Driving Etiquette Amongst Wild Elephants~

It is important to know proper etiquette when self driving among ellies. First you need to know that elephants love to eat and run,
and they love to cross roads.
They especially love eating and running whilst crossing roads.
But more than all these things combined, they love to block roads. What do you do when an elephant blocks the road?
You wait.
The worst thing of course is to inadvertently block the path of an irritable, lone bull elephant in musk, in pursuit of his disinterested, and fast disappearing, beloved.
What do you do when this happens?
Pray you can get the heck out of his way.
Elephants love to knock over trees, and they even love to try and knock over trees, they can’t knock over.
What do you do when this happens?
Watch, until the ellie gets really frustrated at the tree, and then get the heck out of his way.
The biggest tip to keep in mind when driving among wild ellies?
Do whatever the ellie wants you to do, cuz they really are so much bigger than you!
Cheers to you from South Africa’s intelligent, incredible, irreplaceable Pachyderms!

264 thoughts on “Driving Etiquette Amongst Wild Elephants~

  1. These photos make me feel like I’m right there seeing the elephants along with you Cindy! You captured so much detail (e.g., their skin texture). The one with the elephant facing the viewer is my favorite. And yep, animals do have their own sense of personal space and we need to give them that.

    Not sure if you heard about the recent tragic story about an American tourist (Game of Thrones special effects editor) getting mauled by a lioness out in South Africa recently… the lioness jumped right into the car through an open window. So sad. Please be safe out there Cindy! <3 ~Lynn

    1. Yes, I did read about her and it is a horrible, tragic situation. She was in a lion breeding facility and tourist place, where the lions are enclosed and not free, and tourists drive through to see them in these up close enclosures. Her window was open when the lion approached directly next to her. I have seen a video of a lioness opening a car door when a tourist didn’t lock their door. So glad you like the facing ellie. I wasn’t sure about including that pic but it was part of the real story!
      Cheers to you Lynn and hope all is well~

      1. Yes, I encountered the video of the lioness opening the car door as well. It was very surprising in one way but, judging from how curious our own domestic cats are (boyfriend’s cat tried has been trying to turn the doorknob ever since seeing us open doors multiple times), I can see this happening. Despite wild cats and domestic cats being so different in size, they still exhibit similar behaviors!

    1. We got charged once on our prior trip, not when we were driving because we are very respectful of the ellies, but when a ranger was, and he purposely antagonized the ellie. Not something we wanted to repeat!

  2. These are stunning captures of ellies. Sounds like lots of waiting. πŸ™‚ I can’t imagine what is like to be there and see what you saw. So in awe. Thank you for the post, Cindy. <3

    1. Thank you more for the kind appreciation Amy. We have gotten delayed and up close and personal with all sorts of pachyderms, rhino, huge herds of cape buffalo, hippos. It is like nothing else in the world~ <3

  3. Oh, and the same applies if you block the way between mother and child, even an adult one: get the heck out of there. Says someone with a few last minute escapes πŸ™‚ Gorgeous photos, Cindy!

    1. Yes! We got in between a mother hippo and her baby on land. I have never seen two more terrified animals and mama was seriously dangerous. Lions take advantage of these situations.

  4. Incredible shots, Cindy. Powerful and enormous animals. I believe they are in charge of the ball field and they win automatically. I’m glad you are playing it safe. I take it you are doing your own driving. 🐘🐘🐘

    1. They can and wonderful that they don’t! I was just reading the extensive history of dolphins rescuing humans in trouble in the sea and yet humans butcher them with nets and round ups. Elephants are the same. Kinder than many people!

  5. They have an expression of such dignity. I would find quite amazing to witness so many elephants crossing the river. Thanks Cindy, elephants are among my dearest animals.

  6. Impressive photos, Cindy. I love these! Elephants are so awesome. btw, I’ve never seen an elephant, except for at the zoo, so I’m glad you’ve shared these.

    1. They are so impressive in the wild. All these large matriarch led herds and lone bulls. Just such impressive creatures. So happy you appreciated them Lori!

  7. These elephants are phenomenal and your trip must be one for the record books. Thanks for taking us all along with you on this wild ride.

    peace, Linda

    1. Yes, to both. Multiple sightings. A very unusual sighting of hyenas mating at night that I got photos of. And a leopard sleeping on a tree! All the big five and so much more!

