days on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia. We felt really lucky, and know that next time we visit we’re going to recall all these encounters every time we pass the same spots.

Elephant herd blocking the road…again!


30 thoughts on “Autumn Adventure – Elephants: Cape Vidal’s Highway Patrol

  1. Jane Lurie

    What a thrill and how lucky to have this abundance of encounters, Dries. Loved every photo of these magnificent animals. Their behaviors – scratching, flaring, mock charging…such personalities and love within their herd. Thank you! 🙂🐘🐘🐘🐘❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wetanddustyroads

    Ek kan amper nie glo dat julle op vorige besoeke so min olifante gesien het nie … julle het omtrent ‘n fees vir die oog gehad met hierdie besoek! En dis nie sommer net ‘n paar nie, maar groot troppe! Julle foto’s is pragtig en dit was heerlik om (in die veiligheid van my bed) daarna te kyk 😉.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. H.J. for avian101

    This is an epic post! To see so many elephants grouped using the roads. It’s fantastic! I see that the majority are young. I did not see any fully grown bull. The photos are excellent. I imagine that you must be diving and total alert of the herd. Joubert is doing a tremendous job with the camera. Please tell him that. I enjoyed this post a lot. Thanks, D. and Joubert. 🙂 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you very much for the heartwarming comment, H.J, and I will definitely share with Joubert. Indeed, 99.9% of the time when we are in a reserve I am the driver. I love driving. Having Joubert to take care of photographs at times when I need to keep my hands on the steering wheel really is such a boon!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. lois

    You must have been in heaven with these sightings–I know I was! Such great photos from all of you. The youngsters, the babies and those wonderful elephant mamas–this was fantastic, Dries!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sustainabilitea

    An embarrassment of elephant sightings, Dries, and wonderful photos from everyone. Getting your car flipped would ruin your whole day and wouldn’t do your car much good either. But what a grand day for elephants!! Those little ones are so cute.

    Liked by 1 person


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