As fathers day approached, myself and my Brother were not quite sure what to plan or do for our special dad! This day is, in fact, a special day and requires celebration.
I contacted a friend in the safari business and brainstormed a few ideas, from calm to wild adventure, however, I knew my dad is not keen on wild adventure. To keep it fun and light, which is actually very light…you basically just sit and enjoy the wildlife. We decided to set off and surprise him with an Elephant back safari in the Pilansberg National Park situated next to the world-renowned SunCity
SunCity and Pilansberg national park is a very nice place to relax and have your vacation, there are so many things to do and if your an avid golf player then the this is definitely for you, you might have heard that the Gary Player Golf Course, designed by none other than the legendary Gary Player, is an 18-hole par-72 walking-only championship course that is regularly ranked as one of the leading golf courses in South Africa. And the Lost City Golf Course offers a 72-par, 18-hole desert-style course that incorporates 28 000 square metres of water features and includes a water hazard at Hole 13 which is home to 38 live Nile crocodiles.
Early the morning we are seated in the car, the time must have been like 3am in the morning because it’s quite a drive to get there from where met in town, it was still black and there was no sign of any daylight on the horizon. The coffee and rusks were packed and we rolled out of the estate onto the highway leading to the north. Half asleep Dad kept on asking where are we going and why are we leaving so early…in the meantime, he has no idea of the day ahead. I love to use these Ceramic Coffee Travel 270ML for my coffee on the go.
On route we passed many informal settlements and driving in the dark was and will always be a risk in Africa, there are so many cattle, dogs and stray animal that suddenly walk into the road. Luckily on this day, we had smooth driving. Slowly we approached and mountain range and could see the silhouette from the rising sun, this is Africa and will always be so beautiful this time of the morning. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this particular day…but the pastel colours were beautifully saturated from pink, blue and a hint of green with the clouds developing from the eastern side over the mountain. now we could see the game park fence and knew we are getting closer. So my dad had vouge idea, and said, ah we are going to SunCity for the day! Yes, Dad, we are going there but, not exactly there, close by to the nature reserve…mmm wondering where you boys will end up today.
Arriving at the gate, this is not the main gate but the gate leading next to the game reserve to the elephant back safaris. This section is relatively safe for tourists to walk around the area where reception is situated, in case of any wild animal looking for human meat…just kidding but there are lions and predators in the area adjacent. We stopped the car in the parking area and was greeted by friendly staff with coffee and a brief introduction of what to do and not to do. From here we moved down to the formal area to sign up letter and indemnity forms. By now my dad was asking, guys so we are here I can see we are in the wilderness area and there is a waterhole with elephants in it and sound it. Look, guys, it’s beautiful here but what the heck are we going to do…LOL Dad, well you see those elephants, YES…Well, today we are going saddle them up and ride them around the wild African bush…..haha you’re got to be kidding me..hahaha so all of us and the staff was laughing.
There were no other tourists with us, and this made the experience even more beautiful and special for this day. Now we all of this was only designated for us for the whole day. We met up with our tour guide and he introduced himself and also gave us a detailed briefing of what to do, what not to do and what can be expected. It sounded something like this:
”Good morning and welcome to our beautiful elephant sanctuary! On this special day, which is Fathers day we are going to have fun. My name is Lucky, and my father gave me this name because when my mother was pregnant, she escaped from the claws of a hungry Lioness one night who entered our hut looking for pray…Today we are going to ride elephants, yes riding elephants with a big saddle and have fun. but please be careful of thorns and trees, we will be very high on top of the elephant back. DO not stand on the back of the elephant, if you fall off, this will create a big mess. I mean because I will be on the front elephant and might not see you, this means I will have to stop the safari, climb down with my special ladder command the elephant to stay and help you to get back. Well in this time if I haven’t reached you then maby a lion have reached you or some other predator. SO guys please do not stand and risk your self. You will be very safe on top of the elephant and lions or leopards will not try to jump on top. We might see some lions as travel through this section of the park…but also when we encountered predators, do not shout or call the kitty kitty ! surely they will not play like a kitty…this I have seen from my experience in the African bush. DO not pull or hit the elephant, Do not shout faster to the elepahnt…mmm im like really is there actually people doing things like this” As the briefing continued we were sipping on warm coffee and could feel the warm sunrays perching my skin on a cool morning.