  8. Love the photos…. now if only more tourist understood the ellie rules we would not see them being shot because of ignorance of the driver. … you’ve got some great shots

    1. I love the herd views. I have lots more of them of course. Views of huge numbers of them coming single file to the river and lining up like dominos along the bank to drink~

    1. Hugs back to you my friend and yes it was especially fun to drive up to Oliphants and live surrounded by all these herds who come daily to the river to drink~

  9. Great pictures. It does look like you had a good time. You’re very lucky to find elephants roaming wild in London. I’ve been looking for years, I’ve only found the pink ones. πŸ˜€

      1. You are constantly cracking me up Graham…….tThat would be quite a predicament. Maybe you should carry a mouse with you at all times. Heffelumps (not woozles) are scared to death of meeses! πŸ˜‰ A blogger reminded me of this……

    1. This was our second trip to Africa. You would not believe how many how to manuals and you tube videos my husband and I watched before the first trip to learn how to drive safely among ellies, rhinos and cape buffalo!

    1. Never on this trip by anything except a male baboon that chased me away. On our first trip though we were charged by an elephant. This happened when were on one our few game drives with a ranger who was a problematic person. (Most rangers are wonderful people.) This ranger drove his rover right up to a raging solo bull in musk and antagonized him by inching closer and closer despite the ellie’s increasing fury. Finally the ellie charged. The ranger tried to outrun him on the dirt road but the road ended so he pulled the rover around, made us jump out and cocked his rifle and aimed at the ellie. The ellie had a healed bullet hole in his ear. He saw the rifle, pulled up to a stop, and wheeled around and walked away. I need to emphasize this incident was entirely the ranger’s fault. He ignored every sign the ellie gave us to leave him in peace. I was really terrified he was going to shoot the elephant and I doubt I could have tolerated it.
      I will never forget two things about this incident, the way the ellie’s ears stood out and flapped as he charged at us, and the way my son’s face looked while it was happening. He looked full of wonder at the amazing elephant. They are such amazing creatures.

      1. That was an amazing and terrifying experience Cindy, and one you will never forget. What a stupid man that ranger was. I hope he was dismissed from service. Thank goodness the elephant stopped it would’ve been so sad if it had been shot.

  10. Great photos Cindy! Best time of year to be in the park (and September /October) – as the bush grass is not as high as in summer, so you can see lots!
    So glad you are enjoying the trip here!
    Are you going to the coast or the mountains too?

    1. Yes, this was our second trip, both at this time of year. The other benefit is that in May the park is not full of tourists and you have many places to yourself with the critters. We are home now, but were there for three weeks. We stayed in and then around the park as we come mostly for the animals and the incredible scenery. We missed Blyde Canyon and have never been to Cape Town or the coast. We wanted to go to Mauritis, but we had been traveling for six weeks and it was time to come home.

    1. They are peaceable and gentle creatures if you respect them, and it is wonderful to be around them, especially father north in the park up by the Oliphants River where they congregate in great herds.

  11. Just a thought – if you’re going back to O.R. Tambo airport, you will be passing pretty close to us (we’re in Centurion). If you have any time available, we could meet up? Be great to meet you. My email :robmcshane7@gmail.com (can give you more details there!).

    1. Oh my gosh, I wish I got this earlier, before we just left. I would so love to meet a South African blogger, mostly because I want to absorb your knowledge of this incredible place. As soon as I leave, I already miss it, and think about coming back~

      1. Great! We’ll see you on your next trip, yes? ! Open invitation – anytime. We would love to meet you! πŸ™‚ with all its problems it really is a fantastic country – with so much potential for an exciting future!

    1. Yes I have some other shots of them from a distance that I will post in the future. This was from the porch of our rondavel looking down over the Olifants River. Huge herds would come out of the bush, often in single file and line up like dominos to drink. Often they would cross the river as you see now. Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Zebra, everything came to the river to drink and seeing this for several days was a highlight of my life.

  12. Β‘QuΓ© belleza! Me encantan estos animales tan inteligentes. Pero es natural cederles el paso porque tambiΓ©n tienen mal genio cuando se enfadan. πŸ˜‰

  13. Wonderful post Cindy, I’m happy that you followed your own advices and survived πŸ˜€
    Elephants are very beautiful animals and they should have each their own personality.

    1. You could see some of this personality differentiation in the herd behavior. There were the more placid ones, and the ones that were more the protectors. You would have to live among them though to really get to know them individually. Amazing creatures~

  14. How wonderful to see the cows and babies. They are very protective of their young and usually keep them away from people. Those lone (lonely) bulls are a threat. You have to see them up close, as you did, to realize that they are much larger than your vehicle. We diverted our drive a few times to keep a safe distance from bulls until they disappeared into the brush.

    1. That is the smart way to approach them, with lots of respect for their space. We saw the babies nursing, and the ellies sleeping, resting up against each other in a knot. Wonderful!

