On our second day in South Africa we were up early because we had to get to Johannesburg airport to start the next part of our exciting adventure.
Today was the day that we were heading on a 5 day Safari. EEEK!!
Words honestly can’t describe how excited I was.
We got to the airport about 20 minutes before the meet up time and had time to grab some food and a coffee, before our Safari Rangers P.J and Andre turned up. We did the usual introductions and conversation and got told that we had 6 more people joining us, who are being picked up from their hotel. Before we set off we were given two options. Option 1 we go straight to the lodge, which is about a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg or Option 2 we go meet some elephants at a place 3 hours from Johannesburg and then from there go to the lodge.
Yes I said go meet some elephants!!
I’m usually totally against these kind of meet the animal experiences, because more often than not the animals are treated despicably and have been taken from the wild for tourists entertainment. So when I heard this was possible, which I knew about before we came on our trip, I had said to my mum that I would love to do it but only if the elephants were treated well and had been rescued from horrible situations.
After checking that the elephants are happy, not drugged or treated badly and aren’t taken from the wild to be stuck in some place purely for tourists pleasure, we decided rather excitedly that we were going to go with this option.
The excitement from there was unreal. I’m honestly surprised I managed to sit still for the 3 hour drive there without singing ‘I’m meeting elephants, i’m meeting elephants’ constantly… which is what was going on in my head.
3 hours later and we were there. I had to stop myself doing the excited dance.. You know the one I mean right? The little hop jump shake your hips excited one? Yeah that.
Walking into the Sanctuary we saw two cute little warthogs with their tales standing on end whilst they walked, so cute!
From there we went to the waiting area whilst Andre sorted everything out. The waiting room had loads of massive boards telling you all different facts about elephants, including how many African elephants are killed for their tusks each year and how many African elephants there were 30 years ago, in comparison to now. I never knew any of this and it absolutely broke my heart.
Did you know that roughly 100 African elephants are killed EACH DAY by poachers who are mainly after their tusks?
The board also explained the reason the elephants were in the Sanctuary, how many elephants they have, and their names. It was all really interesting to read.
After reading all the boards we continued our wait for the elephants, who we were told were being brought down from the top lake.
Then all of a sudden we saw them coming along and instantly my eyes brimmed with tears.
There were 4 adults and 2 babies. They were all so beautiful and magnificent looking.
The 4 adult elephants had been rescued to stop them being culled and then the 2 babies had been born whilst at the Sanctuary.
They stopped at the bottom lake to have a little drink before they were brought over to the interaction section ready for us to interact with them.
When I say brought down or over, they didn’t have chains round their neck or anything like that, they just had their grooms walking behind them and saying come on, like you would with a dog.
Once they were at the interaction area the experience started.
We got shown how clever elephants are, and how they remember who is who based on their smell, this was shown by giving the elephant a hat and saying ‘take the hat to Georgia’ and then also them being given someone’s shoe and them being asked who’s shoe it was.. and they would then hand the shoe back to the rightful owner. So incredible! I couldn’t believe how intelligent they were.
And then we got to feed them.
And then we got to stroke them.
And then we got our photos taken with them.
And then my mum also got a big wet slobbery kiss from one of them.
This experience was honestly one of the best things I have ever done. I was in love, I was in awe and I wanted to stay with them forever.
However, whilst this experience was so incredible, I must admit that the only thing I wasn’t so keen on at the time was the elephants being fed food pellets by their grooms, which kinda seemed like a reward for showing us all how amazing they are.
But I suppose a little food reward is way better than being drugged or being hit and controlled with a rod or stick.
And better than anything else, they are safe from poachers.
Thinking back on it after my little in my head wobble about the food pellets, I have realised that this is the best place for them to be and at least they aren’t treated the same way as some animals are treated in other ‘Meet the animals’ places, such as Tiger Kingdom in Thailand. So I am now at peace with the interaction.
They are safe and they are not being treated cruelly or inhumanely and at the end of the day that is all that really matters.
Their website is https://adventureswithelephants.com so if you want you can check them out and learn a little bit more about who they are and what they do.
If you are ever in the area, I really recommend a visit there. Go see for yourself. I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you have any questions please send me an email or comment below.
Thanks for reading.