As a group, we started walking and Lucky asked whom wats to go first, so we agreed that Dad goes first and we lined up single filed. Walked over to the podium, yes this is a massive podium, about 4 meters high with steps so we can comfortably climb and sit on top of the elephant. Now my turn and then my brothers turn. Now that we are all on top, and the elephants are standing there waiting for the guide’s commands, we were introduced to each elephant name on the one you are riding.
Sapi, Mana, Michael was the three elephant names.
WOW this is actually super comfortable! Riding elephant was so much fun and I could see smiles everywhere, I could see happiness, I could see new found memories…all this was great to experience with our Dad on this special day. We slowly moved away from the reception area, and each elephant was following the other one in a single file line, nicely spaced out. And also close enough to talk to each other, as we all rode on other elephants.
This is me below, I am riding on Mana. He is a fairly old bull, I think about 45Years old.
Here is my Dad, riding on Sapi. She is still young approximately 28 years with a babe, hidden behind the legs.
Here is my Brother, riding on Michael. He is old bull past his prime, I would estimate 50+
The phase was slow, and the elephants had a snack on the go as we moved on the pathway. Looking at the photos…there is so much to be grateful for everyday! Look at nature, tomorrow will bring itself and there should be no worries or concerns, just love and peace for one another. We have seen zebra, giraffe, elands, some baboons with babies and impala…
On one path we come through some very thick bush, down a mountain pass. As the area started to clear, there was an open savannah ahead with long grass. We gently walked through the grass and as the last elephant entered the area, the front handler/guide shouted to the back one, to be careful and pay attention…look to the left there is a big male lion, laying in the tall grass and the light breeze moved the grassed left and right, blurry the vision of the lion. I think the lion is about 20 meters away. At first, the lion was not disturbed by the elephants but when the guide shouted to warn the last guide, he was fully aware this is not only elephants but something else. At this stage, my heart was racing and I looked at my guide, who sat peacefully and calm on top with me. I thought well if there is one thing to keep in mind then I should mimic his behaviour. Knowingly he has way more experience then I do, especially encountering lions in the wild. Slowly the lion stood up to look at the elephants. The elephants could not see the lion but with the amazing smell, they detected the lion with scent as the breeze moved between the mountains. All the elephants have smelled the lions and were trumpeting and shaking their heads, o YES the know that that smell was, even the smell was not evident to us as humans. with all the cayos, and getting very nervous, I noted there are another lion and another and another…OMG, I can now count 7 lions to the left of us, while we sitting on the back of an elephant. Each guide told us to be quiet and relax…what you mean relax…look how close we are too wild lions and there is no protection from them. The elephants were now very sensitive to any small sound and sight and quickly moved, beyond control to a safer side, while we all have to hold on for dear life while an elephant of 7000kg cut a straight line..it was trees and branches and thorns all other the show. As I looked back I could see the lions didn’t move and was standing in the small pathway some 200meter behind us. At last, I was feeling quite safe now.
We all semi re-grouped and then move on the main road back to the reception area. About an hour later we arrived at the reception area and climbed off at the podium. From here we moved to the small area where we could feed the elephants and pet them and take some nice photos and selfies as well…
What a great day for Father day! This day was such a special treat and I will surely do this again in future with my Dad and Brother!
In the meantime, unfortunate news has come from Pilanesberg Elephant Back Safaris announced the closure of its operations at nearby Sun City Resort. The closure will be in effect from the end of August.
The five adult elephants to be retired and rehabilitated (Sapi, Mana, Michael, Sharu and Chikwenya) had been at Sun City for 12 years and their entire working life had spanned 20 years; the one female in the group, Chikwenya, will also have her two young calves, Tidimalo and Ngwedi, rehabilitated with her.
This move is in line with the original long-term management vision for the operation’s fostered elephants, who were brought to South Africa after having been orphaned as a result of culling in neighbouring Zimbabwe in the 80s.
The first stage in the rehabilitation process will be to remove the elephants from any commercial interaction whilst they prepare for a life which will ultimately have minimal human interference.
Their translocation to a new property will be fully supported and monitored by their long-standing and devoted handlers – who have spent the best part of 14 – 20 years with them – to minimise stress and to ensure a desired positive outcome for each member of the herd.
Happy travel and adventure, leave your tracks!
I would highly recommend booking with this website