  15. What a fantastic post Cindy – the male was totally frustrated, wow and takes it out on the nearest tall thing. Incredible close-up photographs of these wonderful animals – your wait was well worth it.

  16. Cindy, I so love these elephant photos!! I know they’re BIG creatures, but their faces look so happy that it hurts me to think of anyone harming them.

    1. Yes, this feeling becomes overhwhelming when you are around these creatures and you see how trusting they are, how peaceful towards humans, and protective of each other. Killing any of these wild creatures for fun is obscene to me.

  17. LOL! So true about doing whatever the elephants want you to do because they’re so much bigger. You really captured their moods here. I love drawing stylized elephants and looking at your photos gives me a good sense of their movements!

  18. AnElephantCant tell you how much he loves this
    Other pachyderms are his absolute fave
    He gives you this advice
    Unless you are mice*
    When you see an angry charging heffelump don’t try to be brave

    *He is scared of meeces!

    1. Yes, this is excellent advice! If only I had known this before I went! I am home now. I would have brought a couple meeces to scare the heeflelumps, only in an emergency of course! πŸ˜‰ <3

  19. Elephants, one of the most interesting creatures for their intelligence and their “ways”. Thanks again for beautiful photographs…and thank you for taking time to stop by my site. ~Ron

  20. elmediat

    Great sequence. When driving in Africa be prepared when approaching others on the road. Remember visual cues, some of them will have the exhaust in the back, but the trunk is in the front.

    Confronting large animals in the African wild always reminds me of the African lion Safari here in Ontario. A number of years ago a couple of young fellows drove through with their small car. They encountered a rhino. They waited for it to cross the road and meander off. Instead it came up to the vehicle and started nuzzling it. Apparently the sound of the engine resembled a romantic rhino. The guys made it out okay. The car had an experience of a lifetime. πŸ˜€

  21. Liebe Cindy das sind ja Traumhafte Elefantenfotos wunderschΓΆn einfach spitze danke fΓΌr diese Fotos einen schΓΆnen Dienstag in Freundschaft Klaus

  22. Hi Cuz
    This sounds kinda like driving downtown! The biggest difference is that the downtown elephants have smaller brains and can’t remember anything! Beautiful pics and it’s obvious that you’re enjoying yourself. Hugs. πŸ™‚

    1. Laughing, yes I find the elephants IQ and general deportment to exceed that of some humans I have seen, thinking of reality TV when I said this, but I am sure there are many more examples! πŸ˜‰

  23. Enjoyed those pics Cindy, and the running commentary was very informative, and a must read for everyone who enters their realm, woe betide those who encounter a rogue Elephant.

    1. Awwww, I jumped over his fence once when I was a kid in hopes he would come out with Horton. He lived nearby. Alas, he did not, and neither did Horton. Sigh……

  24. It is amazing to see so many healthy, happy elephants!
    We who live in Sumatra Island are working together with the government to protect the Sumatran Elephant against the paid killers.
    Sadly, they are not even killed for their ivory.
    Many plant owners hire these killers to get rid of these poor animals so that they would not ruin their plants. I guess they have forgotten that they were the ones who tore up the jungle and turned it into farms!

    1. It is depressing and sad isn’t Hari, to contemplate how cruel and harmful some humans can be. When I was a kid, my best friend’s father who was a Presbytarian minister, had elephant foot trash cans in his home. He shot an elephant in Luanda for fun and then named his daughter Luanda after the experience. I simply couldn’t understand this, even back then. I guess he hadn’t read, “All creatures great and small…….”

  25. I enjoy watching elephants when they walk side by side, with their trunks swinging. I also like how they treat each other like family, the babies are mothered and taken care of, Cindy.

    1. I do have photos of them walking single file in a large herd to the river. The babies trunks often touch the adult in front, and then they lined up like dominos along the water front. Just a captivating sight. Sometimes there were about 100 elephant at the river!

  26. I love that you’re still able to see them in their natural habitat. I hate that they are hunted for the profit of criminals. Wonderful that you are there to see them live a free life! They’re beautiful. xK

    1. Oh how wonderful. This makes blogging so worthwhile for me. Tell Tom if I have another elephant to post, I will dedicate it to him, and give him my very best wishes to keep feeling better! Abrazos mi amiga~ <3 <3

  27. Probably a bit cheeky to describe this as my favourite post of yours, seeing as I’ve just discovered your site, but these pics are so cute. Love the descriptions too.

  28. Pingback: Driving Etiquette Amongst Wild Elephants~ | penpowersong

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